Did you know that some yoga traditions practice the same postures, in the same order, every time? Bikram yoga, famous as “Hot” yoga, practices 26 postures in the same sequence. In fact, the sequence has been trademarked by the founder (and he has sued people who teach his sequence without crediting him but that’s another story). Astanga yoga, my first yoga training, likewise does the same flow every time (about 50 postures).
Some people like the predictability of doing the same practice. The sun salutes are a great example of a flow you can memorize and just do without struggling to think about what comes next. This is nice in the morning (traditional time to practice sun salutes) when your brain may be a little foggy! It’s also true that when you practice the same thing over and over, you get more competent at it.
To me, though, there are lots of downsides to doing the same practice each day. That’s why I like to change it up in every class I teach. Here are reasons why I like a varied practice:
1) There are thousands of yoga postures. I can’t imagine creating one practice that would do all that I ever wanted to do for the rest of my life! For example, when I learned and practiced Astanga in my teens, I craved Pigeon pose and Half Moon Pose, but they aren’t in the series. Life is so much sweeter with a little Pigeon in it.
2) We are different each time we come onto the mat. We need different things seasonally (winter vs. summer) and throughout our life cycle (in our 20’s vs. in our 50’s). We also might need something a little different in the morning vs. the evening, and on a Monday vs. a Friday. Though a teacher can’t exactly predict what each person needs in a class, she can gauge the class energy and based on some quick perceptions, guide a class that is (hopefully) suitable for the common denominator before her.
3) Repeating over and over can cause injury. Primary series in Astanga yoga focuses a lot on forward bends. I’ve found more than one practitioner who has chronically pulled hamstrings as a result. Ouch! While it’s true that the practitioner has to accept responsibility for the injury, it may have been avoided if s/he didn’t do the same practice day in and day out.
4) Let’s face it – it’s just a little bit boring to do the same thing time and again. Isn’t it fun to show up to class and wonder what new asana you’re going to learn? It’s fun as a teacher too, to make new sequences that help students explore in fresh ways.
All that being said, I encourage you to try Bikram or Astanga if you’re curious! They are dynamic, high-energy practices. Take from them the best that they have to offer, but think about the above “argument” for a more varied practice.