How to Sequence an Ashtanga Class
How to sequence an ashtanga class? You must understand the science of the sequence. This is the way an ashtanga class warms the body, reaches a peak, stretches the body to avoid lactic acid in the muscles, and then cools the body back down toward savasana.
The Ashtanga Primary Series is designed to lengthen the back. Forward folds combined with back bends give the body an energetic release and lengthening focus. Got back pain? Spend a little time with Ashtanga! A good teacher will understand how to bring a class to a peak and lead back to relaxation.
How to Sequence an Ashtanga Class Step by Step
Start you class with an intention. If you are sequencing traditionally, you will begin in Samasthiti. Sometimes I like to sit cross legged or in Virasana, depending on the interion that I am going for. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- yoga sutra
- physical strengthening
- place of the body to stretch
- building character through the eight limbs of yoga
- how to let go and rest (mentally and physically)
- part of the body to focus on
Next, begin the movement in a logical order. With Ashtanga, there are four sections; warming with Surya Namaskara, strength building with the standing asanas, stretching with the seated asanas, and closing with the back bends and inversions. Jumping out of the this order does not make a lot of sense to the body and you will not find a logical flow. We want our body to release and for the mind to follow in order to create a mind body connection.
Keep these tips in mind when setting the pace of your class:
- Slow, counted breath, calms the body and allows us to get deep mentally and physically. Faster counting energizes the body. The intention will dictate the pace of the breath and therefore, the pace.
- Set the rhythm right at the beginning with Surya Namaskara A. This sequence links the movement and the breath together. You can project the rhythm with the tone of the voice.
Things to Avoid When Sequencing
A yoga class should make a student feel better than when they started. Think of how to sequence an ashtanga class from warming start to cool down finish. One of the challenges is to calm the mind along with the body. The sequence can dictate the pace, as listed above, as well as the mental focus. Avoid jarring experiences. Keep the flow, the vinyasa. Avoid a lot of static postures all in a row. The mind and the body need a rest. Work as a unit. We become conductors leading the students and the vinyasa.
Try this flowing sequence and see how your body feels:
How to Sequence an Ashtanga class with Adjustments
Physical adjustments can help to increase a student’s understanding of their body while in each asana. I am under the opinion that a yoga teacher should always get consent before physically adjusting a yoga student. My favorite way to do this is with consent cards (paid link) . They look like coasters with one side saying yes to hands on adjustments and the other side saying no thank you. As a teacher, I like knowing what a student is comfortable with. It takes a lot of pressure off me.
All that being said, here are some tips for physical adjustments and how to sequence an ashtanga class:
- The student leads the adjustment. Be aware of the other’s state by following their breath.
- Breathe as you approach a student so they know you are there.
- Work into the adjusting; start steady and at the base of the pose. Lead with comforting motions and gradually go deeper and deeper.
- Only adjust the student to enhance the posture.
- Observe your students. You can learn a lot from observing.
If you are not comfortable with physical adjustments, consider verbalizing adjustments. Educate your class that adjustments might happen. Start with simple verbal ques and gradually lead into physical adjustments. Follow these steps and the more you teach, you will feel very comfortable with how to sequence an ashtanga style class.
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