Ask Aunt Yoga - In What Order Should You Do Yoga Poses?

How to Sequence Yoga Poses
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Dear Aunt Yoga,

I would like to know what the order of yoga poses should be. Are there particular exercises that should or should not follow each other? I think there is a specific rule governing sequences of yoga. I shall be thankful if you kindly enlighten me on this point.

Thanks,

R.P.

Dear R.P.,

Actually, there is no one set of rules for the order of poses that can be applied to every kind of yoga.

For instance, in Light on Yoga, B.K.S. Iyengar says that headstands should be practiced at the beginning of a yoga session, while in Pattabhi Jois's Ashtanga system, headstand is done near the end of the 90-minute primary series. Both of these yoga traditions are highly respected, so which is right? Well, they both are. Each teacher could make an argument for why they prefer the pose to be done at the specified time and they could both be valid.

The second part of your question is similarly complex and again will depend on the type of yoga you practice. There are a few poses that are often followed by their traditional counter poses. For example, shoulderstand is often followed by fish in order to provide a counter stretch for the neck. After a series of backbends, it's nice to do a forward bend to release the lower back. Most of these are suggestions and not set in stone, however.

Yoga for People Who Like Order

If the idea of this sequencing free-for-all makes you feel a bit panicked, don't worry.

There are some types of yoga, such as Ashtanga and Bikram, that do follow a set series of poses that is done in exactly the same order in every class. Each of these styles maintains that their sequence makes the most sense and will yield the best results. You'll have to try them to see which is the best fit for you.

If, on the other hand, you like things to be a bit more unpredictable, there are many styles, such as vinyasa and power yoga, take a more flowing approach in which the order of poses changes each time at the teacher's discretion.

Sequencing Poses for Home Practice

If you're trying to sequence poses on your own for practice at home, a general outline can help. Start with some gentle stretching and then warm up the body with standing postures, perhaps including sun salutations if you want to flow. Once you are warm, deeper poses, such as backbends and intense hamstring stretches, are appropriate. Cooling down will often include forward bends and gentle twists.

Sequencing poses is one of the toughest parts of starting a yoga home practice. For some inspiration, check out these recommended sequences.

Namaste,

Aunt Yoga

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