I recently asked my Bare Bones Yoga Anatomy Facebook group about topics they’d like to see covered in webinars, blog posts and other content. One of the things that came up in from a few different people was the topic of sequencing:
- “Practical sequences and applying anatomy to sequencing”
- “Learning better cues, sequencing and applying anatomy”
- ” How to modify poses or what to offer people for their specific needs.”
Now, the bit about “modifications” and “better cues” are separate topics but for now, let’s focus on the concept of building sequences.
Let’s break it down into a few areas, all involved in how you might create a yoga sequence:
- What is the overall point or objective of the sequence?
- Who is the target audience?
- What level of experience is needed for the sequence?
- What is the energetic focus of the sequence? Things like restorative/relax and renew, active, sports related, functional movement, etc would go here)
I’ll save the breakdown of each of these sections for my upcoming webinar (be on my mailing list to be notified about when this is available), but even at face value, I think you can get an idea of what each of the above categories relates to. The bottom line is that a good place to start is with the overall point of the class. If you’re teaching an after work class, restorative is most likely NOT what you’ll be doing. You’ll probably be offering something a bit more upbeat, dare I even say “work out” focused but if it’s a Sunday night, you might offer something that’s a bit more introspective and nurturing.
Once you’ve picked the overall objective and the other factors above, that’s really going to determine what poses and other items go into the sections I’ll outline below. I like to think about creating yoga sequencing like I’m baking a cake or better yet, making a dinner. What’s the overall theme/objective (as above) and then what are the different courses and then, drilling down even further… what are the different ingredients that make up the different parts of the meal? So, now that we’ve determined the overall objective and the other 3 factors I note above, let’s go into the different sections of the practice.
- Grounding/Centering/Initial Movements
- Warm Up
- Twisting Movements
- Balancing Movements, including arm balances
- Lateral Movements/Side to Side
- Backbends (prone and supine)
- Hip focus on internal/external rotation and extension: longer holds
Consider each of the above components like the different courses for your dinner. What courses will you serve? And, once you pick the courses, what ingredients do you need for each one? For instance, if you decide to serve up balances, will you offer things like Crow, Dancer’s Pose and Tree? To create each sequence, you’ll first determine the overall focus (issues in section 1) and then you’ll determine the components you want to include (from section 2, above) and from there, you’ll pick the actual poses to offer in each section. Remember, you don’t have to offer up everything in the second section.. maybe you want to skip twists, for instance.
Now, just to get you started (again, I’ll go into more detail in the webinar), I’ll give you some suggestions for each section. Let’s run through an example. Let’s take your standard “post work” yoga class, at your local studio. For the most part, you’ll want the focus of that to be as follows:
- What is the overall point or objective of the sequence? To provide multiple options for range of movement in all planes and provide an overall, balanced, experience
- Who is the target audience? General yoga client/student population
- What level of experience is needed for the sequence? All levels however, some familiarity with yoga is helpful (versus raw beginner )
- What is the energetic focus of the sequence? (Things like restorative/relax and renew, active, sports related, functional movement, etc would go here) Active, sports focused and functional movements
Let’s now dive a bit deeper and go through the next level of development for the sequence. First, let’s decide which options we want to include in our sequence:
- Grounding/Centering/Initial Movement- Include
- Warm Up- Include
- Twisting Movements-Include
- Balancing Movements, including arm balances- Include
- Lateral Movements/Side to Side- Include
- Backbends (prone and supine)- Include
- Hip focus on internal/external rotation and extension: longer holds-Include
- Inversions- do not include
- Restorative- do not include
- Rest- include
Now, let’s decide for each section, what we want to offer. For this exercise, I’m going to stay somewhat high level versus going into specific detail on the actual poses to offer. For those, I have other resources I can refer you to, which I’ll go into detail about at the end of this post. So, for each section I’ve decided to include in this sequence, let me share a little more detail:
- Grounding/Centering/Initial Movement- Start students on their back. After a long work day, it can be hard to put them right in load bearing/strenuous poses like Downward Dog. Start with supine lying, eyes closed, with cues to the breath. Then move into a few cycles of Bridge followed by a transition to Table Top. From there, a few cycles of Bird Dog and then into Downward Dog.
- Warm Up- Offer Sun Salutations A and B. Include variations like Humble Warrior and Eagle Arms. Start with more cues and then move to focus more on breath to movement.
- Twisting Movements-Twisting Crescent Lunge and Prayer Twist
- Balancing Movements, including arm balances- Half Moon, Dancer’s, Tree
- Lateral Movements/Side to Side- Warrior Two, Warrior Two moving into Side Angle, Warrior Two to Side Angle and Half Moon. Triangle Series, including Twisting Triangle
- Backbends (prone and supine)- Locust and variations (arms bound, arms behind head, arms out in front); Bow. To back for Bridge, Bridge variations and Wheel (offer with breakdown and then two more rounds)
- Hip focus on internal/external rotation and extension: longer holds-Pigeon on back, Lizard and then Pigeon, prone position
- Inversions- do not include
- Restorative- do not include
- Rest- Shavasana
So now we have our sequence built. Let’s take a moment and talk about the anatomy piece now, since some of the feedback was specifically about “applying anatomy” to sequences. As a teacher who focuses primarily on the anatomy and the anatomical aspect of yoga, it’s just part of all that I do. I don’t consider some classes “more focused on anatomy” than other classes, but I will say that I do create sequences that focus on particular anatomical themes. So, I might create a sequence where the overall theme (remember, that’s the Overall Point or Objective I referred to at the start) might be anatomy related. So, for instance, I might have the overall point be “Hip Internal, External Rotation and Extension.” I might build one focused on “Increasing Mobility in the Thoracic Spine through Twists and Backbends.” The overarching objective can be an anatomical one OR you can pepper your whole sequence with cues and emphasis on anatomy, which is my approach.
So, you might say, “Great! That all sounds great! So, how do I do either of those? How do I A) Build a sequence with an anatomical theme or B) Pepper my entire sequence with cues based on the anatomy of the practice? My answer to that is this: You must have a solid knowledge of the fundamentals of anatomy in order to do that. This comes with your 200 hour training to some degree, as 20 hours of your training was/is on anatomy. But it also comes through growing your knowledge on anatomy itself. This is not a sales pitch; it’s been my experience in over 13 years of teaching that the BEST way to develop solid cueing and sequencing based in anatomy is to build your knowledge of anatomy itself.
So, to that end, and in closing this blog post up ( it’s getting rather long!) I want to give you a number of follow up resources, all related to building your knowledge in these areas:
Webinars: I offer ongoing free webinars on yoga anatomy. Join my mailing list to get notified first of upcoming webinars. For some past webinars, click here. When you join my list, you’ll start to receive my free 3 Video series on Yoga Anatomy. This covers hips, shoulders and backbends.
I have LOTS of content on my free You Tube channel devoted to yoga anatomy. For that channel, click here.
My latest book is devoted to themes of anatomy and is called “Structure and Spirit.” For more on that, including reviews, click here.
One of my passions is developing online learning content for yoga teachers in the form of online courses. It can be so expensive to try to learn everything in person and it’s not necessary for everything to be done that way. For a library of my online courses, click here.
Now, in the immediate, let me share that this week, I’ll be working on creating and recording the webinar that goes with this blog post and goes into even more detail than this. I’ll also created a PDF that is a free download so you have a guide to use to help you create your own sequences with greater ease. To get the free download, click the image below:
There’s a lot more to follow but until then, let me know your comments and what other topics you’d like to know more about. Thanks for reading!