I’ve identified as a yogi for as long as I can remember. Growing up, I spent more time in ashrams than on playgrounds. I was raised in Boulder, Colorado, but my parents were part of spiritual communities that practiced meditation and bhakti yoga everywhere from upstate New York to India. Many of my childhood memories are of chanting, meditating, and sometimes practicing yoga poses.
From age 14 onward, I delved deeply into Ashtanga, Iyengar, and Anusara yoga practices. In 2003, I created a yoga school. Given my history with very structured yoga systems, people are often surprised when I share that the school’s teaching approach— which combines detailed alignment and intelligent sequencing with vinyasa theory— doesn’t require a fixed set of postures or set of specific alignment cues. Instead, my wife, Tracy, and I created the Mazé Method to help teachers and students find what works for their unique bodies in a given moment rather than trying to fit themselves to a particular shape or set of postures.
Our method includes detailed anatomy studies and intelligent sequencing to create classes that are safe. But our workshops and trainings also include yoga philosophy, because we want our students to think critically and to approach their practices with inquiring minds.
Think of the arrangement of poses as your class map, which will vary depending on your abilities (or your students’ skill levels), your goals for the session, and the tone you’re aiming to achieve (for example, relaxing versus invigorating). The succession of poses in your session creates a foundation that you can build on when learning more complex moves. When creating a sequence, consider the following:
- Incorporate key actions from the start to build muscle memory and mental confidence. This will help practitioners achieve more challenging moves later in the session. In the sequence below, we add Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose) arms to Virabhadrasana III (Warrior Pose III) to practice engaging the upper body in this shape. We also prep for our peak pose, Eka Pada Koundinyasana II (One-footed Pose Dedicated to the Sage Koundinya II)—our most difficult asana—by lifting and activating the back leg.
- Practice or teach more familiar shapes and movements before less familiar ones.
- Progress from symmetrical poses that establish balance (such as Warrior Pose I) to asymmetrical poses (like Warrior Pose III) that challenge stability. This will create poise to move from more grounded shapes to less anchored poses.
- Repeat architectural shapes to increase familiarity and prepare the body for more challenging postures. In this sequence, the core work in Supta Padangusthasana (Reclining Hand-to-Big Toe Pose) , Pose 9, mimics the peak pose, but from a supine position.
- Establish key actions in simple poses, then repeat them as you move on to more complex or difficult poses. Props can facilitate this process. Our Chaturanga variations (sliders and rocking hovers) teach you to engage your core and shoulders to prep for the peak pose.
- Work on peak poses between two-thirds to three-quarters of the way through class, when your body is prepared but not too fatigued.
- Use closing poses to lengthen muscles that have been shortened by weight-bearing and contracting poses done earlier in the sequence. If early shapes are asymmetrical with bigger ranges of motion, let your closing postures prioritize symmetrical shapes with a smaller range of motion to re-ground the body and counterbalance the stretches.
- Answer questions with questions. If your student inquires about a peak pose like Eka Pada Koundinyasana II, ask questions to discern if the shape is currently appropriate for them: Do they have injuries to work around? Muscles they need to strengthen before they are ready for that variation?
- Explore interdisciplinary forms of movement. You can weave the skills and knowledge you pick up from doing activities like Pilates, strength training, and functional range conditioning into your yoga practice.
- Use movement regression and progression to customize poses for your students. For example, in this sequence, we use Chaturanga “sliders” to prepare the body for the forward rocking motion you’ll need to launch into Eka Pada Koundinyasana II. A person who is newer to arm balances could do fewer repetitions and work from a knees-down position, while a more seasoned practitioner might lift one foot up to challenge their strength and balance.
—Rocky Heron, Mazé Method Teacher Trainer and curriculum and program development collaborator