What’s better: A set yoga sequence or variety?
There are different camps of yoga. Some camps, like Ashtanga and Bikram, have a set sequence of postures. Others, like vinyasa or power yoga, may vary each time you step on your mat.
So what’s better?
IMHO ... it depends. It depends on what you’re hoping to get from your practice. It depends on your personality. It depends on whether it’s one of those days when you feel like you could take on the world or it's one of those days when you just can’t even.
Here’s a breakdown, at least from my perspective, of the pros and cons of each — a set yoga sequence or a variety.
Bikram, Ashtanga, Hot Power Fusion
Moving meditation. Once you know the sequence like the back of your hand, your practice can become a moving meditation — you can move with breath without your thoughts being preoccupied with worries like, “Is my foot in the right spot?”
Comfort. We are creatures of habit. There’s something very homey about stepping on your mat knowing the sequence you’re about to practice.
Improvement scale. Since you’re doing the same poses each practice, you can more easily see improvements over time. For example, perhaps when you first started you couldn’t touch your toes and a couple of months in your hands are on the ground!
Comfort. Yes, this is a pro and a con. Sometimes when we get too comfortable we don’t push ourselves to find our edges. I often tell students to “find their edge” and what I mean by that is to find their perfect posture today — a balance between effort and ease and not too much of either.
Burnout. Every day you step on your mat is different. However, it’s possible to get burnout if you do it enough. Or maybe not. Maybe you continue to deepen your love with the practice. It depends on the person.
Power, Vinyasa, Hatha
Newness. With a yoga practice that varies, you can find new inspiration each time you practice. You’ll probably find that you gravitate toward some teachers' styles more than others — and that’s great! Keep going to your favorite teachers and challenge yourself to try new teachers for even more variety.
Creativity. One of my favorite parts about teaching a class like C2 is writing the sequence. It allows me to prescribe exactly the kind of practice I want my students to experience. On the flip side, as a student, I love seeing the creativity and personality of other teachers shine through their sequences.
Exercise variation. Since each practice is the same, you might find you get a more well-rounded workout by practicing a style of yoga with varying sequences. One day you might do a core-centric practice and the next might be all about opening your hips. Diversity in sequences means a diversity in workout and work in.
Slower progress. You might not see progress as quickly in your poses as you do in a set sequence format. It’s like music. If you practiced the same song on the guitar every day, you’d quickly see progress. However, if you practiced a different song each day and then returned to the first song, you likely wouldn’t see a huge improvement. You practiced other songs, which probably helped you improve at playing guitar, but you didn’t focus specifically on one song.
Distraction. It can be invigorating and fun to try new poses. It can also be distracting. Rather than calm you down, yoga could actually make you anxious. Am I doing this right? My leg doesn’t do that. Wow, her pose looks way better than mine. It can quickly become a self-judging nightmare.
Part of me wanted to have three pros and three cons of each of these, but I could only think of two cons for each! I guess I love yoga too much. :)
Which format do you prefer — a set sequence or variety?
Shameless plug: I teach both! Hot Power Fusion is a set hot yoga sequence focused on your energetic body and C2 is a heated power yoga class that varies from week to week. Come see me sometime — your first week is always free at CorePower Yoga. Namaste.