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Yoga Sequences

Explore An Inversion Practice with This Sequence Designed by Schuyler Grant

Schuyler Grant, co-creator of Wanderlust and founder of Kula Yoga Project, shares her sequencing strategies for inversions.

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Schuyler Grant
Photo by Amanda Friedman

“Meditation in motion” is a recurring trope when teachers speak about vinyasa. I confess to using it regularly myself because it perfectly describes the magical elixir that has kept me hooked on this particular way of practicing yoga for almost 30 years. But using posture, breath, and attention to attain a meditative state is easier said than done. Linking posture and breath isn’t sufficient. There must be intention and intelligence behind sequencing, or flow-style yoga becomes tedious at best, injurious at worst.

My introduction to yoga was Ashtanga Yoga. I loved the practice for its rigor, straightforward approach to spirituality, and the reliable access to a state of flow that came from a set sequence of postures with a priority on the breath. But I developed as many injuries as I overcame and craved more breadth and knowledge. Stage II of my evolution was a love affair with the Iyengar Yoga tradition. Since then, I’ve developed and refined a way of sequencing that artfully weaves the two influences, creating a rigorous practice that heals the body and tones the nervous system: Kula Flow (which is what is taught at the Wanderlust Hollywood studio today).

See also Ashtanga Yoga Sequences

I’m often reluctant to talk about what I love to do on the yoga mat as a brand. For many years, the notion of “branding” yoga completely turned me off; it seemed silly and presumptuous to put a stamp on a particular way of serving up asana. My New York City studio, Kula, had been open 10 years before the issue of branding came up. During that time, students continually asked our teachers what style we taught, and we all said, “Um … I dunno … vinyasa…” And they would say, “No. This is different.”

See also What’s Your Style? Explore the Types of Yoga

Eventually, I conceded that names are powerful, that in its purest sense branding is simply naming and that by codifying my style I could more clearly communicate with students and the teachers I train. What is yoga if not communication? The illumination of the unseen? As a practitioner, this dialogue often involves observing the ego and happens among brain, body, and, especially the breath. As a teacher, you are the guide for students on this same journey.

My hope is that a Kula Flow experience is both visceral (sweaty and present-moment focused) and smart (alignment-heavy and aspirational); that the lower and upper chakras are both well served; and that through the practice we fully express the definition of vinyasa—to place in a special way. Place the mind on the breath. Place the breath in the body. Place attention to the nuanced transition of thoughts, movement, and energy—illuminating the seemingly mundane as exquisitely special.

See also Yoga Hybrids

KULA SEQUENCE: ROUND 1

Creating a Kula Flow sequence with a challenging peak pose is like untangling a rat’s nest from my daughter’s hair: You can’t just go at it. You have to tease it out slowly, through patient deconstruction and repetition. In asana, that translates to progressively opening and strengthening the body and channeling the power of the breath. If you slowly practice the shapes and actions that comprise a tricky pose, you might find you have more ability and less fear when you finally do get there. For example, to safely practice Pincha Mayurasana (Feathered Peacock Pose, aka Forearm Balance) with a stag-leg variation, you need to open your chest and shoulders and prepare them to support the weight of your body. And you need to both open and engage your hamstrings. You need to wake up your core, and you need to open your hip flexors and quadriceps. Kula Flow is creative, but the posture choices are never arbitrary. There should be a reason behind everything that you put into a given sequence.

1. Adho Mukha Virasana (Downward-Facing Hero Pose, Variation)

Adho Mukha Virasana - Kula Flow
Ian Spanier

Stay for 5 breaths.

Work your arms like you would in Down Dog. This is not a resting pose!

See also A gentle, forward-bending practice can bring relief to those people struggling to manage high blood pressure.

2. Marjaryasana (Cat pose, inhale) to 3. Bitilasana (Cow pose, exhale), variation

Marjaryasana to Bitilasana - Kula Flow
Ian Spanier

Repeat 3-5 times.

Keep your forearms shoulder-width apart. Your elbows will try to sneak wide — talk‘em down.

See also The Basics of Sequencing

4. Forearm Plank

Forearm Plank - Kula Flow
Ian Spanier

On an inhalation strengthen your core and shoulders.

Press your forearms & palms firmly against the floor. Think of your outer collarbones smiling. Firm your core!

See also Challenge Your Core Competency

5. Sphinx pose

Sphinx Pose - Kula Flow
Ian Spanier

On an exhalation, then take 3 breaths. Open your thoracic spine.

Isometrically drag your forearms & engage your core to prevent lower back compression—common in Pincha Mayurasana.

See also Chest-Opening Yoga Poses

6. Salabhasana (Locust pose, variation)

Salabhasana - Kula Flow
Ian Spanier

.Take 3-5 breaths. Strengthens your paraspinal muscles and core and continues to create space in your spine, even while backbending.

