Monday, May 21, 2012

How to Deepen your Yoga Practice Without Taking YTT: Home Sequencing

 This post is for all my non yoga teachers peeps... for those who want to deepen their practice without becoming a yoga instructor... while on a budget.

(my last two sequences. Unfortunately the "April" sequence (left) didn't turn out as well as the "May" sequence (right)... despite looking more organized, it just wasn't as fun. But that's ok :)

Practicing yoga can be expensive (I've decided on a bi-monthly class system to keep up the learning- I'm a physical kinesthetic yoga learner kinda gal) but home practice can be so challenging. Beyond the organizational stuff (timing, carving out space etc) how do you know what to do? What poses to practice?

Online yoga classes that stream into your living room may be convenient (I heart Yogaglo!), but they aren't always what your body needs or wants in that moment. Sometimes I don't want to LISTEN to an instructor go on about SILENCE while talking the entire way through the class. Ya know? I just wanna practice. But how do you create a sequence just off the top of your head?

It's definitely a bit tricky, but most certainly possible even if (GASP I did NOT just go there) you're not a yoga instructor (yep, I did).

I started creating my own sequences in part because I had to teach Andrew how to practice the basics before he would even consider attending a class with me, and because I got tired of trying to think off the top of my head, getting through 10 surya namaskars (sun sals) and drawing a blank.

Through my doodling and trying out different sequences I've learned a lot about my own practice preferences (I always like to start out with some surya's and end with standing balance postures...), made me reflect on the transitions between postures and on where my body is during each stage. My personal practice is now much more fun and not restricted to what is available on Yogaglo or Yoga Journal premade sequences. Plus, it's a definite bonus for Yoga in the Park.

Here are a few tips to help you start up your own personal practice yoga sequencing:

1. Get yourself your own "Yoga Book" (or for my Wiccan peeps- Yoga Grimoire lol). It honestly can be anything, but works best if you can keep the sequences together. Mine is a section in my journaling book. Easy to bring around and will stay open in the park with my flip flops holding the pages down.

2. Read some stuff about sequencing. Honestly, I read "Yoga Therapy" and looked at a bunch of Yoga Journal pre-made sequences in the beginning.

3. Think about preparing your body for certain future postures. Like some hip openers before doing Half Moon, or side stretches before doing Triangle. Since this is for personal discovery and yoga growth, use it playfully to see what feels natural and what doesn't. You are not trying to be a yoga instructor, so don't worry about it :)

4. Think about what you like from your favourite yoga classes. Is it the flow-y vinyasa parts? Or do you prefer slower, yin type classes? Take a few mental notes and see how they work for you at home.
(my english/sanskrit (you can see "-numan" which is "hanuman"), arrows, symbols and stickmen yogi sequence!)

5. Start writing it out! I use a numbering system with arrows, English and Sanskrit terms along with fun stickmen. Honestly, stickmen are the way to go- especially if you're not 100% on the actual names of postures. While you practice a quick glance at the stick-yogi and you'll know exactly what to do.

6. Make sure you aren't too wordy in your sequence. This is supposed to be a quick glance reference for you to support a better home practice. You shouldn't be trying to read a book during your practice.

7. Keep writing! Trust me, it only gets better with practice.

There is so much to gain from creating your own personal sequences and it's a beautiful way to deepen your yoga practice (without taking a YTT). :) 

(ps- check out La Gitane's lovely comment for extra tips!!)

article copyright of EcoYogini at


  1. Yay! This is a great post - I am a huge fan of stick-yogis. There is absolutely no need to be a yoga teacher to create sequences - especially ones intended for yourself!! After all, the mark of a good sequence is not who created it, but how you feel afterwards.

    However, I do remember from creating my early sequences that it's easy to focus on things you are good at, and this can create imbalances in the body. So the yoga teacher in me does want to add three important things to remember when creating a sequence:

    - A balanced asana sequence includes all of the following movements: forward bending, backbending, side-bending, twists and inversions (any pose where your head is lower than your hips). And of course, ends with savasana! [This doesn't mean that every sequence _has_ to be balanced, especially if you are practicing daily you can do twists one day and backbends the next. But if it's more like once or twice a week, it's a good idea to include a bit of everything].

    - If you are heading towards a peak pose, be sure to a) adequately warm up the areas of the body needed for the pose, b) place the pose when you still have energy, usually about 2/3 of the way into your practice and c) do counterposes for the key areas worked by the pose when you are done.

    - Finally, always use a gentle forward fold (such as child's pose or hugging the knees to the chest) as a counterpose to backbending, side bending and twisting. (A sun salutation will also do the trick). Don't ever go from a twist straight into a backbend, for example, without first evening out your back - this could create imbalances in the long run.

    And of course, the fourth and unspoken one: enjoy it!!! :D

  2. @La Gitane: wow! thank you so much for the lovely comment, tips and suggestions!! I agree with you- these tips took some time to learn. I had no idea re: twist+backbend- great tip!

    Also interesting, Michelle Myhre posted these tips just last week:


  3. I have been loving home practice lately! I might have to start writing down sequencing as you've suggested since I normally come up with a sequence while I'm practicing and always forget a pose or two when I go to do the other side. Oops! :)

  4. Love this! Great advice for a home practice. Interestingly, my yoga class books look very similar! I might use this post as inspiration to share my class books...

  5. I really don't think I will ever become a yoga teacher, but I like that there are ways to practice at home anyway. I think there is a lot of mystique for us laypeople on how to go about doing that, but these are great tips to remember as I get back into yoga after such a long road to recovery!

  6. @ EcoYogini, it would help (me, anyway) if you did not think of home yoga practice as "guerrilla yoga". As recently as 15 years ago, frequent--even daily, home practice was encouraged by yoga teachers ... at least in my style of yoga.

    For my part, I keep my home practice sequence between the covers of a 5 tab ABC Impact report binder. When I am not doing downloaded practices from the web. I even won a membership to a prominent online site that offers these download classes. (My transmission speed remains very slow.) These are low cost--not free; but, ironically I would rather pay THEM. Very recently, I was offered a rock-bottom price on a class pack from a studio I have not been to in exactly two years. Yes, they are the only studio in the area whose classes eminently fit my tight schedule, under my current living conditions.

    I am too embarrassed (and fearful of a libel lawsuit) to review them on yelp, & remind them that that yoga studio was NEVER about classes: they were about upselling everything else they have under their roof. And, of course, I am not part of the Lululemon set.

  7. P.S. They also teach dance and capoeira as well. Guess where I am taking classes?

    Yup, I can't innovate my own sequences in belly dance or capoeira. Not like I can with yoga, at least not now. (I have 5 years regular practice with yoga under my belt.)

    Score one for online, again.

  8. Nice post! Yoga is a spiritual and ascetic discipline, a part of which, including breath control, simple meditation, and the adoption of specific bodily postures, is widely practiced for health and relaxation. Thanks!!
    yoga teacher training bali


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