Sequencing Over A Period Of Time

This is where the art of sequencing can get really juicy. If, like me, you do not take class very often (I take only about 8 weeks of classes in a year) you will find you need some greater sense of direction in your practice, or else you can start to feel lost. The mistake is to think you should be doing a massive practice every day. The body simply is not designed to do that. Even professional athletes are not at their competitive peak all year round. Pushing yourself constantly can quickly lead to exhaustion, burnout and even injury.

To allow for your fluctuating energies, it is important to always include a balance of different energetic levels of practice: active practice, quiet practice and restorative practice.

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Sequencing By Body Part

This mode of sequencing is the crudest, but no less functional for it. With a goal of either endurance or flexibility the student can select a given body part and focus on that, in much the same way that one might organize a workout at the gym. Arms, legs, hip-openers, core strength, shoulder openers, simply choose your focus and practice poses that mainly work on those areas, bearing in mind these pointers:

Endurance

Begin with one or two simple warm-ups, perhaps a couple of rounds of Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutations) or a few hip and shoulder openers. Take care not to tire yourself out before you even begin.

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Sequencing By Action

In this mode of sequencing a practice is constructed around the theme of an anatomical action, say the outward turning of the thigh bone in the hip socket or the elongation of the sides of the trunk. This can be an extremely versatile way of sequencing as the theme can be simple or advanced.

When organizing such a practice, it is important to think of the level of complexity of the action in the poses you wish to practice.

Step 1: Find a way to isolate the action in the simplest set-up possible, preferably in a quasi-restorative mode so that rest of the body is fully supported so the student does not have to concentrate on anything else. Find a pose where the action is extremely clear and then simplify the pose as much as possible. If you select Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose) as the quintessential pose that expresses the action, for example, then do "Half-Dog" in a right angle with the fingertips at the wall, the feet flat on the ground and the hips stacked up over the heels.

Step 2: Introduce your quintessential pose, but take the time to explore the action so that the students fully understand it and can execute it well. Use props or partner work to further break the pose down. With our Adho Mukha Shvanasana, for example, you could do the pose on ropes. Or the students could help each other by putting a belt around the hips and gently drawing them back.

Step 3: Play with the action and master it in a variety of different poses where the action is still fairly accessible, usually in standing poses and simple inversions or floor poses.

Step 4: If you, or your students, have mastered the action in simpler poses, you are then able to add more complexity by doing poses that are more challenging. If you find that the action gets "lost" in the pose, go back to simpler poses to recapture it.

Step 5: Integrate the action in a restorative pose. Here you want to be completely supported and passive in the pose so that you can observe the effect of your work up to this point in the body. As you move towards Shavasana (Corpse Pose) and the breath begins to settle, you can observe how the body part you have been working on relates to the whole and to the breath.


Related Posts:
Modes of Sequencing
Sequencing For Balance Within A Practice
Sequencing By Category Of Poses
Sequencing By Progression Deeper Into The Body
Sequencing By Progression According To Pose And Counter-Pose
Sequencing By Energetic Quality
Sequencing By Physiological Quality
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Sequencing By Physiological Quality

This mode of sequencing is the heart of therapeutic yoga. In the Iyengar tradition, this kind of knowledge is a jealously guarded secret, only open to teachers who have gained a particular level of certification. There are different ways of approaching this kind of yoga, depending on the condition you are dealing with and the desired effect. The overall intention would be to support the body and promote healing without taxing the student. Thus, much of therapeutic work can be more restorative in nature.

There are three main areas where therapeutic yoga can be effective:

• Injuries and structural problems.
• Organic support.
• Amelioration of symptoms. Read More...
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Sequencing By Energetic Quality

There are several ways of approaching this mode of sequencing. One would be to ensure a generalized energetic balance to a practice, as we looked at in the previous post: Sequencing For Balance Within A Practice. By allowing for the overall effects of a class of poses it is possible to structure a practice is such a way as to energy or pacify the body and mind, while also achieving a soothing energetic journey.

Asana and Ayurveda

In Mira Mehta's wonderful, and unfortunately out of print, book "How To Use Yoga" she builds practices according to the effect on the doshas, the three Ayurvedic constitutions:


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Sequencing By Progression According To Pose And Counter-Pose

Some styles of yoga focus heavily on the pose/counter pose idea. Iyengar uses this sparingly, usually only applying the idea to cooling down after Back Bends, but there are some other applications.





