By Faye Martins
How hard is it to design an optimum sequence for Yoga poses? It’s not that hard when you notice how the Sun Salutation was designed. In fact, I feel that the Sun and Moon Salutations are excellent examples of balanced sequences. However, yoga sequencing can be a very complex topic, because sequencing refers to more than just the order of poses (asanas). Generally speaking, the best sequence depends on the school of yoga and the purpose of the sequence. Also, the needs of the student and the level of the practitioner are important when teaching a sequence. This means that optimum pose sequences are very subjective and may vary from session to session.
Transitions Into or Out of a Yoga Pose
The sequence of movements needed to practice a yoga pose should be carefully adhered to. Although schools of yoga differ, the Warrior I Pose is practiced the same way every time. Each step within the pose, beginning with the starting stance in Tadasana, flows into the next step until finally Warrior I Pose can be held and concentrated on. Achieving the final pose by approaching it the same way every time will ensure correct alignment and balance. So, a simple Warrior I transition is an important part of a typical standing sequence. Whether you step forward, backward, or practice both methods, your mind and body become proficient through repetition.
The sequence of yoga poses within a series can be a bit trickier. As stated earlier, the order of asanas will differ for each person. Based on a variety of preferences ranging from yoga school to how a person is feeling that day. To start with, each yoga style, including Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Bikram, and Viniyoga, has its own guidelines for class pace and proper pose sequencing. Bikram, for example, practices 26 poses, twice, in the same order every time. Ashtanga yoga, on the other hand, follows a primary series, an intermediate series, and four advanced series. The practitioner advances to the next series of poses once the first sequence can be completed well.
Creating a Sequence
For those who want to sequence their own yoga series, keeping the flow of poses in mind will help create an effective and smooth progression of movements. A typical session begins with breathing practice and warm-ups. This is followed by a sun salutation series that moves into standing poses, and then balancing poses. The next step in the lesson plan is an inversion sequence, then bends and twists. Finally, the asanas end with Savasana. Even within this general lesson plan, however, sequences and poses can be substituted or modified for difficulty levels. Some instructors will repeat sequences in a standing pose series, for example. On the other hand, other teachers will focus on a quick-flowing progression through sequences.
Keeping Variety Safe
With the varying schools of yoga and the wealth of information available about yogic methods and pose sequencing, a teacher should be at no loss to choose poses that help fit a single purpose. Whatever series of poses you put together on any given day, they should match student needs. Be sure your sequence is appropriate for fitness, strength, flexibility, and skill levels to prevent injuries during practice. There are many things to take into consideration when planning yoga sequences. The number of poses and when to put high-risk poses are important aspects. Each pose should also be carefully planned so that the joints are properly supported.
Moon Salutation (Chandra Namaskar)
The Moon Salutation is a traditional sequence of poses that are said to sharpen the senses and achieve self-realization. This sequence reportedly increases awareness in preparation for meditation and leads you into a calm state of mind. Sometimes, the pace is slower than the Sun Salutation. Each pose is usually held for 1-5 breaths or you can go through rounds and change the pace. The sequence gently manipulates the spine and calms agitated nerves. Moon Salutations are practiced in the evenings or at night. Therefore, it is wise to slow the pace down because too much energy stimulation can cause insomnia. Furthermore, energy cultivation is the reason why Sun Salutations are practiced in the morning.
More Safety Tips for Teachers
Additionally, a class pace that avoids going too quickly from one pose to another lowers risks. It’s best to match up poses that offer stability while avoiding poses and transitions that can be hard on the joints. If a high-risk pose is included for an advanced class, it should only be practiced at the end of the sequence or after warm-up poses. In general, it’s best not to push students if you see them shaking in a pose. If your students can barely stand on one leg due to fatigue from the early part of your class, they are not ready for a peak pose on one leg. This is why teachers walk around the room. We must observe, help, and be ready to adapt to unexpected situations, in order to keep students safe.
What Should Students Know?
Firstly, yoga poses should be practiced in a sequence that limits the chances of over-stretching and injury. Secondly, introductory poses must be practiced before more difficult pose combinations are performed. Thirdly, gentle warm-ups and stretches should be done before faster or deeper stretches to help ease muscles into the pose. Finally, postures shouldn’t be attempted unless students are feeling healthy and able to participate fully. Most importantly, poses must not be attempted until all symptoms of conditions that limit movement have subsided. With all that said, each student must be aware of his or her body’s limitations and abilities.
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