There are lots of different ways to approach yoga sequencing. The method you choose (whether you’re a teacher or practitioner) will depend on what ‘yoga’ is for you. Is it a physical practice that makes you strong and flexible? Is it a form of creative expression? Is it a way to direct energy? Is it to prepare for meditation? Is it to address dis-ease? If you consider these different motivations for practice, the way you think about yoga sequencing will necessarily be different for each. It makes sense, right? Because the aim of each type of practice is different.
Irrespective of the style of physical practice you choose there are three things that should be included in every practice:
Yoga sequencing principle one: Tapas
Tapas is any practice or activity that creates subtle heat in our psyche in a way that purifies our personality. It’s something that challenges us. This is not challenge for challenge’s sake. It’s a specific kind of friction that teaches us about ourselves – it shows us where our patterns of reactivity are, which gives us the opportunity to overcome them. This builds strength of character. Ask, ‘When I think about yoga sequencing, where are the elements of tapas in that sequence?’.
In every practice we do, there should be some form of challenge that helps to turns us into the best version of our self. This might take the form of longer held poses, a longer ‘sit’ in meditation, the inclusion of something we’d rather avoid (Chair Pose, anyone?!!). We do this not so we can stew in our own reactivity but so we can see it and see the part of us that is able to observe that reactivity calmly. The idea is that, over time, we become more identified with the part of us that observes calmly than we are the part of us that is reactive.
When tapas does this (challenges us in the right way) it becomes tejas (the radiance aspect of our personality). It expresses as courage, creativity, compassion, as well as a ‘melting tenderness that draws all hearts’. Lovely.
Yoga sequencing principle two: Vinyasa krama
Vinyasa krama means ‘wise progression’. In this case it refers to the wise progression of a yoga sequence, both physically and energetically. To do this, we need to ask a few questions:
What is my current state?
What is my desired state?
What do I need to include in my practice to get me there?
For example, if you feel stressed or overstimulated a back bending practice will not be for you (because backbends are stimulating). Similarly, if you already feel lethargic a forward folding practice will compound it. When thinking about yoga sequencing, then, vinyasa krama means knowing what the different elements of a sequence do (physically, mentally, emotionally and energetically) so you can use them like the spices in a recipe to create the right flavour.
Start with a clear intention. Develop a strategy around it, and make sure that strategy includes a theme, poses, pranayama and meditation that are all supportive of each other.
Yoga sequencing principle three: Smarana
Smarana is a beautiful word. It means ‘remembrance’. Remembrance of what? Of our true nature. Over and above everything else, practice is supposed to remind us of who and what we truly are. It should help us renew our connection to the part of our self that remains at peace, regardless of what’s happening around us. Practice should be a ‘coming home’. If it’s not , it’s not yoga 😉
Ready to put these principles into practice? Check out the Subtle and Skilful Sequencing Mini-course.