Some teachers struggle with how to create a yoga sequence. Do you notice how it helps students to learn asana and other yogic methods in stages, adding on more complex elements after mastering more rudimentary ones? Have you used this to help advance your student’s practices? I think of this concept from a few different angles. First, we can add to sequences as students master their first basic “skeleton” structures.
In a longer-term view, we can move on to teach more advanced “cousins” of certain postures and techniques once our students feel stable and strong in their more basic “relatives”. We can also apply this concept in skeletal alignment for asana and pranayama, and harmony of the mind in meditation; just like with building a house, it’s neither effective nor safe to add embellishments to a shaky (or non-existent) structure.
Building the Foundation First
With learning specific yoga sequences in stages, I think of dance training. Effective instructors and choreographers teach class exercises or choreographic phrases in little pieces. Once dancers can successfully execute what they’ve been taught, then teachers/choreographers add on. This approach gives students the time and mental space to learn a series of sequential movements – increasing self-confidence and grace in movement quality while reducing the risk of injury.
This way of teaching translates well to Vinyasa flow, with yoga sequences that can include several different postures. We instructors can break up longer sequences into two or three parts, first teaching the first part. Then we can lead the sequence again, and add on a second part. Then a third, if applicable. Of course, unlike dance, it doesn’t matter what it “looks” like, and striving for something more isn’t the most effective approach. On the other hand, all the aforementioned benefits of learning in stages apply to asana instruction, especially those with many postures together in sequences (such as Vinyasa).
This approach can also help yoga instructors effectively teach mixed-level classes – something that’s more and more common, with all types of people of all levels of physical ability engaging in yoga sequence practice. For instance, we can teach second (and maybe third) parts of certain sequences while making it clear to our students that they can still just do the first (or first or second) parts – if they want to take that time to work on certain postures in the skeleton sequence.
Or perhaps there’s a medical reason – an injury or more complex contraindication – for not practicing a certain posture in a later part of a sequence. Students can choose for themselves to challenge themselves with perhaps more advanced postures in later parts of sequences, or make conscious decisions that it’s better for them to keep working on a former part – taking more time in each posture or taking a more restful posture to fill that time.
This idea easily translates to practicing pranayama as well. We can guide students in basic three and four-part breath patterns this way, for instance. We can guide students that if they’ve established a clear rhythm of inhaling and exhaling, they can add breath retention (kumbhaka) in between the inhale and exhale. If that is comfortable, they can add another breath retention at the end of the exhale – creating a four-part breath. We, instructors, can (and should, in my opinion) guide students that at any point, they can keep working on what they’re presently doing instead of progressing to the next step.
In the longer scope of our students’ practices, we can take this idea into the ways we help them advance their practices over time. That’s obviously not possible with students we might see once or twice but can work well with longer-term private students and those who regularly attend ongoing group classes. It doesn’t make sense – and could very well lead to discouragement, not to mention injury – to teach students Koundinyasana if they haven’t yet mastered arm balancing fundamentals through Crow Pose. We can most effectively guide them if we carefully watch how they progress, and introduce perhaps more complex and advanced asanas when they’re ready.
Importance of The Foundation
That idea can be an important reminder for our students, offered at any frequency. I recently had a student, whom I had never taught before, approach me before class to request an intermediate to advanced class. Once the class was rolling, I came to see that he had a lot to learn when it comes to safe, stable, and practice-enhancing alignment. I’ll wager that most instructors have met similar students at one point or another, who work like a builder adding embellishments to a building before there’s a firm foundation.
We can remind these types of students that creating yoga sequences is similar to constructing a building – it needs a foundation first. If they manage to put this guidance into action, they’ll be safer and have more enjoyable practice experiences. In my view, that’s the most important part of our job as yoga instructors – to guide our students in safe and enjoyable practices.
© Copyright – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
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Planning A Yoga Sequence
By Faye Martins
Sometimes, for those who teach Yoga, the thought of creating a sequence for your students can be stressful. Let’s look at how to plan a sequence for your class and what considerations you need to keep in mind. Planning a sequence is an essential part of any class. How you plan a sequence by breaking it down into its components and giving step-by-step instructions for each component is a skill.
Teachers who graduate from Aura Wellness Center, know how to create a sequence because it’s a basic part of their foundational training. However, some courses teach from templates and some of them have a handful of sequences. Nevertheless, templates take all the guesswork and creativity out of planning a class. What do you do if you have a private student or a room full of students with Parkinson’s Disease?
