Understand the Art of Sequencing


By Richard Rosen  |  

Asana (pose) sequences come in different shapes and sizes. Every contemporary school of yoga, such as Iyengar, Viniyoga, Bikram, Ashtanga, and Vinyasa to name a few, has its own ideas about how to sequence an asana practice. Most sequences are linear, that is one posture follows another in a logical step-by-step direction, moving from less challenging to more challenging and back to less challenging. In general, a sequence like this opens with simple warm-ups that set a theme for the practice, intensifies to more challenging postures, slows to cooling postures and ends with relaxation (Corpse Pose).

But this is just one way to sequence. Typically each posture in the sequence is performed just once but you could also perform each posture two to three times, focusing on a different aspect of the posture each time. Take, for example, Trikonasana (Triangle Pose): You can first perform the pose focusing on your feet or legs, then repeat it while focusing on the spine or arms.

You can also build the entire sequence around just one posture, like Triangle, returning to it again and again, and use the other postures in the sequence to investigate aspects of the main posture.

Here’s an example of a general linear sequence (based on the Iyengar tradition of yoga):

    • Centering: Begin the practice with either a simple meditation or breathing exercise (in a seated or reclining position) to collect and concentrate your awareness.

 

  • Preparation:

Perform a few simple exercises (such as hip or groin openers) that warm up the body in preparation for the theme or focus of the practice.

  • Sun Salute (Surya Namaskar): Three to ten rounds.
  • Standing postures
  • Arm balances
  • Inversions
  • Abdominal and/or arm strength postures
  • Backbends
  • Shoulderstand
  • Twists and/or forward bends
  • Corpse Pose (Savasana)

 

 

Of course, a full practice sequence like this would take at least 90 minutes to finish, which is probably too long for the average working student. A more reasonable length of practice time is about 45 minutes. Here are two possible practices—one for beginners and one for advanced beginners—that would fit nicely into this timeframe. To see a photo of or to find out how to perform, deepen, or modify the poses listed simply click on the pose names for full instructions.

Beginners

Sukhasana (Easy Pose)

Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose)

Surya Namaskar—3 Rounds (Sun Salutations)

Vrksasana (Tree Pose)

Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose)

Utthita Parsvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose)

Dandasana (Staff Pose)

Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend)

Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose)

Upavistha Konasana (Wide Angle Pose)

Navasana (Boat Pose)

Salabhasana (Locust Pose)

Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Supported Bridge Pose)

Viparita Karani (Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose)

Reclining Twists

Savasana (Corpse Pose)

Advanced Beginners

Virasana (Hero or Heroine Pose)

Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose)

Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutations)

Vrksasana (Tree Pose)

Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose)

Utthita Parsvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose)

Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose)

Adho Mukha Vrksasana (Handstand)

Ardha Navasana (Half Boat Pose)

Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose)

Salabhasana (Locust Pose)

Makarasana (Crocodile Pose)

Salamba Sarvangasana (Supported Shoulderstand)

Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose)

Janu Sirsasana (Head-to-Knee Forward Bend)

Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend)

Marichyasana III (Marichi’s Pose, Variation III)

Savasana (Corpse Pose)