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.

Poses and Counter-Poses

• Back Bends: gentle Forward Bends and Twists.
• Forward Bends: gentle Baby Back Bends (for example: Shalabhasana (Locust Pose) or Urdhva Mukha Shvanasana (Upward Facing Dog Pose)) or Ado Mukha Vrkshasana (Hand Stand) to reintegrate the muscles of the back, gentle Twists, poses that stretch out the outer rotators and lower back, such as Gomulkhasana (Cow Face Pose).
• Shirshasana: poses that will balance the neck and upper back, such as Supta Virasana (Reclined Hero Pose), Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose), Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose) with the head supported on blocks, or simple Twists done with the head centered over the chest.
• Sarvangasana and Halasana: chest and neck openers such as Setu Bandha (Bridge Pose) or Twists such as Jathara Parivartanasasna (Belly Turning Pose). You find in many systems of yoga an almost knee-jerk response to Shoulder Stand and Plough Pose of having to do a variation of Matsyasana (Fish Pose) with the elbows behind the back and the crown of the head on the floor. In principle, this combination makes sense, but in practice the back of the neck often gets crunched, defeating the purpose of the countering.
• Core Poses: poses that stretch out the front of the body, such as Supta Virasana (Reclined Hero Pose) or Setu Bandha (Bridge Pose). Also Twists, though bear in mind that as they stretch the obllques on one side of the body, they contract the obliques on the other side.
Standing Poses: simple seated poses such as Vajrasana (Thunderbolt Pose) or Virasana (Hero Pose) can restore the legs.


In the collection Ashtadala Yogamala Volume 2, Iyengar gives a fascinating explanation of his opinions about Vinyasa (flowing sequencing). For him it is a superficial practice of the senses and the body, and does not provide the depth of penetration that he is looking for. He does, however, discuss some basic principles of Vinyasa. One fascinating idea, to my knowledge not often taught, is sequencing not according to similarity, but according to difference, where you put two poses together that are deliberately different, or even counter to each other, requiring very careful execution of the transition. This he calls Vishamanyasa.

Further more, in a sub-category he calls Viloma Vishamanyasa, you put together separate classes of poses with one single asana. The example he gives is:

Pashchimottanasana - Urdhva Dhanurasana - Pashchimottanasana - Ushtrasana - Pashchimottanasana - Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana

This would be an extremely challenging sequence to do well. It goes beyond a simple pose/counter pose idea and would require a tremendous amount of attention.

Related Posts:
Modes of Sequencing
Sequencing For Balance Within A Practice
Sequencing By Category Of Poses
Sequencing By Progression Deeper Into The Body