So you’ve been practicing yoga for a while. You’re familiar with most poses that your teacher cues in class. You want to start building a home yoga practice, but you have no idea where to start or what to do. How do you create a yoga sequence for yourself?
Previously, I’ve offered some tips on how to start and maintain a home yoga practice (and why I think it’s important to have a home practice). If you want to start building your own sequences, here are some tips for how to create a yoga sequence from scratch.
Disclaimer: While I am a certified yoga instructor, I am not your yoga instructor. Please exercise caution and honor your own body. These views are mine alone, based on my own experiences. Always consult a certified yoga instructor for additional guidance and assistance.
When you think about how to create a yoga sequence, here are a few things to keep in mind:
Your home practice will look and feel different from your practice in a yoga studio. And you know what? That’s OK. You don’t have to practice for 60-90 minutes.
Start slow with 5-10 minutes. At the end of that time, see how you feel. Do you want to continue. If yes, continue for another five minutes and then check in with yourself again. If not, end your practice.
It doesn’t have to “flow.” If your favorite style of yoga is vinyasa, you may be accustomed to each pose flowing seamlessly from one to the next. But when you’re practicing at home, it doesn’t have to.
Maybe you have to take an extra step (or three) to get to the next pose. Maybe you shuffle a little around the mat instead of moving to the melodic metronome of inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale. But that doesn’t matter. What matters is that you are spending time on your mat, that you are moving your body and breath.
Pay attention in yoga class. When you practice with a teacher that you really like, pay attention. I know that it’s really easy to zone out in class and just move. I do it. Practicing with a great teacher is a gift and lets me get out of my own head.
But the next time you’re in class, pay attention. That’s one of the keys to learning how to create a yoga sequence from scratch. Pay attention to how your teacher strings poses together. Notice if you like the way 3-4 poses fit together or even flow together. Pay attention to how you move around the mat.
You can take these little bits of a yoga sequence home with you and play around with them on your mat.
Anatomy of a Yoga Sequence
Just like any physical pursuit, a yoga sequence has three distinct parts: a warm-up, your main sequence, and a cool-down/closing sequence.
You wouldn’t jump right into running speed intervals right away, so don’t jump right into complex yoga poses. Just as you would do a dynamic warm-up before a run or a strength training session, the first part of your yoga sequence should be a warm-up. Think about moving through and loosening up the major muscle groups and body parts. Some good postures to include:
- Cat – Cow
- Tadasana / Mountain Pose
- Urdhva Hastasana / Upward Salute
- Uttanasana / Standing Forward Fold
- Anjaneyasana / Low Lunge
- Parivrtta Sanchalasana / Low Lunge Twist
- High Lunge / Crescent Lunge
- Adho Muka Svanasana / Downward-Facing Dog
- Downdog Split / 3-Legged Downward-Facing Dog
- Prasarita Padottanasana / Wide-Legged Forward Fold
- Bhujangasana / Cobra pose
- Salabhasana / Locust pose
- High Plank Pose
- Virabhadrasana 2 / Warrior 2
- Utthita Parsvakonasana / Extended Side Angle (forearm on thigh)
This isn’t an exhaustive list by any means but should give you some ideas of where to start. You could also do a few rounds of a Chandra Namaskar / Moon Salutation like shown in this video.
In my classes, I don’t include postures like chaturanga, Upward-Facing Dog, Warrior 1 or Triangle pose in early part of my sequence. There’s a lot going on in those poses and I prefer to include them after we’ve warmed up the body.
2) Main Sequence
After you’ve warmed up, it’s time for your “main set”. This part of your sequence depends on the intention of your practice. Here are some options:
- Build some heat with 2-3 rounds of Surya Namaskar A / Sun Salutation A and Surya Namaskar B / Sun Salutation B.
- Focus on standing and balancing postures such as Warrior 1, Warrior 2, Warrior 3, Triangle pose, Chair pose, Extended Side Angle, Tree pose, Half Moon pose and Side Plank. You include some twists like Revolved Crescent Lunge, Chair Twist, Revolved Half Moon, and Revolved Triangle.
- Move through your favorite sequence. Remember when I told you to pay attention in your yoga classes? This is when you could move through the mini-sequence from your yoga class (or classes).
- Work towards a “peak” pose. If there’s a specific pose that you’re working towards, for example the pose of the day for an Instagram challenge, this is when you should work on that. Move through some of the prep postures. Be sure to include some poses in your warm-up that loosen up the major muscles that you need for the peak pose.
- Open Your Heart with some backbends. If you want to include Urdhva Dhanurasana / Full Wheel pose, start with a bridge pose or two first. If you want to include Dhanurasana / Bow pose, start with Salabhasana / Locust pose.
Remember to do both sides if it’s an asymmetrical pose and spend about the same amount of time on each side.
Now that you’ve finished the main part of your yoga practice, it’s time to start to cool down. In my classes, this includes:
- Hip openers like pigeon pose, double pigeon, and reclined ankle-to-knee pose.
- Seated postures including forward folds like janu sirsasana, paschimottanasana, and upavishta konasana; seated spinal twist; and baddha konasana.
- Inversion like viparita karani / legs up the wall.
- Savasana. Ahhhhhhh, the best.
That’s it! The most important thing is to get on your mat and play around. Don’t take it too seriously and do what feels good for your body. If you want some suggestions, you can also check out my Yoga for Runners series.
What’s your favorite yoga pose?
This post is part of the Ask a Yogini series. Each month, I’ll answer a question about yoga – anything that you’re curious about. Chances are, if you have the question, someone else does too!
You may also like:
- Tips for Starting and Maintaining a Home Yoga Practice
- Best Yoga Poses for Headaches
- Best Yoga Poses for Sleep
- Why Runners Should Do Yoga
Photos by Brister Photo
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