Sequencing a class

A sequence is a following of one thing after another: succession. Sequencing in yoga is harmonious, where the whole is more than just the sum of its parts. This is true of pre defined sequences like the Ashtanga Primary Series or Sivananda or Bikram or of self created sequences. I’ve attended so many classes where I felt completely rejuvenated  and so many where I felt something was missing, but I wasn’t sure what. In time I’ve realized, it’s not just about doing the asanas, or learning how to do them. The order in which you do them, the length of time you spend on each one and an adequate warm up and cool down make all the difference.

A sequence is a set of asanas practiced one after another for a specific purpose. So, you might have a warm up sequence that stretches and awakens all of the major muscle groups. You might have sequences that have an anatomic focus such as core strength, hamstrings, heart openers, etc. You might have a sequence focusing on an idea like play or relaxation or focus or balance or Yin postures.

Sometimes to up a sequence from basic to intermediate all you have to do is pick up the pace of the vinyasas intermittently and hold postures a little longer. Three sets of Surya Namaskar, one breath per pose without stopping is intermediate while three breaths per pose with a pause in Tadasana and Down Dog each time is beginner level.

Including more difficult poses also raises the bar. But they have to be sequenced with counter poses of varying intensity – if you do backbends do forward bends too, balance left and right. But also balance effort. If a set of backbends required strength and endurance, let the forward bends rely more on flexibility and easing into the pose.

I tend to like a five minute low warm up and breathing followed by a strong vinyasa, then 15 mins of standing postures, with twists, forward bends and couplet sequences (like warrior one and two or two and three, or garudhasana and utkatasana). I prefer arm or standing balancing postures like Bakasana, Vrikasana, Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimottanasana to follow the standing sequence and precede the seated and protrate sequence. This should generally be around 7 mins with a lead up of relevant ‘initiators’ for a couple of minutes. These are not necessarily asanas. They could be core strengtheners or arm strengtheners. An ideal seated sequence for about ten minutes followed by a guided Savasana is my kind of class. Inversions if any, I generally like to do after the standing sequence while I still feel warm and energetic but I’ve realised it doesn’t matter too much to me even if I do them at the end, just before cool down. I suppose that is an after effect of learning the ashtanga primary series.

In any event, sequences are like horses for courses, and not every student or teachers sees the same progression of postures when they are creating or experience a set sequence. Whatever it is you do, find one that brings out the best in you.