This blog post is one in a series of articles in the Sequencing for the Individual Blog Tour hosted by my yoga biz friend Kate Connell of You & The Yoga Mat. The series is completely FREE to join and you can sign up to receive inspirational takeaways right here.
I’m honored to be a part of the Blog Tour and excited to share the stage with full-time private yoga teachers to teacher’s teachers who have trained hundreds of yoga teachers to workshop extraordinaires who travel the globe teaching skillfully to the individuals among the crowd of many. You can check out Adam Grossi’s post from yesterday here.
When I first heard the concept of sequencing as a green yoga teacher-in-training, it was all about the physical structuring of a practice.
How to structure a practice around a theme…
Areas of the body that need to be warmed up and then cooled down…
What poses are introduced early on versus at the mid-point or end of a practice…
How to skillfully build one element (postures, breathwork, meditation) on top of the other.
These are foundational skills in applied anatomy.
The structural details of sequencing are certainly an important aspect of yoga, specifically in a group setting, where you have to prioritize safety and accessibility.
Today, however, it’s all about the individual, and each of us has unique needs that go beyond our physical body.
So while some of the structural elements of sequencing still apply, I’m going to dive much more into private yoga therapy territory.
I’ll be sharing three of my guiding principles around sequencing to the individual in the therapeutic context.
These principles come from various fields, including mental health, yoga therapy, social work, and trauma-informed care.
Some of these things might be quite familiar to you and other might surprise you.
These principles are rarely taught to yoga teachers in 200-hour trainings or even 500-hour training, but my perspective is that all of them are important in the individual yoga therapy setting.
Self determination is part of the Social Work Code of Ethics, and thus, is a hallmark of my approach.
Simply put, the client is in charge.
I provide expert guidance, structure, and a safe container for our work together, but at the end of the day YOU get to make decisions about what to do with what I offer.
I’ll show up with a potential plan for our work for that day, but that’s all it is: a potential plan.
You can agree to it as is.
You can tell me you want or need something else that day.
Or we might start with what I brought, and together tweak the plan into something that is right for your current state.
This leads me to the second principle:
Meet the client where they are
I’m going to meet you exactly where you are, as you are.
Yup, it’s another social work value!
One of my mentors, yoga therapist Kaoverii Weber, also calls it “meeting the mood.”
Let’s say for example, that during the last session, we worked on fatigue.
So, on the potential plan, I have this session starting in a resting position, a variation of Savasana.
But you walk in, a little anxious, fidgety, and with a half empty cup of coffee.
You tell me you are exhausted, but your mind is moving a mile a minute.
Buh-bye potential plan.
It’s my job to know that starting out lying on your back right away is not going to feel so good, but also know how to get you there by the end of the practice.
Engage in dialogue
It may sound a little counter-intuitive that dialogue would be a guiding principle for an introspective practice such as yoga.
However, in yoga therapy, eliciting precise information is how I get the details to better tailor the experience to your unique desires and goals.
So, more often than not, there is conversation woven into every session.
Let me be clear, the dialogue I am talking about is NOT equivalent to friendly chatter.
Yes, it can be great for rapport building to ask about someone’s day or how their weekend hike was, but specificity about what is going on in the body and mind during the session is the focus here.
Asking precise questions has several functions:
- Draw your awareness to sensation (at the physical, psycho-emotional, or more subtle level)
- Practice communicating what you are experiencing
- Provide the feedback needed to adapt
A question like “The next time you bring your arms up, can you describe what you notice happening in your low back” can bring your attention to the body’s compensation patterns.
A question like “ As you inhale, can you observe where in your torso the breath seems to fill?” can draw out the subtleties of the experience.
The more specific I can be in my questioning, the better.
Valuing self determination, meeting you where you are, and fostering dialogue help me use both what I see and what you feel to adapt the sequence to the individual person in that individual moment.
I hope you have enjoyed this post! Be sure to check out fellow yoga therapist Kaya Mindlin’s blog post tomorrow.
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