Tag Archives: sequence

108-Breath Mandala Yoga Sequence

This is a sequence I’ve created on my own, though I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who’s thought about it – after all, there’s no such thing as an original idea 😉
It’s a short sequence, rather meditative in nature, inspired by the malas used in meditation, made of 108 beads (109 if you want to be finicky).
Here’s how I practice it: I string together 12 poses, and stay in each pose for 9 breaths (12*9=108). I use the first inhale to move into each pose and the last (ninth) exhale to move out of it. Once the mandala is finished, I repeat on the other side if I’ve used any unilateral poses.
The sequence is highly customizable. You can pick any poses you like, provided you can comfortably stay in each pose for the allotted time (struggling with a pose is not very conducive towards staying in a meditative state), and it takes you no more than one full breath to flow from one pose to the next.
The reason I came up with this sequence is that I wanted to combine yoga and meditation in a seamless package, instead of practicing one after the other. I usually meditate at the end of my asana practice, but don’t always have the time to do so, even though I consider meditation one of the more important aspects of yoga. In addition, I’ve long gravitated towards the more “physical” styles of meditation (ecstatic dance, t’ai chi), so I thought to try something similar with yoga.
Of course, asana practice is already meditative, or at least it should be. However, we often lose focus when practicing. If the pose is easy, the mind may wander; if it’s challenging, the mind may ramble as the body struggles. I find that counting the breath keeps the mental chatter to a minimum, and helps me stay in the moment. This is, in essence, a moving meditation.
One thing I really like about this technique is that one mandala takes about 5 minutes to complete, or 10′ if I need to do two mandalas to cover both sides, and I could probably keep repeating for half an hour, while it would have been near impossible to sit in meditation for that long.
Here’s an example sequence (focus on feeling grounded while still reaching up and out – a feeling of spreading your wings, if you will):
– Mountain
– Chair
– Tree
– Warrior I
– Pyramid
– Triangle
– Side Angle
– Warrior II
– Exalted Warrior
– Down Dog
– Cobra
– Child’s Pose
(Repeat on the other side.)
As you can see, I picked some of the most basic poses, opting for simplicity. Still, don’t hesitate to use advanced poses if they’re within your abilities and you believe they’d enhance your meditation.
Some variations to consider:
1) You can make the mandala even more meditative by staying longer in fewer poses, or turn it into a sweatier flow practice by staying in more poses for fewer breaths. Just make sure you spend an equal number of breaths in every pose and that the mandala lasts 108 breaths.
2) The primary focus is always on the breath, but you could create a mantra to repeat (either in your head or out loud) each time you enter a pose or even focus on a feeling you wish to explore. This could set a theme for your meditation, and you might choose specific poses that support that theme or seek out elements in poses that could provide a different point of view (exploring stability in balance poses, for instance, or compassion through the protectiveness of forward bends).
Would appreciate your feedback and suggestions.


Yoga Challenge Days 26-27

I spent yesterday doing housework, and although I count that as a workout, I don’t find it an exciting enough subject to blog about.
As for today, after several days of rain (we don’t really get a lot of those), the sun finally decided to put in an appearance, so a walk around the neighborhood for some much-needed vitamin D was in order.
I was still a bit sore from my strength training earlier in the week, especially in the glutes and adductors, but a few minutes spent foam rolling helped. I also put together a quick Yin Yoga sequence to loosen up those same areas:
– 15′ in Straddle (left, right, middle, 5 minutes each)
– 5′ per side in Square, followed by Windshield Wipers
– 5′ in Caterpillar
Finish with a few minutes in Reclined Twists and then Shavasana.

Yoga Challenge Day 16

The second half of this challenge started out with a bang. Feeling much better than yesterday, I spent some time in the morning doing day 3 of mWOD, focusing on the calves. I’m usually rather tight and even sore in that area, but I didn’t expect the muscles to release tension so easily. Left me feeling awesome so this workout will probably be added to my repertoire from now on.

