This article is for yoga teachers who design their own sequences, meaning not for teachers of Ashtanga and Bikram, for example, that don’t deviate from their fixed sequences.
This article is for the teachers who are responsible for the evolution and coherence of every single sequence that they create.
If there is one law in intelligent sequencing, here is THE one law:
Every single asana in your sequence must be justifiable.
Let me say it again:
Every single asana in your sequence must be justifiable.
Sounds logical, doesn’t it? To some, a bit extreme perhaps.
For teachers who are unaccustomed to the constraints of this law, it may be a bit difficult to apply, especially when I add the by-law to the law.
Every single asana in your sequence must be justifiable — Not on an intellectual level, but on an experiential level.
What does this mean, an experiential level?
This means that you must intimately know the experience that every single posture in your sequence creates.
You must record and memorize the effects of every single posture through the first three koshas - Annamaya, Pranamaya and Manomaya.
Otherwise, you’re working from your head and that method doesn’t work in yoga. Yoga is NOT an intellectual/mental experience.
Just like a sommelier who has created an internal library of wine and food combinations, yoga teachers also create an internal library of yogic experiences and combinations.
The sommelier reaches a point of mastery where he or she knows what wine goes with what food by recording and memorizing EXPERIENCES. It is not an intellectual exercise. The sommelier has tasted an infinite amount of wine with an infinite amount of food pairings and has mastered the effects of various combinations.
Only then can the sommelier create food pairings without direct experience, but can create from experiential memory.
What happens when we create our yoga sequences from our heads?
Two things (or rather, two disasters):
1. We create an experience that is confusing for those who are practicing our sequence. The confusion can be on an obvious or more subtle level. The confusion might simply be evident in an unsettled feeling one has during and after the practice. The goal of yoga is integration of the self. Confusion does not lend itself to integration. The sequence must be logical according to the laws of nature. A sequence that does not follow the laws of nature has uncomfortable effects on the nervous system and the results are unpleasant.
2. We open the door to injury. I’ve said before that I’ve generally stopped taking other teachers’ classes. There are, of course, teachers whose classes I’ll always take, like until forever. But, in general, I’ve stopped taking classes because
1. I get that unsettled feeling where I’m like, “What was that we just did?” (And not in a good way.) My nervous system does not feel right.
2. Because I’m afraid!!! OK, I’m not really afraid of getting hurt anymore. I know how to take care of myself and how to prevent injury, even if it means walking out of the class. But, being preoccupied with injury prevention during a class is not bringing me to a state of yoga. It’s bringing me to a state of, well, being preoccupied by injury prevention.
I have a very specific experience in mind of a class that totally broke the laws of nature. I won’t say with what teacher and at what studio, since at least the studio is still around. I don’t know about the teacher.
The class was clearly designed by the head and/or just because the teacher liked certain poses and music. First of all, it was a class that was supposed to be some kind of groove ambiance, with music. Many of you know how I am about music. (All music must also be justifiable — article coming soon.) Background music is just illegal in my book.
Anyway, with this background music that the teacher chose just because she liked it and a sequence that was Cra-Zy, I can honestly say that it was an unforgettable experience.
If I didn’t know what I was doing and how to protect myself, I could have badly hurt myself. Within the same sequence, we went through Bakasana variations AND big backbends, just to give an example.
Since I was totally not in a state of yoga, but in a state of bewilderment and confusion, I was curious to see what was going on with the other students. It was not pretty. There was a lot of stumbling, falling, grunting, belabored breathing and ugly facial expressions. A state of yoga was nowhere to be found. Anandamaya kosha was nowhere to be seen. Anywhere. At any time.
And I paid 20 plus euros for this class...
This is why I’ve quit taking classes in general.
I just want to reiterate that the logic, non-confusion and ultimate satisfaction is NOT on an intellectual level. In Kundalini yoga, for example, I don’t get it at all. My mind doesn’t get the sequencing AT ALL! But I do know that (with a good teacher) the experience of the practice is almost always satisfying to me. One can sense that in creating his sequences, Yogi Bhajan and his subsequent senior teachers have full mastery over the experiences that their yoga creates.
Once you learn how to create experiences with the deliberate goal of bringing students to a state of yoga by being precise in every aspect of the practice, there’s no going back. You won’t be able to work in any other way.
In my teacher training, we work and work and work sequencing. In my elemental modules, Earth, Water, Fire and Air we work on sequencing that are directly related to those elements. THEN, I have a module that is a whole weekend of just learning how to create intelligent, logical, and justifiable sequences: 13-14 February 2016 L’Architecture d’une Séance. Do join us!
Professeur et formatrice de vinyasa yoga
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