One of the questions I get asked most often by yoga teachers is, “how do you keep your sequences from getting stale?” And honestly, before I started sequencing in the way we’re teaching you in our courses, I couldn’t answer that because I often felt like I was getting stale with my sequencing.
Without having a specific and repeatable system you can use to craft your yoga classes, you end up just trying to pull things from your imagination or take bits and pieces of things you’ve seen in other classes. After a while it’s almost like you get writer’s block, but for yoga teachers. It’s like, I don’t know, a “sequencing block” or something.
Sequencing to a peak pose is the first step to preventing getting this “sequencing block”. It opens up never ending possibilities for how to put your classes together so you’ll always feel inspired and confident as you’re building them.
So.. what is a peak pose?
This concept really aligns with Krishnamacharya’s idea of “vinyasa krama” where each class has a clear beginning, middle and end.
The “peak pose” is the pose you’ll choose to spend your entire class warming up and preparing the body for. The peak pose appears near the end of your Vinyasa Yoga class and is really the “big moment” in which students can attempt some of the more complex and challenging asanas.
From the moment a Vinyasa Yoga class begins, breath and movement are used to find rhythm, build heat, unwind compression, help release tightness, and find greater range of motion in the body.
What’s a popular yoga pose?
All of those great poses we do in a yoga class – from seated twists to standing warrior poses and everything in between – are like boxes we check where we make sure we’ve included all the parts of our body that need attention.
But a well-planned Vinyasa class is much more than checking boxes, and more than just a series of vigorous movements strung together. A carefully sequenced class also helps you lead your students down a very deliberate path, preparing them for a specific peak pose by laying the foundation step by step.
The peak pose you select can be based on a number of things:
- What area of the body you want to focus on
- The energetic feel of the class: i.e. restorative, backbends, arm balances, etc.
- A sequential teaching methodology – you focused on a pose last class that prepares you for the peak pose in this week’s class
Some popular peak poses are as follows:
There are lots ways to approach selecting a peak pose and how you choose one helps ensure you keep your classes feeling authentic and reflective of your personal approach towards teaching. You can focus on the physical effects of a pose or choose one related to a particular chakra, to Ayurvedic principles, or really for any reason that a particular asana is calling your name. For example, you might select a peak pose based on the weather: A really hot day might call for a cooling pose like Pigeon Pose and on a cold, damp day you can offer a heat-building, invigorating heart opener like Wheel Pose.
Another angle is to choose a specific action or area of the body on which to focus – for example, using Forearm Stand because you want to help students strengthen the shoulders, or Crow Pose to help build arm and core strength.
You can choose a peak pose that relates to a story you told in your dharma talk, pulling from spiritual texts found within the yoga system, or other sources that inspire you. With poses named for animals, sages, figures from spiritual literature and the natural world, there’s so much inspiration available to you that you can use to help you select which peak pose to focus on. It’s here that we see one of the greatest strengths of Vinyasa Yoga – the freedom for teachers to build classes around concepts that are authentic to them and relevant to their students. It’s a great way to make your practice and your classes uniquely yours.
You’ll choose your peak pose and then use it as the focal point to not only help you decide which other poses to put in your class, but also how to cue and teach those poses.
With so many asanas available to teachers, it can be confusing and overwhelming to figure out which ones to put in your class. The peak pose helps to simplify that because you’ll start including ones that specifically reflect or address something found in that “big moment” coming toward the end. And once the poses are selected, you’ll narrow down which cues to use by making sure they relate to the peak pose and the direction of your class.
What are the basic yoga exercises?
For our specific way of teaching, we lead the asana practice through this skeletal framework:
- Puttering (Warm Up)
- Sun Salutations (3-4 Rounds of Surya Namaskar A)
- Standing Poses
- Balancing Poses
- Peak Pose
- Wind Down
All of the twisting, lengthening, balancing, and strengthening that happens in any vinyasa class is certainly good for you on its own and is part of a healthy movement practice, but they are also integral pieces of the class to work towards and support the peak pose.
By sequencing towards a peak pose, and including all of these other basic yoga ‘exercises’, ensures that the series of movements the body flows through reflects a true understanding of human anatomy and how the body naturally moves. This means we’re doing more than just building up a sweat and working out.
Using a peak pose not only offers your students a clear path for advancing their asana practice– which is of course super fun and exciting– but also helps you make sure your classes are safe because the poses you’re choosing throughout your class truly warm up the body for the challenging asanas that come at the end.
Once you choose your pose– no matter which one it is or the reasoning behind its selection– the most important thing is that you then guide your students safely and in a way that lines up with how the body is supposed to move.
So when it comes to picking your peak poses, the sky is the limit – because whatever you choose, our sequencing philosophy will make it super clear how to get there in a way that is safe and feels good on your students’ bodies!
Interested in looking to sequence like this?
We have developed an entire course to sequencing — COMING OCTOBER 2023!
If you’re looking to begin your yoga journey, sign up for one of our online yoga teacher trainings: