A Little Back Story
A few years ago I taught a Sequencing Strategies webinar on Peak Posture Sequencing. To help students use Light on Yoga as a resource in the process of sequencing for practice and teaching, I developed a worksheet to guide the participant's study and to serve as a concrete learning tool for developing the pose knowlege required to know, not only the posture itself, but the relationships between poses and their key actions and common misalignments.
Later, I incorporated these pose worksheets into the curriculum I develped for the School of Yoga project that Darren Rhodes and I began in October 2011 and then dissolved later in 2012. I still use these handouts in my teacher training programs and continue to find them an excellent teaching tool. In a basic course a student would work with these pose knowledge handouts for each pose on a General Sequence.
Click here for a copy of the Original Pose Knowledge Handout.
Click here for a copy of the General Sequence we worked with in the orginal School of Yoga training.
Keep in mind-- this is not a sequence like Bikram or Ashtanga or anything like that. It is not designed as a “complete” anything or an "everything for every body" kind of sequence. Instead, this sequnce was or is used as a backbone of basic postures that, if understood well, provides a fundamental foundation upon which to be creative. Additionally, the process of learning these poses in this way can be applied to the process of learning every other posture and so the content is important as is the method of learning. A related topic along these lines (and one dear to my heart ) is the idea that we need to learn any given subject AND we need to learn how to learn the subject. As teachers, we are teaching subject but also guiding our students in a process of learning how to learn the subject at hand.. Also, we are teaching the students how they are going to learn the subject from us. But all that is a different story for a different day.
I recently ran across the Pose Knowledge/Research handout in another teacher’s webinar course materials with chart or two added to it as well as their logo and copyright. Anyhoo- without a long IP conversation about all that, I thought it might be a fun thing to make the materials a bit more open source and offer up a little training here on the blog since I am tired of thinking about and commenting on modern yoga culture. And since we are working on sequencing this weekend in our Alchemy of Flow and Form Teacher Training in San Marcos, TX this weekend, this blog entry is also a bit of a recap of some of our work from this weekend.
A Little SequencingLight on Yoga Information
When I use Light on Yoga for sequencing ideas I first and foremost remember that any book is a snapshot in time and definitive only in the sense that it captures the author’s ideas at the time the book was written. Being a writer myself, I know that the books (and blog entries even more so) I wrote are still true in one way and certainly accurate to the time of the writing, but since I have changed, grown and evolved in my understanding and application of the ideas I presented, the books I wrote then are not the books I would write now. It doesn’t mean I feel like I should “take them back” or anything of the sort, but I do recognize that time marches onward and written material doesn’t.
So I keep that in mind and I don’t get crystalized around it all. I figure Mr. Iyengar’s ideas have changed, his insights have developed further and he has solved problems that live in the book and all that. And with all that in mind, I believe that the book is a fantastic resource.
I also know that when I am using a book like Light and Yoga, I am using it to stimluate my understanding and to help me make connections within my own knowledge base and my conclusions are simply my own. I might see things that were not intended, I might relate to the information differently than the author meant and for me, none of that is a problem. For instance, I am going to explore placement of postures within the book and look for relationships in the placement and hopefully see some threads of connections but that does not mean that those are the reasons they are placed there from the author’s viewpoint. I simply can’t know that.
HOWEVER, being right or wrong in the process of looking for relationships isn’t the point of an exercise like this one. The loooking, the threading of the insight, if you will, is the learning process as much--if not more-- than the arriving at a single right answer.
More could be said by way of disclaimers but with those ideas in mind.
Also... this is one way of working with Light on Yoga and there are many more ways to work with it.
If we take the pose worksheet and apply it to a pose like tadasana we learn all kinds of things right there from the git-go.
Name of Pose: tadasana
English Translation: mountain pose
Mythological Origins: Well, not really mythological but he mentions that it is also samsthithi which means upright, straight, unmoved. Tadasana implies a pose where one tands firm and erect as a mountain. (So on a different note than sequencing, this part is an incredibly useful tool for theme development. If we see the qualities of heart and spirit that live implicitly in the postures, then we can create themes that are more likely to meet up and be embodied in the postures themselves rather than just creating a narrative that sits on top of a sequence or runs alongside the postural practice as an additional aspect, rather a theme that makes an implicit relationship explicit. Again, different training topic for a different day.)
