How can learning more about sequencing yoga poses help your practice? How can it help you when you teach yoga? What are the benefits? Frankie Culpin explores the meaning and importance of learning more about the process of creating sequences within yoga, to fully explore the benefits of the practice.
‘What is ‘Sequencing’?’
In a vinyasa yoga practice we move from one pose to another. In some styles of yoga, such as Ashtanga Vinyasa, the order of the poses is already set. In other styles of yoga, the sequence of poses isn’t fixed which therefore allows for more freedom in the practice.
Sometimes translated as the union of breath and movement, the word ‘vinyasa’ is derived from the Sanskrit term ‘nyasa’, which means ‘to place’, and the prefix vi, ‘in a special way’ This is what sequencing means to me.
‘How Does Learning About Sequencing Benefit Your Yoga Practice?’
How we move through our practice can have different physical and energetic effects, so focusing more on sequencing in your home practice can help you explore this. In addition, I found that having grasped some basic sequencing principles, I felt more confident in how to structure my home practice to best serve my body; for example, knowing which poses best prepare the body for certain other poses and which poses act to counterbalance what’s already come before.
All these things put together have helped me become more clear of where I want to end up in my practice and how to accomplish that. For instance, how do I want to feel at the end of my practice energetically – invigorated? / de-stressed? What about physically – all round balanced in my body or do I want to focus my practise on a specific part of the body?
At the moment I feel I need to focus on my shoulders and on strengthening my core but I also need something restorative so I’m working on building a practice based on these elements and goals.
‘What does sequencing mean to you as a teacher/when planning your practices?’
In short here is what sequencing means to me as a teacher:
- I know where I’m taking my students. My class should have a structure and follow a logical pathway to either a specific pose (a peak pose) or a desired energetic outcome (a theme) so that I can teach it confidently and so that it makes sense to me and hopefully, in turn, has meaning for my students.
- I have a well-informed class that takes into account the students and the setting in which I am teaching. When I sequence a class, I have to consider who the class is for and tailor it for the class as I want to ensure the practice is accessible to those students.
My class planning has changed a great deal since I began teaching. As a new teacher, I was keen to share what I’d been taught, but also to find my own way and style of teaching – which took time to discover through trial and error and experience. But during that process, there were times when what I taught felt a bit ‘random’.
A sequence might have worked really well, but I wasn’t completely sure why.
Or I would do a great home practice and create a sequence from that, only to find it just didn’t work in class. I might have come across a sequence online or in a book that looked great and then found that it just didn’t work for my students. I think this quote says it well:
“While creativity is beautiful, it is ideally expressed in keeping with the basic sequencing principles that make physical yoga beneficial and sustainable.” – Mark Stephens, Yoga Sequencing
These experiences motivated me to learn more about sequencing so that I could create my own classes with a better understanding of why I was teaching what I was teaching. It has, therefore, helped my classes have more purpose and meaning for me as a teacher. I follow some key sequencing principles for all my classes and have a loose template which I adapt in order to help me try to create better paced and balanced classes as I found that, as a new teacher, I was always running out of time and sometimes classes felt rushed.
If you’re interested in deepening your knowledge about the Vinyasa Flow practice and gaining a further insight into sequencing then Frankie will be co-teaching our Vinyasa Flow training weekends with Jo Ewen, more details of which can be found here.