Focus on maintaining length in your neck, which is difficult to do in Pincha Mayurasana.

See also A Safe, Core-Supported Backbending Sequence

7. Downward-Facing Hero pose, variation

Downward-Facing Hero Pose Variation - Kula Flow
Ian Spanier

On an inhalation.

See also A Hero (Pose) for Every Home Practice

8. Downward-Facing Hero pose, variation

Downward-Facing Hero Pose Variation - Kula Flow
Ian Spanier

On an exhalation. Stay for 3-5 breaths.

Walk your elbow-tips forward with every inhale, to gradually open your triceps.

See also Cut Through Mental Fog with These Two Common Breathing Practices

9. Plank Pose

Plank Pose - Kula Flow
Ian Spanier

Stay for 3-5 breaths. Core galore.

Drop the knees if needed, to focus on corseting your abdomen and lengthening your lower back.

See also 5 Common Poses That Can Cause Injury in Hyper-Mobile Practitioners

10. Downward-Facing Hero Pose, Variation

Downward-Facing Hero Pose Variation - Kula Flow
Ian Spanier

Stay as long as you’d like.

See also 17 Poses to Prep for Mindful Meditation

KULA SEQUENCE: ROUND 2

1. Cat pose to 2. Cow pose, variation

Marjaryasana to Bitilasana - Kula Flow
Ian Spanier

Repeat 1 time.

See also Cat pose

15. Forearm Plank

Forearm Plank - Kula Flow
Ian Spanier

Stay 3-5 breaths.

See also Tap Into Tapas (Self-Discipline) On Your Mat

4. Sphinx pose

Sphinx Pose - Kula Flow
Ian Spanier

On an exhalation.

See also Is It Safe to Compress the Spine in a Yin Pose?

5. Sphinx, with Ardha Bhekasana

Sphinx, with Ardha Bhekasana - Kula Flow
Ian Spanier

Sphinx, with half frog pose. Stay 3-5 breaths. Opens your quadriceps and hip flexors.

Engage your lower abdomen and hug your outer hips toward your midline to maintain length in your lower back.

See also Got Tight Quads? Yes, You Can Still Enjoy Supta Virasana

6. Sphinx, with Ardha Dhanurasana

Sphinx, with Ardha Dhanurasana - Kula Flow
Ian Spanier

Sphinx, with half bow pose. Stay 3-5 breaths. Opens your armpits and chest.

To protect your SI joint, root the front of your hips into the floor and square your ribs to the front.

See also 3 Ways to Prep for Bow Pose

7. Locust pose, variation

Salabhasana - Kula Flow
Ian Spanier

Inhale to extended arms, then reach arms back and hold for 3-5 breaths.

Keep your collarbones wide and your shoulders elevated.

See also 4 Common Postural Patterns That Cause Yoga Injuries

8. Plank pose

Plank Pose - Kula Flow
Ian Spanier

Hold for 1 breath.

Transition to Plank
: On an inhalation, plant your hands under your shoulders, tuck your toes, and engage your core. In Plank pose, firm your shoulder blades onto your back ribs and away from your ears, while maintaining breadth in your collarbones. Think of the outer collarbones smiling. 

See also Why You May Want to Start Cross-Training for Chaturanga

9. Plank, with Hamstring Curl

Plank with Hamstring Curl - Kula Flow
Ian Spanier

Stay for 3-5 breaths.

Maintain length in your lower back by keeping your core engaged.

See also Yoga Sequences for the Hamstring

10. Knee to Nose

Knee to Nose - Kuyla Flow
Ian Spanier

On an inhalation.

Round your upper back as much as you can to make space for your thigh; dorsiflex your ankle.

See also 10 ‘Simple’ Yoga Poses That Help Everyone at Any Age

13. Lunge

Lunge  - Kula Flow
Ian Spanier

On an exhalation.

See also This Home Practice Will Help You Breathe—and Relax—Deeply

12. Ardha Hanumanasana

Ardha Hanumanasana - Kula Flow
Ian Spanier

Half Monkey God pose. Stay 3-5 breaths. Opens your hamstrings.

Squeeze your hips toward your midline so they stay aligned in this asymmetrical shape. Come to fingertips to relieve your wrists.

See also 3 Ways to Prep for Hanumanasana

13. Lunge

Lunge  - Kula Flow
Ian Spanier

On an exhalation.

See also This Home Practice Will Help You Breathe—and Relax—Deeply

14. Vasisthasana

Vasisthasana - Kula Flow
Ian Spanier

Side Plank pose. Stay 3-5 breaths. Strengthens your arms, shoulders, and core, and challenges your balance.

Aim for a feeling of lightness by reaching your top hand up—similar to how you will lift your pelvis to the sky in Pincha Mayurasana.

