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How To Sequence A Yoga Class

Yoga Sequence

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:

  1. Surya Namaskar to warm up the whole body
  2. Malasana aka Full Yogic Squat, to open up the hips
  3. Phalakasana aka Plank Pose, to strengthen your core, arms, and legs
  4. Ashwa Sanchalanasana aka Equestrian Pose, for hip mobility and core strength
  5. Virabhadrasana 2 aka Warrior 2, for leg strength and more hip opening
  6. Viparita Virabhadrasana aka Reverse Warrior, for hip opening and side body lengthening
  7. Utthita Parsvakonasana aka Extended Side Angle, for hip opening, shoulder opening, and chest expansion
  8. Svarga Dvijasana aka Bird of Paradise Pose (Peak Pose)
  9. Eka Pada Rajakapotasana aka One Legged King Pigeon Pose, for a more restorative hip opening pose
  10. Adho Mukha Svanasana to lengthen the spine and the hamstrings
  11. Setu Bandhasana aka Bridge Pose, to stretch the core muscles and strengthen back muscles
  12. Supta Baddha Konasana aka Reclined Butterfly Pose, to stretch the lower back and continue the gentle hip opening
  13. Paschimottanasana aka Seated Forward Bend, to lengthen the hamstrings
  14. Supta Matsyendrasana aka Supine Spinal Twist, to release the lower back and neutralize the spine
  15. Apanasana aka Wind Removing Pose, to promote apana and the release of toxins
  16. 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:

  1. Padmasana aka Seated Lotus Pose
  2. Marjary or Bitilasna aka Cat and Cows
  3. Anahathasana aka Melting Heart Pose, or Extended Puppy Pose
  4. Tadasana with hands in Namaste Mudra
  5. Virabhadrasana 1 aka Warrior 1 with hands behind nape
  6. Virabhadrasana 3 aka Warrior 3
  7. Vrksasana aka Tree Pose
  8. Urdhva Hastasana aka Palm Tree Pose
  9. Sanchalanasana aka Equestrian Pose
  10. Virasana aka Hero Pose
  11. Ustrasana aka Camel Pose
  12. Vakrasana aka Twisted Root Pose
  13. Apanasana aka Wind Removing Pose
  14. Savasana
  15. 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.

  1. Tadasana aka Mountain Pose
  2. Urdhva Hastasana aka Palm Tree Pose
  3. Balasana aka Child’s Pose
  4. Marjary and Bitilasna aka Cat and Cows
  5. Bhujangasana Cobra Pose
  6. Adho Mukha Svanasana aka Downward Facing Dog with Splits
  7. Janu Sirasana aka Seated Head to Knee Pose
  8. Supta Matsyendrasana aka Spinal Twists
  9. Supta Gomukhasana aka Reclined Cow Face Pose
  10. Eka Pada Rajakapotanasana aka One-Legged King Pigeon Pose (Seated or Supine variation)
  11. Setu Bandha Sarvangasana aka Supported Bridge Pose
  12. Supta Virasana aka Recline Hero Pose
  13. Supta Padhangusthasana aka Reclining Hand to Big Toe Pose
  14. Ananda Balasana aka Happy Baby Pose
  15. Savasana

Traditional Sequencing

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.

Conclusion

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.

Hi, I’m Nicole, a passionate yoga teacher and lifelong learner. There’s so much more to know about yoga than one could possibly learn in one single lifetime. To me, yoga isn’t about finding the perfect posture. It’s about becoming one with my body, finding peace in who I am and creating space where I once was stuck, either in my body or my mind. Being a psychotherapist, I love that yoga allows us to evolve our personality while at the same time giving us the opportunity to become aware of our body, thoughts, feelings and needs, as well as our behavior towards and communication with those around us. While it’s not all that important what the poses look like while you’re practicing them, it is in fact very important to follow certain steps in order to really benefit from the individual poses and avoid getting injured. That’s why we’ve created this page and hope that you’ll find it helpful for your yoga practice.

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