robert

Maintaining a personal asana practice

14 posts in this topic

Have been developing my own practice and in doing so have been looking around for guides on sequancing. I've been having troubble with sequancing, thinking what should I do next. Looking to written descriptions is clunky as it breaks the flow, videos are great but I don't have internet access in my best practice room (old house, most of the celings are low. Wifi dosn't like 2 foot stone walls). So have to work around said low celing when following them.

 

Thus far I've just been picking out 2 or 3 pose 'fragments' out of videos and remembering them, then fastening these phrases together.

 

Anyway while searching on this topic, I noticed that most resorces on sequancing are directed towards teachers, and there isn't a great deal about sequancig in self practace. Why is this? Is out-of-class  prctice really that uncommon?

 

Personally I feel Yoga asana is a practice of learning about and extending the capibilities of our own bodies through self-observation. Consiquently isn't it an ideal topic for self-study?

 

At least with most other things I've studied, music especially, in order to make great improvement I've found daly practice essential. On a 'weekly' or such shedule there seems too much time to 'unlearn' things, especially if we don't modify our counterproductive habbits.

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Hi Robert,

 

That's awesome you are exploring your own sequencing! There are many ways to approach it, but perhaps the simplest way is to do so is from a blocks approach. I have to say that it's crazy to me you posed this question today, as I have been working on creating such a guide for over a month and just now finished it this morning! The Universe seems to have a sense of humor :)

 

Anyway, the takeaway is that you create several mini blocks of poses that you then append together to create a basic vinyasa flow sequence. For example, you could warm up with a few rounds of sun salutations, then move into a series of 3-5 poses with externally rotated hips (warrior 2, triangle, etc.), then do the same with the hips squared off (warrior 1 or 3, pyramid, etc.), then seated postures, back bends, arm balances, spinal twists, inversions, forward folds, and savasana.

 

Some people like the concept of a peak pose class, which is structured to prep the body for a more challenging pose. For example, if wheel were your peak pose, you may focus on "easier" backbends like cobra, dancer's pose, and bridge earlier into your practice. You'd also want to make sure your shoulders and hips have been worked a bit because they are strongly involved in the pose.

 

In Mark Stephens' book Teaching Yoga, there is a chapter on sequencing that I think is accessible to home practitioners. If you can get your hands on a copy I think you'd find some good insights. His other books are great as well, but all of them are text books and so may not be the easiest reading. Yoga Journal may also be a decent resource.

 

If you have more specific questions about structuring in blocks, please ask! Good luck!

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Unfortunatly I only just saw your reply, for some reason the thread wasn't appearing in the 'new content' list. Howeaver I do agree that block structuring is the way to start. I've been learning short 'phrases' - things I've learned from videos or in class. And as I'm internalising them it's easier to string them together without the break to think what to do next. Combining poses with similer stance is a good point.

 

Such coincidences often seem to happen, is the guide you mentioned on your blog?

 

I see your point about peak-poses, although wheel is a pose that I seriously doubt I'll ever be able to do. Working through a sequance of easier poses to a harder one. Dancer's would be a peak for me - though I still can't get very deap into it.

 

Thanks for the recomendation, I'll see if the libury has a copy of Teaching Yoga.

 

One of the things that I'm curious about is spasifically why so many resources on sequancing are directed towards teachers, rather than people who practice on there own. Yoga is after all a practice of self-observation, and therefore seams to me to be ideally fit for self practice. Is the situation that many people who practice on there own get into teaching?

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Hi, robert!

 

Candace has a brief layout of how to design your own sequence here http://yogabycandace.com/blog/2013/3/19/how-to-create-a-yoga-sequence

 

What I have heard is that starting with a warm-up (cat/cow, gentle stretches, pranayama) and then moving into sun salutations to begin moving is the general way to begin a practice. Then moving in to more flowing vinyasa--practicing warriors, lunges, twists, etc. After some vinyasa, maybe adding some balancing poses. Then moving to the ground to practice sitting poses like boat pose, or seated twists. Then savanasa.

 

Remember if you want to do some really challenging poses to challenge yourself, put those in the middle of the practice or closer to the end so that you are adequately warmed up and have time to cool down as well.

 

I am not a yoga teacher, but the yoga teachers I follow seem to encourage personal practices. I would agree that yoga books would probably be great for helping you with that. Here is another source I found http://www.erinmotz.com/bad-yogi-home-yoga-flow-builder/

 

Remember that this yoga practice is for you, so listen to your body!

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Such coincidences often seem to happen, is the guide you mentioned on your blog?

Hi Robert. Yes, the guide in on my blog - in the sidebar of the blog page (which you can access via the menu bar).

 

I see your point about peak-poses, although wheel is a pose that I seriously doubt I'll ever be able to do. Working through a sequance of easier poses to a harder one. Dancer's would be a peak for me - though I still can't get very deap into it.

I can relate! My never-can-do pose is lotus...from an anatomical standpoint it is simply prohibitive (it is for many short people). But you may surprise yourself with regards to wheel!

