Balancing What Sequence?

Posted by on Feb 18, 2016 in Teaching Tips, Yoga Practice Tips | 0 comments

Balancing What Sequence?

It is unclear to me where the practice of performing a long series of standing poses on one leg preceding the other originated. However, from my experience with yoga– taught in the lineage of Krishnamacharya’s Ashtanga revival– I have not experienced that type of asymmetrical pose sequencing. From a body-wisdom point of view, as well as my Iyengar perspective, I would like to suggest that long sequences of standing poses all on one leg then the other (rather than symmetrically addressing both sides of the body for each asana) to be impractical for several reasons.

If the goal of asana in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra is to find stability and ease in asana as part of the evolution of consciousness, consider that after completing nine poses on the right leg it is hard to recall which muscles are stronger or weaker in each pose, and the relationship between the two legs is lost, causing the path of stability to elude us. We exhaust the first leg then move to the second, but we are unable to recall the subtle action of the right leg in Trikonasana compared to the left. It appears we dull rather than awaken our inner intelligence. Perfecting the poses then becomes elusive and we are more prone to injury.lillah_websized 23**

Ida Rolf, the founder of Rolfing through the Rockefeller Institute, once said “the smart side teaches the dull side.” So when we move directly from one side to the other in the same pose we make this concept available to assist us. We can, through a symmetrical yoga practice, develop and come to understand the relationship of the right leg to the left regarding the areas of constriction, tone, weakness, and strength which allow us to make choices that toward balance. In essence, we expand our inner awareness.

Our nervous system begins to easily re-calibrate, bringing forth a more satvic or integrated state.  There is a sense of calm and tone that results from this type of practice versus the excessive effort of ‘all one side then the other’ which instead leads to nervous system exhaustion. It may be great for blowing our egos out of the water, but not as good for raising our cellular consciousness or improving the vitality of our nervous system.

I am not saying that I would never perform a vinyasa style yoga practice; Rather, I suggest that even there, standing poses be grouped by kind, such as grouping the 4 lateral standing poses: Warrior 2, Extended Side Angle, Triangle, and Half Moon pose. This still gives a sense of relationship as the primary actions required in that grouping are similar. The external rotation of the front thigh in the hip socket is consistent through all those poses making them an excellent match for awakening the small muscles of the hip joint and horizontal expansion of the front hip and spine. The well defined relationships of body parts will transmit consciously and unconsciously to the second side. Test it out in your own practice.

My final thought is that the more asymmetrical your hips, legs, and spine, the more imperative it is that your yoga poses progress one a time, right then left. This will enable you to reach the balance, equanimity and ease that yoga has promised. According to BKS Inyengar, the purpose of our yoga practice is “to develop the body to the level of the vibrant mind so that the body and the mind, having both become vibrant, are drawn toward the Light of the Soul.”

Thanks for reading– comments are welcome!



2016’s Transformation Teacher Trainings begin April 22nd at One Center Yoga in Asheville, NC! Personal Enrichment, RYT 200 / 300 / 500 hour programs, Continuing Education, as well as special insight into Yoga Therapeutics as an affiliated IAYT school. More information at


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