Advice for Creating a Killer Yoga Sequence and Playlist
Vinyasa yoga class sequencing is pretty much like choreography. Except when you’re teaching a class, you have students of varying levels, and you haven’t had weeks of doing the same moves over and over to practice as a group. Plus, if you’re a fly-by-the-seat teacher like I am, often you’re making it up on the spot. You don’t even know for sure what’s coming next.
Fun, dynamic, interesting sequencing is exhilarating. Recently, I saw Chet Faker’s “Gold” video, and was so inspired that I had to roll my mat out right that instant, even though I had a hot meal sitting in front of me. Go watch it immediately, then read the rest of this, seriously.
That spontaneous feeling of inspiration is powerful. When you see something that hits you so hard, you just have to act on your enthusiastic reaction right that fucking instant!
It might help to think of yourself as a songwriter. The process to sequencing a yoga class is similar. Trial and error is part of the process, and knowing when you hit the cord progression (combination of poses) just right is even more fun than your birthday.
Here are some suggestions to fuel your yoga sequencing through your passion for music.
1. Look for inspiration everywhere.
Chet Faker, Pitbull, Rihanna, Adele, Taylor Swift, PJ Harvey, Fleetwood Mac. Rule nothing out if you like it, and it makes you want to get on your mat. Whenever you hear a song you’d like to incorporate into a playlist, jot it down, bookmark it – get into the habit of constantly looking for and compiling songs that inspire you on the mat.
2. Use music technology to your advantage.
Spotfiy. OMG, this is an indispensable resource. Type in bands you like, and see what happens. Follow other yoga teachers and take their efforts to your classes. Let them follow you too. Envision the arc of your class as you play each individual song. Mentally sequence the poses as you sing along. A good exercise is to play a song over and over (I’m reeling from FKA Twig’s, “Two Weeks” right now), roll out your mat, and just GO for it.
Pandora. They really deserve a shout-out because their stations churn out glorious new song discoveries, all based from a single song selection. I emailed them to ask if they’d ever have the option of creating playlists the way Spotify does. Tim Westergren himself emailed me back and we had a nice conversation about it. He complimented Spotify, thanked me for being a customer, and sent me a super cute t-shirt. Class act. Pandora is a great music streaming service for finding new song/artist/genre inspiration.
3. Incorporate yoga pose and sequencing basics.
Sun Salutations. They are beautiful. When I’m sequencing, I like to think of them as the chorus to a yoga sequence song. Use these as your anchors and now your class has some rhythm. Now you just have to fill in the rest…
4. Build your playlist first.
Play it loud. Feel it. Do your yoga dance. Trial and error is your friend. Move with the music and when it doesn’t flow, go back and try something else. Your sequence will truly reveal itself. It will come out of you. Stop after each song and write down what you came up with. Then keep going. Your yoga dance with build on itself and it will be a beautiful thing. Trust in the process.
Here’s an intermediate/advanced sequence I wrote to the song “Gold” by Chet Faker.
Unroll your mat. Ignore the dog/cat hair tumbleweeds. Turn up the heat, light a candle or two, run through several Sun Salutes to warm up, and begin.
- Begin in Upavista Konasana (Seated Wide Leg Forward Fold): sit upright, on the inhale, fold forward on the exhale. Do this three times.
- Twist to the right and fold over your leg. Inhale up, and do the other leg. Repeat once more.
- Bring your fingers under your knees, and pull the legs together, lifting into Navasana (Boat Pose). On the exhale, lower down to a hover, and inhale back up. Do this once more.
- From Navasana, lift into Utkatasna (Chair Pose), or roll back to get momentum and find your way to Utkatasana. Twist to the outside of the left leg. Come back to Utkatasana. Twist right.
- Lengthen up through Urdvah Hastasana (Standing Arms Overhead), and tilt left, sweeping forward over the legs through Uttanasana, and back up to Urdvah. Other side.
- Interlace your hands behind your back in Linga Mudra (fingers interlaced), and fold over the legs. Release your hands and jump back to Chaturanga. Cycle through to Down Dog.
- From Down Dog, lift the right leg, and flip your dog. Hold for a couple of breaths.
- Sit down facing the back of the room, and wrap the right leg for Marichyasana A (bound twist).
- Release, straighten the legs out wide back to Upavista Konasana. Place the right hand behind your right hip, and lift into a backbend, soles of feet all the way on the ground if possible.
- From the backbend, transition into Vashistasana (Side Plank), and hold for a breath or two. Move into Plank Pose, cycle through to Downward Facing dog. Repeat on the other side.
- Once back in Down Dog, hop through with straight legs to Dandasana (Staff Pose), and finish in Paschimottansana (seated forward fold).
Go ahead – I invite you to roll out your mat, play Chet Faker’s “Gold” and take yourself through the above sequence. As you move, notice what feels good, and what aspects of the flow you’d like to incorporate into your own sequence, whether it’s for your home practice, or for the next yoga class you teach.
The practice of sequencing is a total blast when approached with a playful, curious, and unsuspecting attitude. Going into it with no expectations will yield surprising, even shocking ideas you had no clue could be conjured from your brain. If Chet Faker doesn’t do it for you (although this is difficult to imagine – listen to him again maybe?!), try “Black Mambo” by Glass Animals or “Vivid” by Thievery Corporation. These are a few of my favorites.
I can’t wait to read what you come up with, so please be sure to share in the comments below!