Sequencing and Progressions of Yoga Classes

4 Feb

aerobics class in a gym
Every contemporary school of yoga features particular variations on how to sequence a yoga class. Most sequences are referred to as ‘linear’ in nature, which means that that one posture follows another in a smooth and step-by-step fashion. The postures progress from less challenging to more challenging, and then back to less challenging, in what is often referred to as a ‘progression’.

Some styles of yoga focus heavily on the pose/counter pose idea. Iyengar uses this sparingly, usually only applying the idea to cooling down after Back Bends, but there are some other applications. An All Levels class is not a Beginner class. Many All Levels classes offer vigorous movements and strengthening poses. An All Levels class is as easy or as challenging as you make it. Students are encouraged to work their edge or back off when appropriate. If you are in doubt about your abilities, choose a Beginner class and then move on to an All Levels class once you’ve built up your confidence.

Generally, each asana in any given sequence or progression is performed just once. However, you could opt to perform each posture two to three times, and focusing on a different element of the asana each time.

Take, for example, the case of Pigeon Pose. In this asana, you can begin by performing the pose with a focus on your shoulders. Later in the sequence, you can repeat it by focusing upon the spine or the arms.

In yoga classes, sequencing works in many ways. For example, you can design a sequence for a specific ‘goal asana’, meaning that all prior yoga asanas are selected to lead up to that goal. You can also sequence for a purpose, focusing on goals such as twists, back arches, arm balances, standing poses and inversions.

Sequences can also be designed for an effect. They can be calming, invigorating, restorative, etc. A sequence can also be designed for a certain sport – such as running, surfing, or tennis. Finally, you can stick to what is known as a basic sequence: (1) warm-up – particularly one that sets a theme for the practice; (2) standing poses; (3) back arches; (4) inversions; (5) cool down; and (6) relaxation (corpse pose).

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