General Principles of Yoga Asana Sequences

April 21, 2010 by  
Filed under Yoga and You

The right order to perform asanas or yoga poses in a session is a tricky matter. It depends on a number of factors such as -the schools of yoga (like Ashtanga Yoga, Hatha Yoga, Iyengar Yoga etc.) age, experience, how you’re feeling mentally and physically on a certain day and even the weather. However, the sequencing of asanas plays a very important role in achieving maximum benefit from the session. A well-sequenced session is a well balanced session that reaches below the surface of the skin and muscles and bones of the body and get in touch with the energetic body at a more cellular level.

Yoga Sequences

Most yoga traditions have their own precepts on how to sequence an asana practice. Sessions usually start with a Prayer, chanting Omkar or Mantra for brief relaxation which helps students forget their anxieties, worries and let go of stress related thoughts. Asana sequences which follow can be linear where one posture follows another in a logical step-by-step direction, moving from less challenging to more challenging and back to less challenging poses. Other types of sequencing including sequencing movements within a pose, from one poses in the same category of poses to the next or from one category of poses to another all of which are important for a positive impact not only on your body, but also on your mind and emotions.

Here’s a look at some general principles or guidelines behind the order of doing yoga asanas-

  • Sequencing Yoga asanasAlways start with preparatory poses and movements to loosen the joints, align the ligaments, tendons and muscles at joints. Work on all joints and areas specifically joints like waist, knee, shoulder, wrist, ankle, neck etc.
  • Standing poses are a good preparation for forward bends and also for back bends.
  • Adho Mukha Svanasana is a good preparatory poses for almost any asana and also serves as good warm down or resting pose after both forward bends and back bends.
  • Alternating between forward bending poses and back bends is not good. After a series of back bends, gentle forward bends is the best way of relaxing the spine however, going back and forth between the two is not practice and can weaken the spine.
  • After deep forward bends consider doing a few twists to balance and release your spinal muscles.
  • Move from heating poses or more strenuous poses to cooling poses, easier poses but don’t go back to heating poses.
  • Warm down with easier poses towards the end of the session to bring your body back into a neutral mode in preparation for complete relaxation.

While there no definite order to do things or any set rules, a good sequence to follow is
- The order to do Asanas Warm up movements and exercises
Surya Namskar (Sun Salutation)
- Standing poses like Trikonasana, Parsvakonasana, Ardha Chandrasana
- Arm balances including full arm balance like Adho Mukha Vrksasana
- Inversions like Halasana, Sarvangasana and Sirsasana
- Back bends like Virabhadrasana, Bhujangasana and Dhanurasana
- Forward bends like Uttanasana, Paschimottanasana and Adho Mukha Svanasana
- Twisting asanas Parivrtta Trikonasana, Parsvottanasana
- Restorative poses like Adho Mukha Virasana, Supta Baddha Konasana followed by Savasana

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* Photo Credits: photos by Kelly Loves Whales and tarnalberry on flickr

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