Sequencing & Pacing to Balance Energy

Lesson Overview

In this lesson, we explore the guiding principles and yogic tools for promoting energetic balance.

Objective

Explore how yoga affects energy and understand the guiding principles and practice effects of yogic tools (langhana, brahmana, samana) in order to sequence in a way that promotes energetic balance.

Description

Explain how yoga practices affect energy and the fundamental goal of sequencing as it relates to energy. Describe some ways in which to approach balancing energy and factors that can help guide your choices for bringing energetic balance. Define langhana, brahmana and samana, and give examples of practices associated with each. Describe prana vayus and how they are relevant to sequencing.

How Yoga Affects Energy

Please see Energy & Subtle Body Anatomy. Scroll down to “How Yoga Affects Energy.”

Sequencing Principles

Introduction

Here we focus on energy in particular. This material presumes you are familiar with Sequencing Fundamentals & Guidelines and Choosing & Arranging Poses.

A fundamental goal of sequencing is to bring energetic balance. Balancing energy may refer to an individual student need and/or it may be referring to a general approach such as balancing the effects of a season.

  1. It’s recommended to “meet” the energy of students and then endeavor to bring about a balanced state.
  2. Considering the energetic effects of various yogic techniques (langhana, bramana and samana) can guide your choices for bringing balance.
  3. Use mindful pacing to achieve your goals.

Begin with Energy of Students

This principle advises that if students are exhibiting lethargy, introversion or low energy, then begin slowly and gently build intensity. In contrast, if students appear anxious, hyper or busy, begin with more vigorous or stimulating practices to meet the students where they are.

Balance Energy of Season or Situation

In this approach drawn from fundamental Ayurvedic principles, the focus is on balancing the effects of the season or specific situation (e.g. bringing warmth when there is cold, cooling when there is excess heat, etc.). Go deep on this topic: Seasonal Yoga Hub.

Determine Dominant Nadi

Before beginning to practice, observe the breath and determine which nostril (and, therefore, which nadi) is dominant. If it isn’t obvious, practice Nadi Shodhana to learn which side is flowing more freely and which feels more inhibited.

If the left nostril dominates, ida is in charge, and you might consider focusing your attention on invigorating asanas — such as backbends, standing poses, inversions, and twists — to engage the pingala nadi. If the right nostril dominates, the cooling, calming energy of seated poses and forward bends might be most beneficial. – James Bailey

Sequence for Natural Dualities

Another way to view the purpose of sequencing can be to mindfully address the natural dualities of bodily life, endeavoring to bring balance to the cycles of expansion and contraction.

DYNAMIC BALANCING OF OPPOSITES

Life is full of alternating opposites, such as inhaling and exhaling, sleeping versus waking, and fight or flight versus rest and digest. Each of these dualities demonstrates a dynamic balancing of opposites. Sequencing in yoga can be used to exaggerate a cycle of expansion and contraction. We begin with poses that open the front of the body and close with poses that draw the energy inward.

Ray Long

Pacing

The topic of “pacing” refers to the rate at which the class moves and progresses from the beginning state through the middle or peak of class, and ultimately reaching the end.

The pace or “arc” of a yoga class may be to begin slowly, for example, and then speed up to a peak, followed by a progressive downshifting and ending in silence and stillness.

Pacing is closely related to some of the Sequencing Fundamentals, including Move From Simple to Complex and Build Mindfully & Gradually. The energetic effects of practices provided below are also closely related to how a teacher brings about a particular pace. For example, you’ll see that langhana is associated with slow movements. Slower movement is the same as saying a slower pace.

Practice Effects

Overview

Knowing the energetic effects of yogic practices can assist you in creating a smooth arc of intensity, finishing in an optimum, balanced state.

The effects of practices may be categorized as follows:

  1. Langhana – Meaning “reduction” or “light” (weight) in Sanskrit,langhanarefers toquieting, soothing, cooling practices intended to calm, lower and ground energy.
  2. Brahmana – Meaning “expansion” in Sanksrit,brahmanarefers to stimulating,strengthening, challenging, heating practices. The intention is to build, nourish and raise energy.
  3. Samana Samanameans “equal” or “balanced” in Sanskrit and is the result of mostwell-rounded practices. In addition, some specific practices are particularly focused on creating mental and physical balance.

Considerations

  • The Yoga for Healthy Aging article, Practice for All Seasons, also addresses this topic and includes additional considerations. For example, while for many people, a heating, vigorous practice helps to balance the effects of winter, for an active skier, her needs could be different.

Practice Examples

Following are practices associated with each energetic effect. We have researched many sources to make the lists as comprehensive as possible.

