If you’ve ever attended a yoga class, whether in person or online, you may have noticed that there is an intelligence, a coherence, behind the way in which the yoga postures are lined up, set up, and structured in the practice.
For those who are yoga teachers, learning to create sequencing intentionally and purposefully is one the most important skills you can foster and develop.
Peak yoga poses are one of the elements that can be incorporated into a yoga class sequence in order to create a space for the practitioner to explore their edges, boundaries, and physical practice.
Read this article to learn more about
- Sequencing basics
- Class structure basics
- What are peak yoga poses
- 6 fun peak yoga poses to explore
Let’s dive right in:
Although it may seem that your yoga teacher is coming up with the sequence they’re teaching as they go, that is rarely the case.
The way in which a yoga class is designed and structured will greatly impact the experience that each participant will have.
If you’ve ever found yourself suddenly in yoga peak poses you didn’t think possible, it is likely that your yoga teacher is skilled at sequencing.
Here are some basic elements that should be kept in mind when designing a yoga sequence:
- Determine the theme or focus of the class (e.g. heart opening, balance, strength, relaxation, etc.)
- Start with a centering practice such as seated meditation or pranayama (breathing exercise), allowing yourself or the students to arrive into the space and the practice.
- Warm-up the body with gentle movements such as cat-cow, sun salutations, or lunges.
- Move into standing poses such as warrior series, triangle, or tree pose.
- Incorporate balancing poses such as tree, eagle, or dancer pose.
- Add in any additional poses or sequences based on the theme of the class.
- Move into seated or reclined poses such as pigeon, bridge, or savasana (final relaxation pose).
- End with a cool-down such as reclined twists or gentle forward folds.
- Close the class with a final relaxation and a gratitude practice.
Learning to sequence will help you create classes and experiences that are comprehensive, cohesive, and that can support and be accessible to a wide range of yoga practitioners.
Class structure basics
When you think about the structure of a yoga class, there are several valid ways to do so, but here is one of the most popular ways to structure a yoga class, especially when intending to include peak yoga poses in it:
This section of the yoga class often happens before the practice truly starts, and it is the time to, as the teacher, meet your students, and as the student, set yourself up by placing your mat and your props down, and having everything ready for your practice.
Many yoga classes and sequences begin with a period of centering and intention setting in order to let go of everything that’s going on in your life just for a little bit, and be fully present with yourself as you practice yoga.
Once centering and the Sankalpa are set, the next part of a well-structured yoga sequence is the warm-up.
As the yoga teacher, knowing the peak yoga poses you’re going to be exploring will drastically influence what postures and pranayama exercises you choose to include in the warm-up sequence, at what pace, and why.
Yoga Asana Sequences
The core of the yoga practice is where participants hold static or dynamic poses for a few breaths, moving through a sequence or series of sequences to explore different postures and explore the physical and mental benefits of the practice.When utilizing the yoga peak poses within the structure of your class, most of the postures that are included in this portion of your sequence, will build up to your peak yoga poses.
Peak Yoga Poses
Not all sequences need to have a peak posture, yet it is a common way to arrive at the pinnacle of your yoga practice.
Peak yoga poses are often the culmination of all the warming up and exploration that has happened throughout the practice and is often the most physically, mentally, or energetically
After giving practitioners space to explore the peak yoga poses a few times, it is important to cool the body down by using counterposes that will bring the body back into balance.
To finish and integrate the practice, many yoga sequences end with a final relaxation in Savasana.
Although Savasana is the posture of choice for many folks to relax in, keep in mind that not all postures are for everyone and that you may prefer a different shape to relax in, and that is absolutely okay.
After a few minutes in Savasana or any other relaxing position, yoga classes end with a final few minutes of seated meditation or reflection, and sharing of any closing thoughts, often sealing the practice with a chant of Om.
What are peak yoga poses?
According to Mark Stephens, a peak pose is often the most challenging pose in a particular sequence or practice.
Any pose can be chosen as a peak yoga pose, it’s all about intentionality.
The peak pose of a sequence is also often known as the pinnacle of the practice.
This asana or series of asanas requires warming up and preparatory poses to be done with intention and awareness for achieving it safely and progressively.
Yoga peak poses are considered the culmination of the practice and are intended to help to develop strength, flexibility, balance, and focus.
The peak pose is not just about the physical challenge but also about the mental and emotional aspects of the yogic journey, including mindfulness, self-awareness, and self-confidence.
6 Fun peak yoga poses to Explore
Here are a few popular peak yoga poses to include in your sequence:
1# Dancer Pose (Natarajasana)
This is a standing balancing posture and a backend.
Natarajasana requires you to be strong, stable, and steady and it is one of the most popular peak yoga postures in yoga styles like power and vinyasa yoga.
Some preparatory poses for this yoga peak pose are:
- Mountain Pose
- One-Legged Mountain Pose
- Half-frog pose
- Setu Bandhasana
- Urdhva Dhanurasana
Try this class if you’d like to do a 45-minute vinyasa practice where the peak is Natarajasana.
2# Eagle Pose (Garudasana)
Another one of the famous peak yoga poses for balance, Eagle pose, requires stability, balance, as well as flexibility in the arms and hips.
Before practicing Garudasana, warm yourself up by exploring a few postures like:
- Mountain Pose
- One-Legged Mountain Pose
- Standing or prone thread the needle
- Eagle arms
- Supine Eye of the Needle or Shoelace pose
- Chair Pose
- Chair Pose with eagle arms
To make this pose more accessible, try sitting on a chair, being near a wall, or placing your floating foot on a block or the floor to feel more solid and stable.
A good counterpose for Garudasana is Utkata Konasana.
3# Standing splits pose (Urdhva Prasarita Eka Padasana)
A fun, challenging balancing, and flexibility posture, Standing splits requires that you warm up your feet and ankles, as well as your hamstrings and quads, and hips.
Core awareness will also help you stay steady in the asana.
Some preparatory postures for this peak pose are similar to the two already mentioned balancing peak yoga poses, and they include:
- Mountain Pose
- One-legged Mountain Pose
- Warrior III
- Extended Hand to big toe pose
- Half-splits pose
- Splits Pose
4# Tree Pose (Vrksasana)
One of the most iconic asanas and peak yoga poses, tree pose is not only a balancing posture on one leg, but it also requires hip opening and flexibility.
Some of the poses that you can include in a sequence with Vrksasana as its peak pose, besides the ones mentioned above are:
- Virabhadrasana II
- Utthita Trikonasana
- Badha Konasana
- Wide-legged forward fold
5# Wheel Pose (Chakrasana)
To explore the deep backbend that is wheel pose, also known as Chakrasana or Urdhva Dhanurasana, check out this 1-hour class designed to help you warm up, explore, and cool down.
6# Crow Pose (Kakasana)
For those interested in exploring an arm balance as the peak pose, take this short class where you’ll be able to develop the strength, stability, and awareness to perhaps fly into crow!
All poses can, ultimately be peak yoga poses if you so chose to.
What makes a yoga pose in a sequence or class is often the placement and intentionality of this posture, since it requires for the entire class to revolve and intertwine with the peak or peak yoga postures that the yoga teacher has chosen for a particular practice.
The peak yoga poses chosen as the pinnacle of a vinyasa class are often more physically demanding and challenging, while in a restorative or yin yoga class, the asanas chosen as the climax will likely be more energetically and mentally demanding.
To develop more skills as a yoga teacher, check out this section of our website next.