Peak Pose Sequencing: Choosing & Arranging Poses

When sequencing a class featuring a Peak Pose, consider these questions:

From Christina Sell:

  1. What are the common misalignments of the pose?
  2. What parts of the body need to be opened and prepared?
  3. What are the key actions required in the pose?
  4. What are related poses that share similar shapes and benefits?

From Olga Kabel:

  1. What is the position of the spine in the pose? (e.g. Dhanurasana is a prone symmetrical backbend)
  2. What is the spinal action? (e.g. thoracic and lumbar spinal extension)
  3. What is the shoulder girdle action? (e.g. shoulders internally rotated and extended back)
  4. What is the pelvic girdle action? (e.g. hips extended, knees flexed)

From Jason Crandell:

  1. What are the legs and hips doing in the pose?
  2. What are the core and spine doing in the pose?
  3. What are the shoulders and arms doing in the pose?

From Mark Stephens:

  1. What needs to be open?
  2. What needs to be cooperative in allowing that specific opening?
  3. What needs to be stable?
  4. What are the sources of that stability?
  5. What are the basic postural forms and alignment principles of the peak asana?
  6. What are the energetic actions of the peak asana?
  7. What tension is likely to arise in doing the asanas on the pathway to the peak?
  8. What asanas can address the new areas of tension along the pathway to the peak without compromising the warming and opening generated?

Teacher’s Responsibility

As yoga teachers we have the responsibility to both analyze the biomechanics of movement in any difficult posture and try to foresee potential risks that it has for the body. Then we need to prepare our students for that particular pose and do our best to minimize the risk. – Olga Kabel

Make Practice Accessible

Designing a sequence of actions leading to the peak of a practice is all about making the practice simpler, more accessible, deeper, and more sustainable… The peak should not be confused with the point of maximum internal heat generated through prior actions and poses; it is not so much about peak heat as pea openness. – Mark Stephens

Choose a Relevant Supine Position for Opening

Pick a pose that has a moderate learning curve, and figure out how to teach the main muscle actions from a supine position during your opening. For example, if you want to teach Bakasana (Crow Pose), cue students to engage the serratus anterior, retract the shoulder blades, keep a strong core and round the spine slightly while placing the knees on the outsides of the triceps. This signals the neuromuscular system to recreate the same actions when the arm balance resurfaces later in the practice. – Joy Keller

Maintain Heat for Active Part of Session

Once you have warmed-up and begun to engage in the heart of your yoga session, if it is an active session, you will generate a certain amount of heat. You want to maintain this heat for the duration of the active part of your session because it lends to the flexibility of your spine and body in general and keeps you mentally prepared for engaging in active asana work. Once you begin to cool down from your session, it is not good to have any more heating or active poses. Rather, you should gently move your body into preparation for Savasana. – Brad Priddy

When Imprinting Actions, Stay Focused

Each pose should inform the next one and teach you something about that next pose. For example, these three poses work well together: Virabhadrasana II (Warrior Pose II) to Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose) to Utthita Parsvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose). They all have the same basic foundation, the legs are externally rotated, and their actions are similar, explains Rizopoulos. Essentially, the legs of Warrior Pose II + the reach of Extended Triangle Pose = Extended Side Angle Pose. But if you add neutral standing poses, such as Warrior I and Warrior III, to the mix before switching sides, it will distract from the actions you need to reach your peak pose, in this case, Extended Side Angle. – Tasha Eichenseher

Remember It’s Not Really About the Peak Pose

Today in class we did a big build up toward Parsva Bakasana; everyone in the room tried it, half got it, and once everyone sat down, I asked them if they thought I cared whether they could do the pose. Of course, they all said ‘No!’ in unison. The pose is not only a vehicle for creating physical strength and openness but mental strength and openness. What’s the quality of mind while you’re working on the pose? Are you clear, are you committed, are you present? That’s what’s translatable outside of the room. – Natasha Rizopoulos

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