Benefits: I won’t recap them here but if you read the effects of tadasana in LOY you get an incredible discussion about standing and its efects on the body-mind (p. 52) which end up with him saying that when tadasana is matered “one feels light in body and the mind aquires agility.”
Also, in the benefits of the more advanced postures I alwasy insert the words “if all goes well and you don’t actually hurt yourself doing this, then this might be a positive outcome but it is not proved by medicine or modern science....” just so we are clear, I look at this as a resource for practice and teahcing, not as a religion. Seriously. Or else it all gets weird. And its weird enough.
Contraindicaitons: most folks should be good to go with this one.
Stages: 1 (but some of the poses have many stages. For instance go look at page70 and see Virabhadrasana 1 has 3 stages: 1. arms overheard, 2. lining the posture up with the hips moving more square and 3. the bend of the front knee to 90 degrees. As a teacher, this gives me some clues about the sequence within the posture. Each stage could be a discreet pose to work on in a Level 1 class and a guide for progressively teaching the pose. Also note- he doesn’t say square the hips. On the top of page 71 he says the face, chest, and front knee should face the same way. Another topic for another day.)
But in terms of stages you can also compare the entry into Vira 3 on page 73 and into ardha chandrasana p.75. In each case there is a bent leg intermedate stage that is similar and might be worth some time and attention in terms of teaching this pose to beginners for the first time.
So tadasana has 1 stage, but many poses have many more stages and the stages are good to contemplate. I figure, if it is in the book, there is probabaly a reason so let me ponder what some of the reasons might be and see if I can grow some insight.
General shape- Note: I like to know this not because I am going to do or teach the shape as given but at least I like to educate myself on the forms and their variances so if I am playing jazz in class or practice I at least did a little scales study. I don’t crystalize around right and wrong forms or anything or make a thing of it- I just study it a bit.
Anyway, standing straight, legs together and straight, arms by sides and straight, looking straight ahead, chest lftted. simple. like that. But go look at Vira 1 again on p. 71 and see hands in upward prayer and head back. We might choose arms wide with jazz hands, etc. but well, in my opinion p. 71 form is the seed of the arms wide/jazz hands form and isn’t that just cool to know? (That’s how I think of it anyway.)
posture that precedes it: nothing. first one.
posture that follows it: vriksasana. tree pose
What can you make of its positioning?: well, first pose. must be foundaitonal. must be important. Oh, look EVERY standing pose in LOY starts the same way: stand in tadasana. so wow. that’s something.
also looking at vrksasana I can se the standing leg is a tadasana leg. Oh, so maybe good to balancing well on two feet before we stand on one.
And so on.
This work gets really interesting as the book goes on- look at ustrasana on p.88 in relationship to utkatasana on p. 89. if you sit that deep in utkatasana, you are going to need an "ustrasana lift" in your chest.
Also look at the low back in the concave stages of the forward bends on p.90, 91, 92. perhaps all that starts in ustrasana, then back chain of the body gets strengthened in utkatasana and is carried over into the forward bends, where the same now-establish lumbar curve and now-made-strong-back-muscles are stretched.
So again, this section is about challenging ourselves to see relationships, not in being right or wrong. Looking for the ways the poses relate grows our understanding.
I could go on through the worksheet and through the book like this but you probably get the gist by now. Once you start to identify problems with the poses, common misalignments and the key actions that overcome the misalignments and when you have that depth of knowledge for a bunch of different poses you can group them in your sequencing quite nicely. You have now started to build a matrix of understanding. Some poses will need to be the poses that prepare the body parts and muscle groups, some can be grouped according to common problems and fixes and so on. More on that another day.
So in the TT I developed we did the pose worksheets for all the poses in the general sequence and then used them as springboards for sequencing curriculum. You can work up to those poses and create sequences where the poses on the general sequence are peak poses. And you can create sequences where the poses on the general sequence teach the harder stuff. More on that work another day.
I hope this was useful and got you thinking.
Have a good one.
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