In the afternoon, I did a 70-minute restorative Yoga class taught by Jessica Bellofatto (through YogaVibes) – actually it was the one I’d skipped last week due to overstretching my hamstrings in the opening sequence. I’m glad I decided to give it another go as I learned several new things, including:

  • controlling my ego during strap-assisted hamstring stretches; I can’t get my leg perpendicular to the floor and that’s (finally) okay
  • pushing the hips away from the ribs in reclined twists – I’m pretty sure I was taught that at some point but had forgotten about it
  • pulling the hips back towards the center line in Thread the Needle
  • internally rotating the back leg in Pigeon to square the hips
  • grabbing a block between the hands in Child’s Pose and bending the elbows to bring it over the head (great lat stretch!)
  • placing a block beneath the feet in Reclined Goddess to help the hips externally rotate more

There was a lot of hamstring stretching throughout the entire class, but I don’t believe I overdid it. I tried to stay within my limits at all times, keeping the backs of the knees soft and basically not pushing myself. I used to be really flexible back in the day, so it’s not easy opening my senses to what this “new” body can do (and what it can’t) and pulling back from what I would have considered an easy-as-pie stretch in the past. A great lesson to learn…

Yoga Challenge Day 12

I felt good enough for a strength workout today, but chose to do a long Yoga practice instead.

I followed a sequence from Rodney Yee’s Yoga: Poetry of the Body book. I’ve mentioned before that this was my very first book on Yoga more than a decade ago. It still remains one of my favorites thanks to its lyrical, almost whimsical, style. It’s also probably the best book of Yoga sequences I’ve come across so far, mostly because Rodney doesn’t just describe the sequences, but sets a theme for each practice, something found more often in classes rather than books, using focal points to guide the reader. It’s a wonderful way for a beginner to learn the poses outside a class setting, and for an advanced student to look at the basics from several different perspectives. For my part, I tend to come back to these sequences fairly often and always seem to discover something new.

Another great thing about this book is that the sequences can be short and sweet if each pose is held for the minimum recommended amount of time, about 20-30 minutes. However, when the poses are held at the max, the sequences can last 50 minutes to over an hour. Add to that a 20- to 30-minute Shavasana and meditation segment and each sequence can be drawn out to 90 minutes. That’s basically what I did today: held long, did a couple of rounds of unilateral poses, and spent a while in recovery and meditation.

Since I postponed my strength workout until tomorrow, I thought I’d use a sequence that would feel somewhat challenging. I opted for the “Falling” practice which focuses on Mountain, Tree, Triangle, and Half-Moon to explore balance. In each pose, Rodney urges us to fall away from our center, only to rediscover it again. From a muscular point of view, the practice was especially intense for the core, but even more so for the feet and calves. I could feel my muscles firing up in response to all the micro-adjustments I was constantly making to each pose.

Swaying in Tree pose, and even pushing deliberately so far as to fall, felt weird at first. What a perfectionist monster still lives inside me, shaking its head in annoyance every time I “failed” to stay upright. I thought I’d gotten rid of the little bugger ages ago…

Half-Moon was already a difficult pose for me, even more so now that I had to not only focus on balance, but also on opening the chest (to counter the natural tendency the body has to curl forwards when falling backwards). So, I tried a little trick (I wasn’t cheating… I think). I usually do Half-Moon with my foot planted against a wall. I did the same thing, but started out further away from the wall, so I had to lean towards the wall to plant my foot. After coming into the full pose, I simply pushed against the wall and allowed my body to soar. It was the first time this pose felt so effortless without having to use the wall as a prop (does prep count?). Need to explore this further.

Yoga Challenge Day 11

Thankfully, yesterday’s scare left me with nothing more serious than DOMS, though oddly enough it wasn’t my hamstring that was sore but my hip. Go figure… Even so, I took it relatively easy today.

Does housework count as a workout? Let me see, I broke a sweat, was a little out of breath, and my muscles complained afterwards. Yeah, I think it’ll do 🙂

An afternoon Yin Yoga practice was in order after that. Needing to focus on the hips, I decided to adapt a sequence I was led through during the Yin Yoga class I took the other day on YogaVibes:

  • Baby Dragon for 2′
  • Winged Dragon for 2′
  • Sleeping Swan for 2′
  • Square for 4′

I did this sequence first on the right side, then the left. It was pretty intense as with each pose I was working deeper into the hip. By the time I came out of Square on each side, I could barely move my limbs! Afterwards, I stayed in the low position of Windshield Wipers (internal hip rotation) for a couple of minutes as a counterpose to the sequence above and to stretch the psoas all the way round the lower back. Shavasana closed the practice.