Breathing is an important aspect of yoga. Over the years, breathing techniques have been incorporated into…
There are different approaches to sequencing a yoga class. Designing a yoga class is an art form that you can be creative with. While some classes have a traditional yoga sequence that remains unchanged for decades, others take certain liberties when it comes to planning the flow and focus of a class.
Most modern postural yoga classes are structured with an end goal in mind, a so-called peak pose. Many of the asanas chosen for a specific class are therefore geared towards helping warm up the body so that it has the necessary strength and flexibility to practice the chosen peak pose as safely as possible.
Alternatively, to help yourself get into a state of moving meditation, you can create a theme to sequence your yoga practice around.
Here are some common approaches to sequencing a yoga class:
Peak Pose Sequencing
Some classes include a peak pose which the whole yoga class builds up to. In some cases, this peak pose may be more challenging because it requires more flexibility or control in order to be practiced safely.
Depending on the type of peak pose chosen, the warm-up and preparatory poses leading up to it will focus on opening up the areas of your body that need to be flexivle in order to achieve the ideal shape.
Strengthening poses must also be included in a practice in order to develop control and balance and create stability for the increased flexibility that the regular practice of yoga asanas may enable.
After the peak pose, it’s suggested that those asanas be practiced that help bring your heart rate back down to normal and help the body relax and cool down before entering the final resting pose, Savasana. After all, the point of practicing asanas in yoga is to prepare the body for meditation, so it’s better to ease back into a more calm state after a challenging pose rather than laying down straight away.
As an example, a yoga class with a peak pose of Svarga Dvidasana (Bird of Paradise), may be structured in this way:
- Surya Namaskar to warm up the whole body
- Malasana aka Full Yogic Squat, to open up the hips
- Phalakasana aka Plank Pose, to strengthen your core, arms, and legs
- Ashwa Sanchalanasana aka Equestrian Pose, for hip mobility and core strength
- Virabhadrasana 2 aka Warrior 2, for leg strength and more hip opening
- Viparita Virabhadrasana aka Reverse Warrior, for hip opening and side body lengthening
- Utthita Parsvakonasana aka Extended Side Angle, for hip opening, shoulder opening, and chest expansion
- Svarga Dvijasana aka Bird of Paradise Pose (Peak Pose)
- Eka Pada Rajakapotasana aka One Legged King Pigeon Pose, for a more restorative hip opening pose
- Adho Mukha Svanasana to lengthen the spine and the hamstrings
- Setu Bandhasana aka Bridge Pose, to stretch the core muscles and strengthen back muscles
- Supta Baddha Konasana aka Reclined Butterfly Pose, to stretch the lower back and continue the gentle hip opening
- Paschimottanasana aka Seated Forward Bend, to lengthen the hamstrings
- Supta Matsyendrasana aka Supine Spinal Twist, to release the lower back and neutralize the spine
- Apanasana aka Wind Removing Pose, to promote apana and the release of toxins
- Savasana – final resting pose
Themed Class Sequencing
A yoga class me also be sequenced around a certain theme such as a mantra or a chakra.
A class based on the theme of compassion, for example, may include a lot of chest openers, backbends, and even mantras that focus on feeling love and empathy for yourself and others.
Classes that target a certain chakra, for example the root chakra or Muladhara, may focus on practicing poses that are grounding and strengthening in nature and which are said to help you find your balance or bring the root chakra energy back into alignment. Examples of such poses are Tadasana, Padmasana, Warrior 1, or Malasana.
This sample yoga class sequence focuses on the Anahatha chakra and the feeling of compassion. These poses all zone in on the chest area either by practicing expansion, placing a mudra over the heart area, or allowing long, deep breaths to flow through the Anahatha chakra:
- Padmasana aka Seated Lotus Pose
- Marjary or Bitilasna aka Cat and Cows
- Anahathasana aka Melting Heart Pose, or Extended Puppy Pose
- Tadasana with hands in Namaste Mudra
- Virabhadrasana 1 aka Warrior 1 with hands behind nape
- Virabhadrasana 3 aka Warrior 3
- Vrksasana aka Tree Pose
- Urdhva Hastasana aka Palm Tree Pose
- Sanchalanasana aka Equestrian Pose
- Virasana aka Hero Pose
- Ustrasana aka Camel Pose
- Vakrasana aka Twisted Root Pose
- Apanasana aka Wind Removing Pose
- Meditation with Mantra: Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu
Therapeutic Yoga Class Sequencing
The great thing about knowing how to sequence a yoga class is that you can customize your practice to take specific injuries or issues that you or your students are experiencing into account. Common issues that yoga may be able to help with are sciatica, lower back problems, shoulder problems, and even migraines.
A therapeutic yoga class with a focus on sciatic pain relief may look something like the sequence shown below. All of these poses help stretch the areas where the sciatic nerve is located without putting additional strain on any one area.
- Tadasana aka Mountain Pose
- Urdhva Hastasana aka Palm Tree Pose
- Balasana aka Child’s Pose
- Marjary and Bitilasna aka Cat and Cows
- Bhujangasana Cobra Pose
- Adho Mukha Svanasana aka Downward Facing Dog with Splits
- Janu Sirasana aka Seated Head to Knee Pose
- Supta Matsyendrasana aka Spinal Twists
- Supta Gomukhasana aka Reclined Cow Face Pose
- Eka Pada Rajakapotanasana aka One-Legged King Pigeon Pose (Seated or Supine variation)
- Setu Bandha Sarvangasana aka Supported Bridge Pose
- Supta Virasana aka Recline Hero Pose
- Supta Padhangusthasana aka Reclining Hand to Big Toe Pose
- Ananda Balasana aka Happy Baby Pose
Some schools of yoga stick to one yoga sequence without ever altering or changing it. This can be a good practice, especially as a spiritual sadhana or if you are looking to measure your own physical progress. Styles like Ashtanga yoga have a specially designed sequence, like the Primary Series, which never changes no matter where in the world you practice a Mysore or Led class.
Some Traditional Tantra Yoga schools also follow yoga sequences that should not be altered because of the specific energy flows that the sequence is supposed to activate. Examples of such sequences are the Tridosha Yoga sequence by the Shri Kali Ashram or the Dorje Yoga sequence from Tibetan Buddhism.
When you know how to sequence a yoga class, you’ll be able to customize your own practice to what needs to be addressed as far as your own body or your mental and emotional state is concerned. You’ll also be able to create a practice that’s just for you instead of following a cookie-cutter yoga sequence that doesn’t take your unique anatomy, movement background, and other factors into consideration.
Of course, traditional yoga sequences also have much value since many of them have been tried and tested for decades. Only you will know what kind of yoga practice you need when you consider your personal health and the physical capabilities that you want to address or how you want your personal yoga practice to develop over time.