As I’m sitting here doing prelim work for my new Level 3 class starting next week (Asheville Community Yoga), I’m reminded that much like in my legal practice, many sequences of events have natural “ejection” points, including an advanced yoga sequence. If a client wants to get out of a lawsuit, s/he can offer to settle it, and there are natural breaks that occur during the course of the process, such as after winning – or losing – a key Motion when outlooks have shifted, or just before trial starts when everyone is a little bit scared.
Likewise if a yogi doesn’t want to or can’t do a difficult pose, say, Kapotasana (Pigeon), s/he can stop during the poses leading up to it. This assumes that the teacher has put together a good, logical sequence leading up to the difficult pose, and instructs it well.
Using Kapotasana, for example, a great warm-up pose is Dhanurasana. Then, sequencing into Kapotasana might be something like Vajrasana – Ustrasana (Camel) – Vajrasana – Virasana – Supta Virasana (supported then not) – Laghu Vajrasana – Kapotasana.
Each of these poses can be the “final” point for a student who isn’t going full out into Kapotasana, sort of a natural “ejection” point to pause in the sequence. Good instruction is imperative as well as good sequencing. To me, that means going step-by-step through the initial poses to get to the deeper pose, rather than going straight for the glory. Light on Yoga is okay but not great at pointing out related/preliminary poses, for example it will say “start in X” pose …” sometimes, but not every time that, for me, seems logical.
A similar skill set involves moving from easier poses to the more difficult on the fly. The other day a student was in upavistha konasna quite easily (her chin was on the floor). To me, the next logical place to go from there was moving toward Kurmasana (Turtle) and Supta Kurmasana (with arm/leg binds). She got her arms under her knees but bailed on the arm bind.
A knowledge of the poses and variants and makeup of more difficult poses is essential, as is good pattern recognition. Much like being a lawyer, where natural breaks occur so the parties can re-assess and decide whether to take the next step, or bail out, sequencing has similar waypoints. And as always, practice, practice, practice!