Langhana

Meaning “reduction” or “light” (weight) in Sanskrit, langhana refers to quieting, soothing, cooling practices intended to calm, lower and ground energy. Examples of such practices include:

  1. Slow movements
  2. Rest between poses
  3. Longer stays in gentle poses
  4. Supported and resting poses
  5. Simple seated, prone and supine poses
  6. Forward Bends
  7. Restoratives
  8. Gentle Twists*
  9. Simple Flows with the breath
  10. Supported Inversions
  11. “Almost all poses with a Jalandhara Bandha-type chin lock (e.g. Sarvangasana, Halasana, Setu Bandha, and Viparita Karani) are cooling to the brain and body.” (Brad Priddy)
  12. Closed eyes
  13. Refraining from talking
  14. Seated Meditation
  15. Guided Visualizations
  16. Breath Practices: deep, slow breathing and/or focus on exhale, pause after exhale
  17. Pranayama: Inhale left, exhale right
  18. Chanting softly or in a lower pitch

Brahmana

Meaning “expansion” in Sanksrit, brahmana refers to stimulating, strengthening, challenging, heating practices. The intention is to build, nourish and raise energy. Examples of such practices include:

  1. Fast movements such as Sun Salutations & Vinyasa Flow
  2. Longer stays in challenging poses
  3. Faster pace
  4. Less pause between poses
  5. Standing Poses
  6. Backbends
  7. Spinal Extension
  8. Lateral Bends
  9. Headstand
  10. Active Twists*
  11. Arm Balances
  12. Core Strengthening
  13. Long holds
  14. Open eyes
  15. Breath Practice: focus on inhale, pause after inhale
  16. Pranayama: Inhale right, exhale left
  17. Chanting loudly or in a higher pitch
  18. Affirmations

Samana

Samana means “equal” or “balanced” in Sanskrit and is the result of most well-rounded practices.Some specific practices are particularly focused on creating mental and physical balance such as the following:

  • Balance Poses
  • Twists*
  • Asymmetrical Poses
  • Nadi Shodhana (Alternate Nostril Breathing)
  • Note on Twists: There is inconsistency in how twists are categorized among sources. We resonate with the perspective that twists can be active or gentle and can be generally balancing to the nervous system (calming when agitated and stimulating when lethargic).

NOT JUST WHICH PRACTICES, BUT HOW YOU DO THEM

Neither brahmana nor langhana practices are substitutes for good sleep and regular stress-management activities, but they complement them. Since the brhmanalanghana model is about energy management, breath is the most important part of the equation; all other elements enhance the effect. Oftentimes it is not just about which practices you choose, but also how you do them. Here is a quick outline of specific practices that can help you achieve brhmana and langhana effect.

Olga Kabel

Prana Vayus

The five movements or functions of prana are called prana vayus (vayu = “wind”).

A well-rounded asana practice works all the prana vayus.

Prana Vayu

  • Not the same as the general term of prana
  • Governs intake, forward momentum
  • Energizing

Vyana Vayu

  • Governs circulation
  • Expansion

Samana Vayu

  • Governs assimilation, absorption
  • Contraction

Udana Vayu

  • Governs growth, expression
  • Upward movement

Apana Vayu

  • Governs elimination
  • Downward movement

WORK ALL PRANAS

One should consider the role of all five pranas in asana practice. An integral asana practice should work all the pranas. It requires energization (prana), expansion (vyana), contraction (samana), upward movement (udana) and downward movement (apana) in the right proportion and balance. But the degree of these pranic movements will vary by condition and by dosha. – Dr. David Frawley & Sandra Summerfield Kozak

See Also

Addressing Imbalance

The following information is drawn from the excellent and clearly written book, Yoga for Your Type 2001 by Dr. David Frawley and Sandra Summmerfield Kozak.

Apana Excess

Low or Depressed Energy

  1. Choose asana to raise energy (increase udana)
  2. Upward moving poses
  3. Standing poses
  4. Chanting
  5. Affirmations

Udana Excess

Manic Energy or Spaced Out

  1. Choose asana to lower and ground energy (increase apana)
  2. Prone poses
  3. Inverted poses
  4. Deep, slow breathing
  5. Refrain from talking

Samana Excess

Energy Too Introverted

  1. Choose asana to expand and release energy (increase vyana)
  2. Movement-oriented poses such as vinyasa
  3. Poses with extension

Vyana Excess

Energy Fragmented, Diffused or Too Expanded

  1. Choose asana to center, contract, consolidate energy (increase samana)
  2. Seated meditation

See Also