A Yoga Sequence for Every Mind {and body}

A special article for yoga teachers, yoga therapists, or students who want to see themselves {and their minds} objectively and structure their yoga sequences accordingly. I hope this information supports your practice, feel free to share it! 

Here it is. The arc I follow for every yoga therapy session and group class. This type of sequence may even be familiar to you, but did you realize this arc has a perfect effect on every mind? First, the sequence is below. Then I’ll unpack why it works so well {according to yoga}.

1. Turn Inward
Shavāsana, Relaxation, Guided Awareness or Breathing to recover from worldly activity, turn mind and senses inward, and land in the body. 

2. Āsana 
Move, flow, strengthen, invigorate, rejuvenate, activate or release, depending on your yoga emphasis. Here the details vary. 

3. Marinate in Stillness
Let the affects of your yoga deepen and continue in the stillness of Shavāsana, Meditation or a fully supported Spinal Twist. This is being with yourself, as yourself.

It’s a complete honor to have been invited by Kate of You & The Yoga Mat to participate in her month-long blog tour on Sequencing along with my brilliant and inspiring yogi colleagues! Go HERE to join in the fun and read the whole tour, and do go check out yesterday’s article from my friend Arianna HERE and Livia’s HERE. Plus the sequencing article by my friend Jacky Rae over at Veda Yoga will give you more insight into the Ayurvedic approach to sequencing. 

“Keep it simple stupid” – said some wise guy

Yes, it’s this simple. This arc is truly reliably effective for every single idiosyncratic mind that walks in the yoga door, including yours, and mine! {and yes, it is minds, not bodies walking in the door!}

“The body is crystallized mind” – ancient yogic concept

As a Yoga Therapist, I know very well that yoga is not one-size-fits all. We are diverse. The manifest universe creates endless detail, diversity, and complexity, in everything, including the body-mind. All of the variation and detail can easily overwhelm and confuse anyone attempting to apply yoga therapeutically and individually. Luckily, built in to the yoga tradition itself is the use of categories.  All the detail and complexity can be enfolded and encoded into simple categories, and the result is more depth, more clarity and more resolve. 

A yogi who sees the world categorically, sees herself and others objectively, aptly, intelligently and most importantly, with CLARITY.

Seeing {and thinking} categorically allows us to simplify everything and frees us from complexity {and neurosis}. For the yoga teacher or yoga therapist, that includes clarifying and simplifying one’s approach in order to serve EVERYONE well {amidst all the varied yogic techniques and all the endless complexity of bodies, minds, personalities, needs and desires that enter into yoga}. 

Limitless consciousness takes on the appearance of limitation to become manifestation. It does so, by contracting to become the three Guṇas – Sattva {Awareness}, Rajas {Activity}, and Tamas {Inertia} – which dance and combine to create all of material creation. These three subtle components of creation give birth to everything, including the mind. A mind that is predominated with Tamas and is shrouded in heaviness, a mind made primarily of Rajas is busy with activity, and the mind made of Sattva is steeped in awareness itself. 

The Mind Types

I will lay out FOUR categories of mind. You will see yourself here, your loved ones hand your students here.

A caveat… Avoid over-simplifying or over complicating and avoid being overly invested in rules. Use these categories as a GUIDELINE. You must simultaneously be aware of complexity + simplicity.  Know that we change. Know that the mind is malleable. Know that qualities mix together and change in each of us throughout life, even throughout the day. But also know that we each have a particular mental tendency. Use the types to FREE yourself from your own pitfalls, but not to label others or self-critique. 

“No being, either on earth or amongst the gods in heaven exists free from these three guṇas.” – Krishna to Arjuna {Bhagavad-Gīta ch 18} 

The Cloudy Lake

The Cloudy Lake Mind is Tamasic and therefor resistant, dull, sleepy, sluggish, heavy, slow, veiled, skeptical and Self-destructive, detests activity and loves sleep. 

Recognize the Cloudy Lake… likely they come to yoga, not of their own volition but are referred, dragged {in spite of their resistance} or threatened {by physical pain or diagnosis}. This mind type can create a bulky, heavy body.  The Cloudy Lake is slow, resistant, and the person may look miserable even during even the easiest and most restorative poses… don’t worry, they may actually be loving it, but many years of being clouded or resistant is reflected in the face, even when they in bliss. 

What the Cloudy Lake Mind WANTS… to stay in shavasana as long as possible, and survive the class so they can go home. 

What it NEEDS to clear and resolve stagnant, sleepy, low, slow, heavy qualities. To cultivate light, clarity and awareness. The Cloudy Lake is deeply enlivened by movement and flow. Yoga Teacher Hint! you need to stay motivated FOR them!

The Geyser

The Geyser Mind is made of fire + Rajas and therefor sharp-minded, aggressive, striving, achieving, intelligent, critical, and always in hot pursuit of a goal. 

Recognize the Geyser... If you give the option to “hold the pose longer” or “try this advanced variation” the Geyser will do it. They want to push to the max. They appreciate lots of explanation of “why” something is being practiced or taught, and then they can get on board. This mind type can crystallize as an athletic body. The Geyser is concerned about doing everything perfectly right.