 

One of the things that I'm curious about is spasifically why so many resources on sequancing are directed towards teachers, rather than people who practice on there own. Yoga is after all a practice of self-observation, and therefore seams to me to be ideally fit for self practice. Is the situation that many people who practice on there own get into teaching?

That's an interesting thought. I have typed and subsequently deleted a few different thoughts on this just now...I really don't know what the answer is! There are some resources that are geared towards the student, though. Rodney Yee has a few books that may help you with sequencing, which are written for the student rather than the teacher.

 

To answer your final question, I practiced asanas on my own since 2002 and finally got around to enrolling in teacher training for my own growth. Most of the folks in my teacher training program did not have a regular home-based practice, though. They were inspired by their teachers to enroll. So it just varies tremendously. I don't know of many non-teachers who have a home-based practice...but then again, I don't know a lot of people so my sample size is limited B)

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But you may surprise yourself with regards to wheel!

 

 

We shell see, though I currently have little flexibility in my upper back. Thanks for the encouragement.

 

 

To answer your final question, I practiced asanas on my own since 2002 and finally got around to enrolling in teacher training for my own growth. Most of the folks in my teacher training program did not have a regular home-based practice, though. They were inspired by their teachers to enroll. So it just varies tremendously. I don't know of many non-teachers who have a home-based practice...but then again, I don't know a lot of people so my sample size is limited

 

Interesting observation, how did you find doing the training changed your perception?

 

It appears to me that the only way an individual may attain mastery of anything is through self practice. At a surface level things can appear simple, but as you keep digging into it more and more little details surface. Relating this to my experience with learning music, (of which I have a far more detailed knowledge), creating a good performance depends on: subtleties in timing, note start/stop, articulation, expression, the nuances of a given tradition and many more. Mastery of these details takes an enormous amount of time, to the point that depending only on 'class' time with a teacher is impractical, as this would lock up the teacher essentially to a single student. Self directed practice seems much more practical in a general sense as the student is just looking for 'tidbits' and guidance from teachers, rather than completely depending on them.

 

Also we seem to internalise things better when we practice alone. Much like being taken to a destination vs walking/driving by ones' self. Generally we pay more attention and remember the route better when we take ourselves. Donna Farhi presents a similar viewpoint in "Bringing Yoga To Life". Logically this makes sense as when one is practising under direction, a lot of the effort is outsourced to the leader. However if we are practising alone we have to be our own leader.

 

How I'm approaching Yoga is along these lines, looking to internalise the practice. When following videos or taking a class, I'm looking for effective, or generally interesting sequences to integrate, rather than just 'following the leader'. I'm also combining this with a study of basic anatomy and looking for physiologically efficient practice methods, of which the 'yoga mat companion' and 'yoga anatomy' have been useful.

 

I'm uncertain how common it is for others to have this approach.

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In Mark Stephens' book Teaching Yoga, there is a chapter on sequencing that I think is accessible to home practitioners. If you can get your hands on a copy I think you'd find some good insights. His other books are great as well, but all of them are text books and so may not be the easiest reading. Yoga Journal may also be a decent resource.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks for the recomendation, I'll see if the libury has a copy of Teaching Yoga.

 

 

In addition to that book, definitely check out Mark Stephens' book "Yoga Sequencing" It's really fantastic. I did my teacher training with Mark last year, and I have to say that he has a great way of explaining the sequencing and even offers some basic structures in the book. Worth the read!

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Interesting observation, how did you find doing the training changed your perception?

 

It appears to me that the only way an individual may attain mastery of anything is through self practice. At a surface level things can appear simple, but as you keep digging into it more and more little details surface. Relating this to my experience with learning music, (of which I have a far more detailed knowledge), creating a good performance depends on: subtleties in timing, note start/stop, articulation, expression, the nuances of a given tradition and many more. Mastery of these details takes an enormous amount of time, to the point that depending only on 'class' time with a teacher is impractical, as this would lock up the teacher essentially to a single student. Self directed practice seems much more practical in a general sense as the student is just looking for 'tidbits' and guidance from teachers, rather than completely depending on them.

 

Also we seem to internalise things better when we practice alone. Much like being taken to a destination vs walking/driving by ones' self. Generally we pay more attention and remember the route better when we take ourselves. Donna Farhi presents a similar viewpoint in "Bringing Yoga To Life". Logically this makes sense as when one is practising under direction, a lot of the effort is outsourced to the leader. However if we are practising alone we have to be our own leader.

 

How I'm approaching Yoga is along these lines, looking to internalise the practice. When following videos or taking a class, I'm looking for effective, or generally interesting sequences to integrate, rather than just 'following the leader'. I'm also combining this with a study of basic anatomy and looking for physiologically efficient practice methods, of which the 'yoga mat companion' and 'yoga anatomy' have been useful.

I absolutely agree with you, Robert. It's the same with yoga in many ways.