As a matter of fact, you can find templates with sequences online for any ailment. Also, you could practice with a video to learn a specialized routine. Once you work with a sequence, it’s possible to plan your own class. You don’t have to blindly follow a template that is unsuitable for your class. Try working with different sequences that you feel comfortable with. Additionally, you can consult one of your teachers for help planning your Yoga class.
When planning a Yoga sequence, the first and most important thing you should do is to know your goal for the class. If you are going to do a sequence for healing or recovery, then start with warm-ups. Then, move to poses that will actively help the class recover. Toward the end of class, it’s best to phase into calming poses.
When designing a Yoga sequence, posture considerations are everything. As with any type of Yoga, you need to start by establishing a strong foundation – the foundation of your posture. The breath is essential in Yoga as well, and it’s important that your breath compliments your movements and postures. One factor that sets Yoga apart from other exercise classes is the fact that it allows you to plan your own class. Additionally, you modify based on the needs and abilities of your students.
© Copyright – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
The Basics of the Yogic Head Stand – Sirsha Asan
By Madan G Singh
A Yoga sequence of poses is one small aspect of the entire Yogic system. Yoga is an art that is entirely Indian in origin and practice. The origins of Yoga are buried in antiquity, but most famous saints and rishis have practiced this art. Yoga has two dimensions which are physical as well as spiritual. This is peculiar to the exercise systems that originate from the orient. The western world cannot fathom how an exercise system can have spiritual overtones as well.
Science and Vedas
The science of Yoga is an ancient science that has been practiced in India since time immemorial. The Vedas alludes to this and many men even after decades of study have not been able to unravel the mysteries of this system.
The physical side of yoga concerns a set of poses that are to be retained for some length of time for their beneficial effects to take place. Western physical exercise systems like weight training require repetitive sets, but yoga has nothing like this and consists of retaining a pose for some time. These poses are called asanas.
Yogic asanas can be divided into elementary, intermediate, and difficult. But bear in mind that all these asanas need to be done in the correct way for the benefits to accrue, otherwise there is a chance that you could in extreme cases even harm yourself.
Out of all the Yoga sequences the Sirshasana or head stand is the king of all asanas (poses). It is also the most advanced and difficult. Ancient seers laid great stress on this asana as it was also supposed to lead to nirvana – eternal bliss. But I will caution a beginner who wishes to perfect this pose. Firstly a degree of physical fitness is essential to do this pose. I will recommend that to learn this pose it is best to consult an instructor or join a Yoga school. In the 21st century, the western world has realized the benefits of Yoga, and a lot many teachers and schools are available to teach Yoga.
The Sirshasan consists of a basic pose of standing upright on your head. It is also called the inverted pose as the human body is inverted with feet up and head resting on a floor or mat. For this pose, it is desirable that you have a mat. I will not advise doing this pose on a concrete floor. You could also do this pose in the garden with the soft grass acting as a cushion for your head.
I will also caution people to attempt this pose only if they are fit and have no serious problems like low or high blood pressure. In such cases, the Sirshasana is to be avoided at all costs. The benefits of the asana are many and have stood the test of time. Basically, this pose strengthens the back bone and neck as well as acts as a tonic to the brain and other systems of the body. Regular practice of this asana can also act as a rejuvenator of your sex life as well as.
The Sirshasan is done in a simple way. Invert your body and put your hands under your head. Stretch your legs and give an upward push so that your body rises up with the head resting on your palms as the base. The best way to describe this is to practice half a somersault and raise your feet up instead of rolling over. The pose itself can be mastered by doing it repeatedly. The trick in this pose is to retain it for some length of time. I recommend that initially you try and keep the pose for 15 seconds and then gradually increase the timing to 2 minutes.
The Sirshasana has another peculiarity. In case you are celibate and you do the head stand for some time regularly then as per the learned Yogis the energies of your body are supposed to go slowly up the spine and form a Lotus flower at the base of the brain. This is supposed to give the person ESP sensations. But nobody has verified this scientifically.
Forgetting the spiritual part a yogic head stand has many beneficial properties that will certainly invigorate your body, strengthen the spine and make the brain sharper. But some external guidance or a guru must be contacted to master this pose. Sirshasana can also be safely done by women, though some experts do not recommend it during menstruation. Finally, it helps to create a Yoga sequence with Sirshasana as the peak pose to warm and cool the body in a safe practice.