Sequence as Mantra

It may not be necessary for all yoga practitioners to have a mantra practice. However, I do feel if you are earnest in your practice, you tend to develop one anyway as a consequence. Most Iyengar practitioners have had some exposure to the invocation of Patanjali, which is normally chanted before class. After Iyengar’s passing in 2014, some may have even heard the Guru Mantra which has been added to the end of the Patanjali Invocation.

Iyengar said a curious thing in one of his many writings to the effect that doing asana is like doing japa, or a practice of repeated sound forms or mantra-s. As I am heavily subbing for my teachers this month who are in China doing a teacher training, I have been writing out as many as three times as many sequences to prepare for classes.

Writing a sequence is much like writing an essay, or music composition. It is best to start with a theme. I have been taught to stay within a “clan” of poses or poses of a similar action. For example, standing poses or back bends or abdominal poses. There is a definite beginning, middle, and end to each good sequence. There is also a “sirsasana” and “sarvangasna” in each Iyengar sequence, even though you may do something in lieu of those poses. Typically, dwi pada viparita dandasana is substituted for sirsasana, and setu bandh is substituted for sarvangasana.  I have been studying long enough to see that all rules can be broken, but it is best to stay within logical limits unless there is a deliberate effect you are trying to achieve through the sequence.


As I utter my daily mantra-s I notice too that they have a logical beginning, middle, and end. Take the Ganesh mantra of Om Gam Ganapataye Namah. Most of the times mantra-s begin with the Pranava or OM. Then there is a seed syllable like “Gam.” Then there is a name of the diety Ganapataye.” Then the ending “Namah” which means this is not my “self”  or not my “ego.”

It is said if you utter a mantra enough times, you develop the siddhi of that mantra, or obtain the power that it beholds. Not an easy task. Some mantra-s are said to have be uttered thousands of times before this takes place.

However, if you do a sequence only a few times, you immediately understand its benefits and its limitations. In essence, the “siddhi” of the sequence is revealed to you much sooner than in the mantra practice.

As pictured above, I write my sequences in spiral notebooks and file them away once the book is completed. I have dozens of these filed away through my years of teaching. I like to look in the old ones to see where my practice and teaching have developed, or more importantly how they have stagnated.

Many blessings!





7 thoughts on “Sequence as Mantra

  1. anonymous sadhaka

    The siddhis of sequences… love the way you put it. Just the other day after class, I was mulling over my difficulties in trikonasana compared to ardha chandrasana and parsvakonasana against virabhadrasana. In one, I found the challenge in the preparatory pose while in the other, in the latter pose. It’s also interesting to see the parallels in mental posturing with respect to the asanas.
    It’s probably nerdy but I have notes of most of the class sequences and other tidbits and observations since my first year at RIMYI. It is fascinating how the teachers make the same syllabus fresh everytime.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. k8macdo

    I love the parallel you remind us of here. Richard Freeman has referred to an asana sequence as pearls slipped onto the silken thread of the breath. Japa is like this too.
    (Technical detail – since I’m becoming a Sanskrit nerd – namah literally means “bow” – as in “I bow before – the name of the deity invoked. So I guess you’re taking that as a prostration of the ego to something greater? I like that : )

    Liked by 2 people

    1. yogibattle Post author

      Thanks k8! It is hard to find someone who has not been influenced or inspired by Richard Freeman. He has such a tremendous and authentic practice. Namah has a lot of different translations, but I have heard of bow or prostrate. It makes sense to bow to the diety of the mantra. Many blessings!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. mahasadhu

    I know Namah means prostrations. Always nice to hear new aspects of the same Sanskrit word. Whatever one does frequently and consistently becomes abhyasa, just like Yoga, Japa etc.
    Adding Mantra to it, will make it even more potent. Thanks for this!

    Liked by 1 person


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