To me, learning anatomy is akin to learning how to do a handstand in the center of the room. At the beginning there is a lot of grunt work before things start to come together. But once they do, it becomes almost impossibly fun. Unlike Bikram or Ashtanga which follow set sequences, vinyasa teachers enjoy enormous freedom in designing classes. Sequencing is not the same as choreography. The concept of vinyasa krama is based on the teachings of Krishnamacharya. Vinyasa means "to place in a special way" and krama means "step by step". There is a fluid quality in vinyasa yoga with each movement linked to the breath and each pose leading seamlessly into the next. But it is more than that. In vinyasa yoga, each pose should also be preparing the body for what is to come next, or neutralizing or integrating what has come before. In other words, the order of the poses is not random but rather a consciously crafted and sequential progression. This is the art and science of sequencing.
Think about the way you feel after certain classes. Chances are that part of the way you feel has to do with the sequencing of the class. This is even more apparent long-term. Poor sequencing leads to imbalance, congestion, strain, even injury. Intelligent sequencing leaves you with a feeling of integration and well-being.
Sequencing is an art and a science. An artist must familiarize himself with his paints and canvas - and understand the optimal way to use and care for them - before he can fully express his creativity through them. So it is with teaching vinyasa yoga. Familiarizing ourselves with the anatomy of the human body in movement as well as the actions and energetics of the poses - in other words the “science” end of things – is the key to being able to design efficient, intelligent, creative and illuminating sequences.
Mark Stephens writes:
“Yoga is informed by many sources of knowledge and wisdom, including introspection, spiritual philosophy, subtle energetics, functional anatomy, and the sciences of biomechanics and kinesiology, to name just a few. Given the vastness of ach of these sources of insight and the complex diversity of human beings, there is really no limit to how much once can learn and apply in the art and science of sequencing.”
Teaching yoga is an ancient healing art steeped in thousands of years of tradition. Teaching yoga is also an adaptive, ever-evolving, experimental and creative art which finds its unique and modern expression in us! Sequencing is one of the most fun ways we get to express our creativity and ingenuity as teachers. Let’s familiarize ourselves with our canvas and our palette of paints so that we can have fun!