Monday, September 28, 2009

The Adventure Continues: Creating your Sequence!

Alright, we have dealt with most of the big obstacles in setting up a personal yoga practice: intention, planning, space and time. If you're new and would like some ideas or thoughts around any of those please feel free to go check them out along with the comment sections for extras!

Now we are ready. Ready to embark on this Yoga Adventure. I'm at the top of my mat, I am dressed for yoga awesomeness, have some candles, children and partner won't bother me..... and I have no idea what exactly to DO. The last hurdle is believing that yes- you can practice safely without a teacher.
I'm not implying that teachers are not necessary as part of your yoga practice. Good yoga instructors are essential in providing appropriate feedback and helping you try something new and grow in your practice among many other aspects. However, I do believe that so many people think that they "can't" create a sequence or practice safely on their own.

First: the safety issue. After a few traumatizing yoga experiences of my own, I have sadly come to the realization that just because the person is a certified yoga instructor, that may not mean they are 'good' yoga teachers. Certification no longer automatically means 'quality and trusted' yoga teacher in my mind and new teachers always take time to earn my trust. Sad? Maybe a little, but I've been pushed, adjusted, ridiculed and chastised too many times by different yoga instructors to blindly do what the instructor asks.
Regardless if you are in a class or by yourself, your body is your BEST safety alarm. I will never forget one of the teachers in Montreal scolding me, in front of the entire class I might add, for popping in and out of postures too quickly. Ultimately she was right it is so important to mindfully move through each asana so that you can be very aware of how each movement feels. Any hint of real pain and that should be enough to stop, adjust or take a nice rest in child's pose. Pain is not gain, it's your body warning you of injury. You know your body the best and how far is safe to 'push' it, just be very mindful while practicing at home AND during class.

On to what exactly will you DO during your awesome Personal Practice. This has been an evolution for me and I'm confident that as you become more comfortable with practicing at home you'll become better at knowing what type of practice works best for you!
My very first personal practice were my awkward, on a quilted blanket because I didn't yet own a mat, DVD Vinyasa yoga with Seane Corn. DVD's are always an option for those who feel completely overwhelmed by trying to figure out which sequence, which postures or which podcast to work from. A few DVD's, like Shiva Rea's Shakti DVD, allow for further growth where you can pick and choose should you wish to change it up.

Another option, as we are all pretty hard up for cash, would be free online videos. I've been trying to find some really nice ones recently and have had a bit of difficulty. My issue? I spend so much time looking for a decent one and weeding out crap.

My Yoga Online has a very nice selection of classes ranging from four minutes to an hour. However, a monthly membership costs 9.95$.
YogaYak has a nice selection of asana, meditation, pranayama along with nicely outlined categories.
Ekhart Yoga Online is a wonderful selection of videos with Esther Ekhart and a variety of other yoga instructors. There is a nice variety of videos (and a free video section!) as well as workshops, blog entries and talks. Worth checking out.

Although videos are nice, I have found that I'm not really a 'video yoga' kind of Yogini. I much prefer to practice without looking at a computer screen and as such my home practice in BC morphed into pre-made yoga picture sequences.
Pre-Made Sequences
At the time I hadn't yet kicked my magazine addiction (so terrible for the planet!) and was reading The Yoga Journal. Each month there is a Home Practice section with a cut-out picture+instruction sequence. WOO! I sticky-tacked my favourites on the wall and off I went! Unfortunately the online version doesn't have the pretty, in a page round about version but can still be printed off easily. My favourites: A fine balance (Anusara
Sequence) and Strength and Grace (Vinyasa Flow sequence). They include suggestions to begin and end each sequence and how to move between postures. Of course, like any sequence not written for myself, I modify or change those postures that are impossible or painful to do (for example I don't do tripod
Another wonderful option on Yoga Journal is the Yoga Sequence Builder option. It allows you to browse the asanas and pick and choose in sequence! Each pose is categorized as 'all levels', 'intermediate' or 'advanced' and you can print it off once you're done. This works especially well if you have an idea of what postures you like and have some time to browse through. The tricky part is knowing how some postures go together and how to make them flow.
How about you? Do you have any excellent free-online sequence links, videos etc to share? I'd love to hear about them :) What about any tips or building a sequence ideas that have worked well? I have heard that there is a 'stick-man' yoga website where you can download icons of different postures, but with a price. I prefer to draw my own. (my 'yoga book' where I took my fav articles, cut them out and put them in this handy reference guide!)