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Sequencing By Progression Deeper Into The Body

At the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute, the home base of B. K. S. Iyengar in Pune, classes are organized around a monthly progression. Each week a different category of poses is focused on, leading the student deeper into the body. The first week of every month is standing poses, the second forward bends, the third back bends and the fourth is devoted to restorative poses and Pranayama. This idea can be taken further to include all the other categories, making it possible to structure a practice along those lines. Here are the ten categories of poses arranged in order of depth of penetration:



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Sequencing By Category Of Poses

Because of their particular physical, physiological and energetics effects, each category of pose needs to be placed thoughtfully within the framework of the balanced practice. Though, of course, any pose can be placed anywhere within a sequence, here are some general guidelines.

Standing Poses

Opening Poses
Standing Poses
Seated Poses
Inversions
Restorative Poses
Shavasana
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Sequencing For Balance Within A Practice

A well-rounded practice shoulder feature a variety of different categories of poses sequenced to lead smoothly from one to another without any jarring energetic transitions. Each category of pose can be thought of as having one of three general energetic effects:

Pose Qualities

Activating - these poses rev the body up, stimulating the flow of energy. (+)
Balancing - these poses rev the body up when sluggish and calm it when energized. (=)
Settling - these poses calm the body when it is energized or over-stimulated. (-)

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Modes of Sequencing

I'm about to co-teach a course on sequencing in the new year for the teacher training we're running at Yogasana which is making me organize my thoughts about the subject.

Each of these modes are not necessarily exclusive. A given practice could be organized to take into consideration multiple modes simultaneously.

1. By Balance Within A Practice


A practice structured to have a balanced energetic flow.
For example: A practice that emphasizes back bends, but which includes multiple other categories to provide a “complete” practice session.

2. By Category


A practice structured to feature a specific category of pose.
For example: a practice that features standing poses.

3. By Progression Deeper Into The Body


A practice sequenced according to the level of intensity and depth of penetration into the body: standing poses, seated poses, forward bends, reclined poses, twists, core poses, arm balances, back bends, restorative poses.
For example: A back bend sequence that runs standing poses, inversions, back bends, twists, restorative poses. An arm balance sequence that runs reclined poses, core poses, twists, arm balances, inversions, restorative poses.

4. By Progression According To Pose And Counter-Pose


A practice sequenced with attention paid to balancing out the muscular effects of different groups of poses.
For example: A back bend sequence that ends with gentle twists and restorative poses. A forward bend sequence that ends with a short, light baby back bend series. Many of the sequences in the back of Light on Yoga.

5. By Energetic Quality


A practice sequenced to maximize a particular energetic effect.
For example: A vigorous standing pose sequence to ground and energize the body. A supported back bend sequence to relieve anxiety or support depression.

6. By Physiological Quality


A practice sequenced to maximize a particular physiological effect.
For example: A sequence for insomnia or migraines. A menstrual sequence.

7. By Action


A practiced organized around highlighting and developing a particular anatomical or bio-mechanical action.
For example: A sequence to work on dividing the abdomen, or deepening the eyes of the chest.

8. By Body Part


A practice sequenced to develop a particular part of the body.
For example: A hip opening sequence. An upper body strengthening sequence.

9. Over A Period Of Time


Sequencing a series of practices over an extended period of time: a week, a month, a quarter, a year.

Related Posts:
Sequencing
Sequencing For Balance Within A Practice
Sequencing By Category Of Poses
Sequencing By Progression Deeper Into The Body
Sequencing By Progression According To Pose And Counter-Pose
Sequencing By Energetic Quality
Sequencing By Physiological Quality
Sequencing By Action
Sequencing By Body Part
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Sequencing

My first Iyengar teacher was extremely creative and unconventional in her approach to sequencing. She has a poetic way of sequencing that is both logical and intuitive, but she very much does not toe the line in terms of the way she sequences a class (bless her), so I never really got the hang of the classic Iyengar sequencing at that stage. Unfortunately, a subsequent disastrous and inadequate teacher training did very little to fill that gap. I have, of late, been studying with Donald Moyer in Berkeley, as regular readers will know. Donald is also extremely innovative and creative, while remaining intuitive and logical in his approach, but in some ways he is very old school when it comes to his sequencing. I've been teaching and practicing in his manner quite a lot lately, and it has been a wonderful exercise in getting inside the classical Iyengar mentality. Sometimes the method gets accused of being dry and repetitive, but there is an elegance to the sequencing. I offer you here my limited understanding of the form.

Here follows a breakdown of the major pose categories and where they fit in the scheme. This first chart is not an actual way of practicing. Think of it as a diagram of a hypothetical sequence including all the different possibilities:

Sequencing1

This would break down into the following practice sequences for each of the four major categories. Obviously there are other types of poses -- arm balances, abdominals and such. Each of these has their own rationale, but think about how you are practicing them. How do they relate to standing poses, to twists, back bends or forward bends? This might give you an idea of where a pose such as Parshva Bakasana (Side Crow Pose) might go.

Sequencing2


Sequencing3


Sequencing4


Sequencing5

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