Yoga is a deeply transformative and healing practice that has gained tremendous popularity among women aged 20-50. The reasons are as varied as the yoga poses themselves: from stress reduction and physical fitness to spiritual growth and self-discovery. But even the most experienced yogis can sometimes encounter bumps on the road to a seamless flow, and those bumps often come down to sequencing.
To guide you on the journey towards improved yoga practice, we sought the insights of Alchemy Academy Founder, Master Yoga Teacher, Spiritual Thought Leader, and Master Life & Wellness Coach, Alannah Young. Through her wit and wisdom, she unveils the six most common sequencing mistakes that yoga teachers make and provides valuable suggestions to help sidestep these obstacles.
Mistake #1: Neglecting to Warm Up the Body Properly
A well-rounded yoga practice starts with a proper warm-up. All too often, though, yoga teachers rush into more advanced poses without adequately preparing the body. Alannah compares this to trying to park a car in a tight spot without maneuvering it first. "You wouldn't expect your car to miraculously slide into that parking space, would you? It's the same with our bodies. We need to gently ease into our practice to avoid injury and maximize the benefits."
Proper warm-up poses include Cat-Cow, gentle spinal twists, and Sun Salutations. These movements increase blood flow, warm up the muscles, and promote flexibility, laying the groundwork for a more advanced practice.
Mistake #2: Skipping Counterposes
For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. In yoga, this concept comes to life in the form of counterposes. "A well-balanced practice is like a symphony," Alannah explains. "Each pose has its complement, creating a harmonious balance." Skipping counterposes can lead to imbalances in the body, which may cause discomfort, tension, and even injury.
Alannah recommends following backbends with forward folds, for example, to relieve any tension created in the spine. Likewise, twists should be followed by a gentle counter-twist or a neutralizing pose such as Child's Pose.
Mistake #3: Inconsistent Pacing
One of the most common sequencing mistakes is inconsistent pacing. Some teachers start slow, suddenly speed up, then slow down again with no apparent rhythm. "Imagine driving at a leisurely pace, then suddenly flooring the gas pedal, and then slamming the brakes," Alannah says. "It's jarring, right? That's what inconsistent pacing feels like in a yoga practice."
To create a smooth and steady practice, Alannah recommends gradually building intensity, holding challenging poses for a consistent amount of time, and allowing for sufficient periods of rest.
Mistake #4: Overloading the Practice with Advanced Poses
We've all been there: a yoga class that feels more like an Olympic gymnastics event than a serene, mindful practice. While it's essential to challenge ourselves, Alannah cautions against the temptation to overload a sequence with advanced poses. "Advanced poses can be the cherry on top, but a practice filled with them is like trying to make a cake out of cherries alone. It's just too much."
Instead, she advises building a strong foundation of basic poses, and then sprinkling in a few advanced postures as appropriate. This approach fosters a sense of accomplishment without overwhelming students.
Mistake #5: Ignoring Individual Needs
Yoga is a highly personal practice, and one size does not fit all. Alannah emphasizes the importance of tailoring sequences to the individual needs of students. "Every body is unique, and every student is on their own journey. It's essential to acknowledge and honor those differences when designing a sequence."
To create an inclusive and accessible practice, Alannah suggests offering variations and modifications for different levels of experience and physical abilities. Encouraging the use of props, such as blocks, straps, and bolsters, can also help students adapt poses to their unique needs.
Mistake #6: Neglecting Savasana and Integration
Finally, one of the most overlooked aspects of a yoga sequence is Savasana, or Corpse Pose. Many teachers rush through this vital part of the practice or skip it altogether. Alannah likens this to finishing a beautiful meal without savoring the last bite. "Savasana is the dessert of yoga," she says. "It's our chance to truly relax, digest, and integrate the physical, mental, and emotional benefits of the practice."
Alannah recommends dedicating at least 5-10 minutes to Savasana, guiding students into a state of deep relaxation and allowing them to absorb the effects of their practice. This time of stillness and reflection is essential for personal growth and overall well-being.
A well-crafted yoga sequence is an art form that requires attention to detail, balance, and a deep understanding of the human body. By avoiding these six common mistakes, yoga teachers can create a smoother, more enjoyable experience for their students. And for those of us on the mat, being mindful of these potential pitfalls can help us make more informed choices when selecting a yoga class or designing our own home practice.
Take Alannah's words to heart, and let them guide you toward a more harmonious, fulfilling, and transformative yoga journey. Namaste.