The New Year always inspires a burst of resolve as we turn to face the new calendar with a fresh set of intentions. If upping your yoga game is on your list this year, we highly suggest that you begin to cultivate your own home practice, because inevitably, busy schedules mean cutting back on your studio classes, and your practice and well-being can suffer as a result. Having a strong home practice safeguards you against this, and we are happy to share Wanderlust O’ahu Speakeasy guest, Erica Jago’s tips on designing your own sequences, which first appeared on the lovely The Numinous blog by Ruby Warrington. We share some of Erica’s insights below, and for Ruby’s full interview with Erica, skip over to The Numinous for the full meal deal.
YOGA BY DESIGN: STEP-BY-STEP
anatomical focus – Next, define the anatomical focus in a short bulleted list. For example, if I want my class to land in the heart, I would instruct this: “Lengthen the sides of your waist upward,” “Fearlessly move the heads of your arm bones back,” “Bring the tips of your shoulder blades to the back of your heart,” “Expand your collarbones.” This becomes the alignment you will cue in every pose.
sequence – Next comes the sequence. By drawing out the sequence using Asanaglyphs you can record the progression of poses you want to flow through over the course of the class.
three wave grid – That progression of poses is mapped out over a three-way grid that 1) warms you up, 2) takes you to the peak pose and 3) winds you down for shavasana.
peak pose – consider what you want to be the point of highest activity.
talking points – Lastly, I further develop the theme by writing down bite-sized talking points that can be used sporadically to help deepen the meaning of the poses.
Do you use the same process when you’re designing a sequence for your personal ‘use’?
Yes. I don’t teach a sequence unless I’ve fully embodied the language of those truths within myself. This has taught me how to listen to the tone of my voice, remix inspirations and to choose themes based on what has momentum in my current situation. The themes I choose come from a deep desire to master a concept more fully.
Do you speak the oral cures to yourself while practicing the sequence?
Hilariously, yes. And I’ve even filmed myself, which was horrifying! But this methodology ensures a sense of clarity for me, even before I step into the classroom, because I’ve contemplated it, practiced it, and experienced it first hand.
What is a ‘sankalpa’ and why is it important to begin with this?
A Sankalpa is the mood you want the experience to be infused with. This feeling and intention is what you return to again and again as you design your own yoga sequence, to reiterate the teachings at the cellular level.
How many poses should you aim for in a 30-minute sequence?
That depends on the style of yoga you’re practicing. Vinyasa will include more poses, with cues to “pulsate” between them, while Restorative or Yin will feature less. I’ve begun to study and value a slower, more cooling practice. A 30-minute flow that I do before bed includes forward and backbends that stimulate and nourish the kidneys and adrenal glands. Sphinx pose, Saddle pose, Seal, Butterfly, Half Butterfly, Caterpillar, Reclining Twist.
Is it a good idea to decide your ‘peak pose’ before you begin?
Occasionally, if this is what inspired you to design the sequence. The peak pose traditionally happens in Wave Two and gives you a starting point to work backwards from to create Wave One. Think; what needs to be open in order for you to come into the full expression of the peak pose? And with Wave Three; how can I counter the peak pose and gradually bring myself back down? After some thought and contemplation, notice if these series of expansions and contractions change your perception of the pose and how you practice it.