See also Plug In To Your Core Power

15. Forearm Plank

Forearm Plank - Kula Flow
Ian Spanier

Stay 3-5 breaths.

See also Tap Into Tapas (Self-Discipline) On Your Mat

16. Dolphin Pose

Dolphin Pose - Kula Flow
Ian Spanier

Stay 3-5 breaths. Opens your chest and hamstrings. A modification for the final pose.

Reach your shoulder blades & pelvis to the sky. You can bend your knees & lift your heels to find maximum elevation in your pelvis.

Push into your forearms to create length in your neck & lower back.

See also 3 Poses to Spring Clean Your Yoga Practice

17. Downward-facing Hero pose

Downward-Facing Hero Pose Variation - Kula Flow
Ian Spanier

Stay as long as you’d like.

Repeat Kula Sequence Round 2 on the opposite side.

See also Find Your Meditation Style With These 7 Practices

KULA SEQUENCE: ROUND 3

1. Cat pose to 2. Cow pose, variation

Marjaryasana to Bitilasana - Kula Flow
Ian Spanier

Repeat 1 time.

See also Cow pose

14. Forearm Plank

Forearm Plank - Kula Flow
Ian Spanier

Hold for 1 breath.

See also Fix the Slump: 4 Poses for Lower Crossed Syndrome

4. Sphinx pose

Sphinx Pose - Kula Flow
Ian Spanier

On an exhalation.

See also Mary Beth LaRue’s Favorite Poses to Trigger Creative Thinking

5. Locust pose, variation

Salabhasana - Kula Flow
Ian Spanier

Inhale to extend your arms, exhale to reach them back, then interlace fingers and hold for 1 breath.

See also 4 Ways to Modify Locust Pose

6. Plank pose

Plank Pose - Kula Flow
Ian Spanier

Hold for 1 breath.

See also The Core of the Matter

7. Plank pose, with Hamstring Curl

Plank with Hamstring Curl - Kula Flow
Ian Spanier

Hold for 1 breath.

See also Work Your Core in Any Pose

8. Knee to Nose

Knee to Nose - Kuyla Flow
Ian Spanier

On an inhalation.

See also Two Fit Moms’ All-Levels Mother’s Day Flow

11. Lunge

Lunge  - Kula Flow
Ian Spanier

On an exhalation.

See also The A-to-Z Guide to Yoga Cues

10. Half Monkey God pose

Ardha Hanumanasana - Kula Flow
Ian Spanier

Hold for 1 breath.

See also Challenge Pose: Hanumanasana

11. Lunge

Lunge  - Kula Flow
Ian Spanier

On an exhalation.

See also The A-to-Z Guide to Yoga Cues

12. Side Plank pose

Vasisthasana - Kula Flow
Ian Spanier

Hold for 1 breath.

See also Get More Vertical in Side Plank

13. Side Plank with Half Bow pose

Side Plank with Half Bow Pose - Kula Flow
Ian Spanier

Continues to open your chest and spine.

As you create a deeper backbend, maintain breadth in the collarbones, integrity in your shoulders, & length in your lumbar spine.

See also 10 Ways to Get Real About Your Body’s Limitations & Avoid Yoga Injuries

14. Forearm Plank

Forearm Plank - Kula Flow
Ian Spanier

Hold for 1 breath.

See also Fix the Slump: 4 Poses for Lower Crossed Syndrome

15. Dolphin pose

Dolphin Pose - Kula Flow
Ian Spanier

Hold for 1 breath.

See also How the Teres Major Can Make or Break Healthy Shoulders in Inversions

Pincha Mayurasana with Stag-Leg variation

Pincha Mayurasana with Stag Leg variation - Kula Flow
Ian Spanier

Feathered peacock pose, aka forearm balance. Hold as long as you can; breathe.

PEAK POSE
:
 Perhaps you get here, and perhaps you don’t. What’s important is that you understand the steps to getting here and that you have a smile on your face when you fail. Protect your lumbar spine by engaging your lower belly. 

See also A Strength-Building Plan for a Pain-Free Headstand

17. Downward-Facing Hero pose

Downward-Facing Hero Pose Variation - Kula Flow
Ian Spanier

Stay 3-5 breaths.

See also Master Class: 4 Foolproof Steps to Sequencing an Advanced Pose

18. Balasana

Balasana - Kula Flow
Ian Spanier

Repeat Kula Sequence Round 3 on the opposite side.

End in Balasana (Child’s pose) and stay as long as you’d like.

About our Author

Schuyler Grant co-created the Wanderlust festival and founded Kula Yoga Project in New York City. As developer of Kula Flow, she was noted by The New York Times as a go-to teacher for advanced practice. Learn more at wanderlust.com.