 

Having a guide, mentor, or guru can really be invaluable in yoga (as with everything). Teacher training programs offer a structured approach to learning more about yoga, and the better ones don't cherry pick the topics that happen to be trendy. When I was studying yoga on my own, I would choose to study that which interested me the most, but my study wasn't necessarily well-rounded. For example, I would de-emphasize pranayama (which now happens to be one of my favorite yogic practices) because it intimidated me. Also, it really helps to have someone tie everything together. My primary teacher in my training program was invaluable, and my own practice grew so much because of him.

 

I think that yoga classes are vastly different than teacher training, though, and I don't attend many. Honestly, my practice would benefit from attending more of them (and especially workshops) because the right ones push me past my comfort zone and help my yoga to grow. But it all boils down to what I do when I'm in my yoga room at home...when it's just me and my mat.

 

Anyway, I probably went off on a bit of a tangent with my response. Sorry about that! (my brain hasn't woken up yet)

 

I really appreciated what you wrote and how you approach yoga. I think that you are on to something, and you seem to want more from yoga than just a series of postures. I think that Mark Stephens books would be very attainable for you, given where you are at.

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I've been trying to design my personal practice for a while.

 

At first I would try to remember some class sequences but ended up stuck somewhere.

Later I tried the Ashtanga Yoga Primary Series sequence but could't do half the poses.

 

What I've learned in the process is that the best approach is to build it in blocks.

Meaning so, start with a small practice, get used to it and then grow up a bit.

 

My practice is divided in 10 minute blocks.

 

On a good morning I have 60 minutes available to practice (I prefer practicing in the morning before going to work).
What I'm doing now is:
  • 10 minute warm-up
  • 10 minute sun salutation
  • 10 minute standing asanas
  • 10 minute seated asanas
  • 10 minute meditation
  • 10 minute savasana
 
On a bad morning:
  • 10 minute warm-up
  • 10 minute sun salutation
  • 10 minute seated asanas
  • 5 minute meditation (this may be skipped on a bad bad morning)
  • 5 minute savasana
 
On  a really bad morninhg:
  • 10 minute warm-up
  • 5 minute seated asanas
  • 5 minute meditation
 
The warm-up is: ragdoll, downward-facing-dog, cat-cow and child's pose
The standing asanas are selected from the Ashtanga Yoga Primary series. Sometimes instead of doing those I do a YBC sequences
The seated asanas are also selected from the Ashtanga Yoga Primary series. 
 
I don't like to follow videos because that would make me following the teachers pace.
So I prefer printed sequences and have it near my mat so when I'm finishing a block I can look to it and see what to do next.
 
The YBC sequences I use are for example this ones:
You can find the Ashtanga Yoga Primary series sequence on the internet with a simple search, like this image.
 
Hope this helps :)
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When I was studying yoga on my own, I would choose to study that which interested me the most, but my study wasn't necessarily well-rounded. For example, I would de-emphasize pranayama (which now happens to be one of my favorite yogic practices) because it intimidated me. Also, it really helps to have someone tie everything together. My primary teacher in my training program was invaluable, and my own practice grew so much because of him.

I think you raise a good point, Yoga is very broad and it's easy to focus on only one aspect - the asana typically being the most visible. I'm interested in pranayama however only really know Ujjayi and alternate nostril breathing, this aspect of yoga isn't written about/demonstrated as widely.

@AnaTeresa,

Good points. building in blocks is a good idea, as well as having a general sequence order.

I find it interesting that you practice meditation and shavasana as separate entities.

 

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I find it interesting that you practice meditation and shavasana as separate entities.

 I find interesting you don't! :D It never occurred to me that those could be the same.

As I understood it from the studio where I attend to classes, those are different things. In Shavasana you relax and don't try to control the mind in any way, you just allow it to wander as it wants, no effort needed. In meditation you try to clear your mind or focus on a specific subject (like a mantra), so effort is needed.

Maybe I'm wrong :mellow:

Edited by AnaTeresa
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 I find interesting you don't! :D It never occurred to me that those could be the same.

As I understood it from the studio where I attend to classes, those are different things. In Shavasana you relax and don't try to control the mind in any way, you just allow it to wander as it wants, no effort needed. In meditation you try to clear your mind or focus on a specific subject (like a mantra), so effort is needed.

Maybe I'm wrong :mellow:

I understand it the same way. Shavasana can seem meditative because it's right after doing a challenging practice and you can also return to your intention during it or practice gratitude, but in this situation breathing is natural instead of controlled. 

You can practice meditation in a Shavasana pose. That's most comfortable for me. But if that's the case I'm following my breath or listening to a guide rather than being natural. 

 

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I find interesting you don't!

:D

 It never occurred to me that those could be the same.

I don't consider them the same, however I found it surprising that you run practice one after the other. I generally start with meditation. 

Edited by robert

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 I generally start with meditation. 

I have tried to start with meditation but found it more difficult to concentrate than if I do it at the end of the practice.

I could do it after Shavasana but usually I start thinking about the day ahead, so I prefer to do it before.

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