Repetition Versus Variety

I would love to make the sequence more dynamic and challenging, but every time I try to do that, I feel a tug saying they aren’t ready for more yet—I feel the need for them to strengthen first. Am I the one who is constructing invisible boundaries for them? What can I do to balance building strength versus adding variety?

— Adele

Read David Swenson’s reply:

Dear Adele,


It’s good to be a little patient when increasing the dynamic nature of the practice. Yes, the students will want more challenge and a change of sequence—but great depth can be found in repetition. There is a saying from the alchemists: “Through repetition, the magic is forced to arise.”

As the teacher, you must be the guiding force in determining if your students are ready for the next stage of practice. You may approach the situation in a variety of ways. One way would be to carry on with the current routine until you feel they are ready, and sometimes you can give them what they think they want. I once had a student who said, “I really want to do the Third Series now!” I didn’t think the class was ready, but I proceeded to take them through the advanced practice. After a short while they looked up and said, “I don’t think we’re ready for that just yet.” In this instance, I let the practice itself do the talking, and the students came to the appropriate conclusion by themselves.

This approach may not be the best in all circumstances but it did work out well in that instance. As teachers, we must view each student as a unique individual and apply to yoga to their specific needs.

David Swenson made his first trip to Mysore in 1977, learning the full Ashtanga system as originally taught by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. He is one of the world’s foremost instructors of Ashtanga Yoga and has produced numerous videos and DVDs. He is the author of the book Ashtanga Yoga: The Practice Manual.