Yoga Sequencing

Updated: Dec 2, 2020

Have you ever noticed that in a yoga class, we generally start with something quiet, then some standing poses? We always end with Savasana (corpse pose). What comes just before Savasana? An inverted pose - possibly legs up the wall, or Salamba Sarvangasana (shoulder stand)? Or perhaps a quiet sitting pose. 

If we group poses together by their effect on the body (physical, physiological, emotional), we can see why and how sequencing works. To illustrate, let's take a "text book" sequence:

  •  Standing poses - Get moving, perhaps observe and correct imbalances, focus the mind.   •  Salamba Sirsasana (Headstand) - Take the focus and alignment from your standing poses into an inversion. Bring balance and healthy functioning to the glandular system.   •  Sitting Poses (Forward bends then twists) - Settle the mind, deepen the focus   •  Back bends - Lift the nervous system, but with deep focus from the previous poses.   •  Salamba Sarvangasana (Shoulder stand) - Settling, calming, quietening.   •  Savasana - Internal focus, let go of the physical body.   •  Pranayama - Observe and focus on the physiological body.

Note that this is similar to the sequence that we follow across the week at Penrith Yoga Studio (Standing Poses, Sitting Poses, Back Bends, Pranayama, Miscellaneous). Note too, that I've called it a "text book" sequence because it's not a strict rule that this sequence must be followed, it's really just one example that works. There are others.

Have you ever walked out of a yoga class feeling a little unsettled? Or perhaps feeling a bit dull. It's possible that you've experienced an example of sequencing that didn't work. I well remember a class many years ago where the teacher ran out of time, and we had just a very short Savasana after some very active back bends. I walked home that night and I was in a very strange state - I felt like I could pick a fight with someone! (Do I need to say that I don't usually feel that way?)

To understand sequencing, you need to be aware of the effect of the poses. The poses affect different "layers" of the body (known in sanskrit as "kosas"). A pose may effect:

  •  your physical body (e.g. what gets you moving, what helps to align the muscles and bones so that you can move from a deeper part of the body);    •  your nervous system - is a pose stimulating? Calming?   •  your breathing   •  your emotional state.

Over the next week, in class consider the effect of the poses you are in, the poses you have just come from.

Across the course of this week, if you are in Foundations, General or Plus Size classes, you will be doing:

  •  Back Bends on Monday   •  Pranayama on Tuesday   •  Miscellaneous on Wednesday   •  Standing Poses on Thursday   •  Sitting Poses on Friday   •  Back Bends on Saturday   •  Pranayama on Sunday

Particularly if you come to more than one class, see if you notice a difference in the "mood" of the class. See if you notice a change across the course of the class.

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