Right now my personal practice consists of scribbling common names of asanas and notes on where I'd like to go in the practice. Often if I forget the name I'll make something up to describe it and maybe draw a little yoga stick man :)


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  1. I too am a fan of the printed-out sequence! Thanks for the binder idea--much better than having piles of yoga sequences scattered all over the basement. Yoga Journal also has free practice videos: I think they change it up with every issue, but you can download them for free and keep them!

    And when I just can't decide, I just do a few Sun Salutations and then go from there. :)

  2. Because I tend to be a control freak and over-planner, I'm deliberately trying some thing new in my home practice: going with the flow. I start with my teacher's opening sequence, do some sun salutations at different speeds, standing poses, backbends, forward bends and twists, then try out some new or difficult poses, then closing sequence. Some days even this loose structure goes out the window. Instead of planning it all out before, I do what I feel like doing. And I really enjoy it.

  3. Great post! I'm always trying to encourage my students to create a home practice. I'll be referring some of them here for ideas.

    For people who like videos, but can't afford to update their own collection or just want to preview DVDs before they buy them, check out your local public library or Netflix. I just borrowed Jill Miller's Shoulder Shape Up and loved it!

  4. Great post, will definitely be utilizing these thoughts and ideas into my at home practice of yoga. In fact, for the month of October, I'll be doing a 31-Day Yoga Challenge. Hope you'll stop by and support me:)

  5. Vegan Burnout: YES that is a great idea- free yoga journal vids :) I'm glad I gave you some ideas with the binder- i really like mine and it includes stuff like healthy recipes and meditation... anything yoga-esque :)

    Anne-Marie: yes I also can relate with going with the flow. After practicing on my own for two years I finally feel comfortable starting with Sun Salutations and just last minute deciding. I do think that this comes with practice and time though- which is kinda nice to know :)

    Jen: Thanks! I hope it can be helpful :) What a fantastic idea about renting dvd's... I KNEW there had to be lots of other options and I love this one!

    Raspberry Stethascope: You are welcome :) Good luck on the 31 days of yoga challenge! Vegan Burnout has also been doing this one. I think it's awesome (ps- LOVE your blog title!)

  6. I just re-read the osts for this Adventure (where the heck have I been!) I am trying to start mye daily routine tomorrow--October 1st. Not only do I have Yoga Teacher training starting on the 16th- but I have been fittingin my practice here and there- but with the new demands coming my way via work and training; it is time to get up prior to work and onto the mat.
    I really enjoyed reading your posts on this. A great little manuel for home-yoga practice.

    Also I agree--you are your best safety alarm. I tell students “Just because I recommend something – if it doesn’t feel right in YOUR body then don’t do it. I will not be offended. Only you know your body best”

    I too have been pushed too far during class instruction.

    For my personal practice I fluctuate between practices. Some days I will do Ashtanga Primary using David Swensons Book, other days I might do the Yin/Yang practice by Sarah Powers (which her DVD also has a wonderful guided meditation) and some days I just flow. I do whatever feels right for my body in that moment.

    Much Love!

  7. I suggest the Jivamukti book by Sharon Gannon and David Life to look at fun sequences. They have pictures of detailed poses and then example classes linking them together. Plus, it is just a great book.

    I do my home practices based on sun salutations and then work off of those. I will sometimes decide that I'm focusing on a certain thing and work from there (for example working with the shoulders).

    I think you can keep your home practice pretty simple and it is probably best to stick with poses that are more familiar so you know you are doing them correctly and not risking injury. Home practice can really be for creating a space, releasing, fostering relaxation, taking some time to meditate and most of all- creating a meaningful routine. This can be wonderfully complemented by yoga classes where you can learn new things to bring back to your home practice.

    I second Jen on renting DVDs, such a great idea!

  8. Hi,

    I just started a yoga blog, posting a sequence a day for yogis and yoginis to use in their home practice or at their studios.

    I'm looking for guest bloggers to post their favorite sequence or sequences. I'd be happy to link to your blog and studio website.

    My blog is

    Any advice for a new blogger is also much appreciated :)



  9. Hi there eco yogini :)

    I see that you have mentioned yogatic. Just to let you know that is no longer an active site. Esther's youtube channel yogatic is still going strong, and she also shares some free videos on her own site

    Just to let you know :D

    An EkhartYoga fan!


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