I’m a yoga nerd. When I am not doing yoga, I am teaching it. And when I am not teaching it, I am studying it. I love every aspect of the practice: the philosophy, the history, the anatomy, the physical poses (asanas). And being a teacher trainer I actually make a living talking about yoga all day! But my absolute favorite thing to teach during trainings is sequencing, or the order in which poses are placed. It is here that we teachers get to foster our innate creativity.
One of the (many) things that makes YogaWorks stand out amidst competing trainings is intelligent, yet imaginative sequencing. In the YogaWorks system, sequences tell a story. There is a clear progression towards a climax, or in our language a “peak pose”. If you’ve ever practiced this style, you feel the difference in your body. A class that is nicely structured is well rounded, meaning all parts of the body feel touched upon, and it leaves students feeling energized, instead of depleted.
“Peak poses” are taught at the apex of class when the body is the warmest. However, before one reaches the mountaintop, one must traverse many steps along the way. At YogaWorks, we call these steps “component parts,” or areas of the body that need to be warmed up and specific actions that need to be taught in relation to the peak or theme. In other words, to truly understand something, it helps to break it down into smaller and more manageable chunks.
I like to think of component parts as pieces of a special jigsaw puzzle that you can cobble together to create different asanas. They educate both the body and mind so that when a student reaches that proverbial summit, they can practice from a place of deep comprehension instead of just making a shape with their body.
Also, for us teachers, this is where things get fun! Depending on the season, time of day, or, let’s be honest, sometimes our mood, we pick a pose to design a sequence around. Then we identify the easier and more accessible poses that help to reinforce the component parts along the way.
As one’s teaching matures, so does the creativity and sophistication of their sequence. Since the very first class I taught I write down my sequences in tiny journals that I keep in the car. I also use these journals to record inspirational things other teachers say and sometimes their sequences. I highly recommend this for those who want to cultivate sequencing skills. It is also incredibly rewarding (though sometimes embarrassing) to look back at your old notes and think, “what the heck was I thinking?”
Fancy poses can be daunting, and by breaking them down through intelligent sequencing we have an opportunity to make them not only more accessible, but also to provide students with a richer understanding of them. There is nothing like that moment when a student finally gets a pose. And by “gets” I don’t mean physically does the asana, but rather truly comprehends the mechanics and pieces that a pose entails. A well-sequenced class provides the map to that seemingly unreachable mountaintop.
Originally published on YogaWorks Blog April 16, 2014