What the Geyser WANTS… To be the best, and “win” at yoga. To go to the max! To achieve the most challenging pose and to do it perfectly. To get recognition. They may even want to teach others how to do yoga right {aka lots of yoga teachers are this type!}

What it NEEDS... To let go. To live as though there is nothing to achieve. To be in touch with who they are {not what they do or how they appear}. The Geyser is deeply soothed by surrender and can benefit from not pushing past the point of transformation. Teacher Hint! When it’s time to slow down and go inward, you can tell them that this is the most advanced practice in yoga, which is true!  

The Whitewater Whirlpool

The Whitewater Whirlpool Mind is made of Rajas + Air and thus is full of motion, is nervous, hyperactive, sensitive, easily confused, lacks one-pointedness and loves change. 

Recognize The Whirlpool
They love to move! They are often inconsistent in their attendance to yoga. The Whirlpool mind can look like a deer in headlights and can form a thin or depleted body type. They mix their lefts and rights easily. They may be scattered, talkative, talk with their hands, have eyes that dart around and love to create new poses. This mind type picks up information very quickly and then forgets it quickly too!  

What the Whirlpool WANTS… To be free. To move. To express through movement or talking. To stretch and be aesthetically pleasing.

What it NEEDS… To stabilize. To do one thing at a time. To cultivate quietude. The whirlpool is deeply nourished by stillness.  You can lay lots of heavy blankets over them in shavasana or around them during meditation.  They tend to have a lot of body pain, so if you can help them with that, they will be a fan of yoga {and of you} yours for life! Teacher Hint! Slowing down your speed {walking, talking, etc} will help this mind-type slow down too.

Now look at the arc again with these minds in mind

1. Turn Inward  {aka shavāsana, guided relaxation or breathing practice to recover from worldly activity and turn the mind inward}

  • Cloudy Lake – you are giving them what they WANT. {It’s like starting with dessert}. Start them what they WANT so they are more open to what they NEED
  • Geyser – you are giving them what they NEED. This allows them to move through the rest of their practice from a place of inner surrender, rather than a place of over-achievement and striving. 
  • Whirlpool – they NEED and usually LOVE this. They need extra support for inner quietude. It may be hard for them to settle. Throw a heavy blanket over them, and maybe an eye pillow over their brow line too!

2. Āsana {aka move, flow, strengthen, invigorate, rejuvenate, restore, activate, release, etc. depending on your emphasis}

  • Cloudy Lake – you are giving them what they NEED. They will be the most resistant {of any of the types} to this. But of all the types, they need to MOVE the most. Best choices for this mind are backbends and flow sequences, moving and breathing in coordination together. 
  • Geyser – this gives them what they WANT. They feel they get to shine here, but they need to be reminded to be aware of the inner experience and unfoldment. This mind is balanced by spinal twists and forward bends as an emphasis. 
  • Whirlpool – they usually LOVE to move. But they do well to hold poses a bit. Restorative practices are great for this mind as are poses that emphasize balance, strength and stillness – such as warrior and balance poses. 

3. Marinate {aka let the affects of the āsana deepen and continue in the stillness of Shavasana, Meditation or a fully supported spinal twist}

  • Cloudy Lake – they LOVE this. It’s what they wanted all along, and now they really feel they need it and earned it. The challenge for them is staying conscious in a state of quietude, but eventually it will happen. 
  • Geyser – they NEED this. They will be MORE open to this at the end of a sequence than they were at the beginning {though remember that the first one was the most important part of the sequence for them} because they now feel that they have earned it.  Having achieved a little bit with the āsana portion, they can rest more easy now and feel like it is “okay” to do nothing. 
  • Whirlpool – they NEED and usually LOVE this. It will be easier for them to rest now with more inner quietude and less restlessness than when they came in. They might ask for that third eye pillow over the brow-line and blankie again!

Their is one more mind-type and this is {ideally} the state of the teacher when sharing yoga with others. 

The Clear River aka the Yoga Bhāva


The Clear River Mind is made of Sattva Guṇa and therefor is calm, friendly, open, peace-seeking, spiritually inclined, depth-seeking, loves to cooperate, has a quality of illumination and peace

How to Recognize the Clear River
They often have a fair amount of experience in spiritual inquiry, yoga, meditation or healing arts. They tend to be into clean-living and peace-seeking. They tend to be unhurried, are friendly but not too chatty. They LOVE to linger in seated and meditation poses. The Clearwater River mind is interested in yoga for its true purpose.  They love it all, and even the parts of yoga they don’t love, they accept. {Provided that the teacher is apt, and teaching appropriately and beneficially}. These yogis inspire their teachers to become better at what they do. In terms of the arc and sequence, it’s all good! Just follow the best poses for the season and body-type and help them cultivate more meditation, which is what they really want + need. 

When the mind is clear, a person’s wants + needs align! The sattvic person will recognize when the mind has shifted due to circumstance {such as diet, season, or lifestyle}. A person with overall clarity will easily see when the mind becomes more tamasic {Cloudy Lake} or rajasic + fire {Geyser} or rajasic + air {Whirlpool} and be open and able to utlizing yogic remedies to re-balance the mind.  

The Sattvic Clear River mind does not use these the Guṇas {Sattva, Rajas and Tamas} as labels {to self-critique or pigeon-hole others}, but as a means to Self-awareness and understanding the world around. 

To sum up…. 

Regardless of how you come in…a yogi can use this same arc to nourish the mind and re-establish Self-awareness and a more Sattvic interior.  I hope this article helps you enliven, inspire and maybe even simplify your yoga practice or your skill in sharing yoga with others. I’d love to hear how it goes! Find me on Instagram, Facebook, or Contact me directly anytime.

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