When I first started doing yoga on my own, I was hundreds of miles from a yoga studio in rural Myanmar. I bought a yoga mat and I would stare at it rolled up in the corner, not sure where to begin.
Our internet was too slow to stream anything but my body ached to flow. After a while, I made myself roll out the mat and do whatever came to mind. One minute I was on the floor in happy baby and the next I was standing in dancer.
Then I was standing idly trying to pull other poses from the creases of my mind. With practice, it came more easily. I found it helped sometimes to write out a plan or at least to think of the poses in categories and address them each in turn. Here I’m going to let you in on some of the secrets of crafting your own yoga sequence.
To work your whole body in a logical sequence, it helps to think of poses in categories. As a general rule, hold each pose for 5-10 breaths. Strive for 70% edge: you never want to feel pain in yoga. If anything doesn’t feel right, just move on to the next pose. It’s never worth an injury.
Here’s a basic outline for a 60-minute practice. You may not hit all the parts every time. That’s ok. And you may not have 60 minutes- just shorten each section. Whatever you can do is awesome! I listed some ideas for each section so you can pick and choose or think beyond those poses. It’s your practice! Enjoy!
This part is all about getting your body and mind ready and starting to work into the muscles.
This is your big movement section. Stoke your inner fire and get your body working!
Your body’s warm and ready to challenge some different muscles in your arms, abs, and hips!
Challenges part 2: flip everything upsidedown! These poses work your body in ways that are contrary to what it’s used to, which is super helpful. Any pose where your head is below your heart counts as an inversion.
You’re starting to slow down and cool down here after some final backbends-
You know this one and hopefully you love it. This is your body’s chance to integrate everything that it just went through. It’s a chance for your body and mind to slow down and relax. 5-7 minutes makes a huge difference, but more is more. Go for 10!
Of course, you can set a spiritual intention for your practice: I recommend it.
Revisit your intention a couple of times during your flow to keep your mind on track and your positive vibes flowing freely.
But here, I’m talking about a physical focus or a goal. Choose a more difficult pose you want to hit at the end of your practice: a peak pose. Then think about which muscles should be opened to help achieve that pose.
They’re going to be the ones lengthening and being stretched after your warm-up. You don’t have to follow the same outline for this sequencing method. (You never have to follow the rules really! As long as your body is happy)
Let’s say you were building your sequence toward dancer. It’s primarily a backbend, so you definitely want to get into your back throughout your practice: maybe cat/cow in your warm-up, crescent lunge, and locust if your sequences takes you to the floor.
But other muscles are needed for this pose too! Your hip flexors and quads need to be open to stretch your bent leg back and up. Think lunges, King Arthur pose, or saddle.
Your shoulders should be loosened to reach back to hold that leg too! So now you need some shoulder openers. Maybe thread the needle if you do child’s pose in your warm-up. Try poses with eagle arms or cow face arms in standing or seated poses.
Also think about what needs to be stable– do a couple of other balancing poses to help secure that rooting leg that holds your dancer up. You could do tree or practice your stabilization with a different style of balance like eagle or figure 4 pose.
Add any other poses you feel like doing along the way and VOILA you have an awesome yoga sequence. And I bet it will be one of the best feeling dancers you’ve ever done because you’ve prepared your body so well. You can map out a sequence around any peak pose. Just think about what your body needs to focus on to get there.
If you try out my sequencing ideas, let me know how it goes in the comments!