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5 Easy Steps to Create A Mandala Yoga Sequence

There are many different ways to sequence a vinyasa flow class – classic, wave theory, mandala and moving from the back of the mat. Mandala yoga sequences provide creative transitions, emphasis on breath, and postures that build to a peak pose or wave for students to experience flow and enrich the body’s vitality. 

Mandala translates from Sanskrit as ‘circle,’ symbolizing the spiritual journey and transcendental awareness in Eastern philosophy. Mandala sequences, created by my teacher Shiva Rea, move from the front to the back of the mat in a rhythmic pattern that mimics the disk-like appearance.  A mandala yoga sequence allows practitioners to draw upon the circular process and wholeness of a mandala. — Clara Roberts-Oss.

The dynamic flow of a mandala yoga sequence offers an experiential practice unique to each individual. The intent is for the conscious mind to focus (similar to a mantra practice) so that the unconscious mind has space to roam.  In other words, giving your monkey mind something to do so that you are able to feel and experience the movement without the distractions of the mind. 

In this blog post, you’ll learn the five easy steps to create a mandala yoga sequence. Keep reading to learn how to advance your yoga practice and design sequences based on Prana Flow Yoga.

Table of Contents: 

History of Vinyasa Yoga and Prana Flow Wave Theory
Vinyasa yoga has its roots in Ashtanga Yoga, the style of yoga pioneered by Pattabhi Jois. Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, the grandfather of modern yoga as we know it today, passed on classical Indian Yoga to Jois, who then created the Primary Series. 

Where Ashtanga Yoga follows a specific set of postures and transitions in every class, Vinyasa yoga provides an opportunity for teachers to create their own unique sequence with distinct transitions between the poses. 

Ashtanga yoga is the grandfather of vinyasa yoga and includes sun salutations, the standing series, seated poses, and breathwork in every class. For those who enjoy repetition, Ashtanga is a great option to develop strength and discipline. 

Vinyasa yoga provides a freestyle and flowy option to Ashtanga yoga. It’s a way for teachers and practitioners to explore peak yoga postures, play with clever transitions to link the postures, and express distinctive themes, subtle body practices, and musical accompaniment. No two vinyasa classes are alike, as the sequence depends on the teacher and the intent of the class. Vinyasa yoga is a wonderful option for those who prefer unusual sequencing over repetition. 

Vinyasa translates from Sanskrit as ‘to place in a sacred way.’ Practitioners flow from one pose to the next with each breath. Every movement correlates to the inhale or exhale. The emphasis is on the transitions between each posture and the poses themselves. 

The style of vinyasa yoga taught by Clara Roberts-Oss is established in Shiva Rea’s Prana Flow Yoga. Founded by Shiva Rea in 2005, Prana Flow Yoga is a rhythmic vinyasa practice that features continuous movement with flowing sequences that align with the music.

The overall experience feels like a dance and captures the cosmic rhythm of Spanda, the creative pulse of the universe and sacred vibration that manifests life. 

The Importance of Prana in Vinyasa Yoga

Prana (breath) aids in facilitating the physical and subtle alignment of the body; it encourages awareness and sensations from pose to pose.

Prana creates strength and heat in the body and provides immediate feedback on how the practitioners move through the sequence. Mantras, kriyas, pranayamas, and bandhas are featured in a Prana Flow Yoga class to stimulate and enhance the body’s vitality.  

​​The breath is the most direct line to assess what is happening in the body and mind. If breathing becomes shallow or fast during the yoga practice, this is a signal to come out of the pose or slow down. Long, smooth, deep diaphragm breathing is the best way to move through the postures. A deeper breath removes energetic blockages, brings awareness to the subtle body, and serves to purify the body and mind. 

Elements of a Vinyasa Yoga Class:
  1. A peak pose or peak flow.
  2. Strong emphasis on the breath. 
  3. Music to accompany the class and add to the Bhavana (mood). 
  4. Flow transitions between the poses.
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Mandala Yoga Sequence Structure 

A Mandala Yoga Sequence is practiced in a circular flow from the front, sides, and back of the yoga mat. Mandala flows are from Prana Flow Yoga and are an extension of the Elementary Prana Vinyasa Flow Solar and Lunar Sequences pioneered by Shiva Rea. 

Such a flow sequence aims to revitalize our being and enhance the flow of life in how we move through the world and breathe. 

The energy of a mandala yoga sequence is meant to enhance the experience of our lives once we step off of the yoga mat. This occurs through the boost of vitality flowing through the body stimulated by the breath and yoga asanas. Yoga purifies the body and mind; the postures elicit a specific sensation, and a Bhav (mood) may be introduced through the sequence and theme designed by the yoga teacher. 

Mandala translates from Sanskrit as ‘circle’ and is used in Hindu and Buddhist Tantric practices to symbolize sacred rites and a point for meditation. 

From its Sanskrit roots, Mandala is ‘manda’ = essence + ‘la’ = container.

Benefits of a Mandala Yoga Sequence:
  1. Create new neural pathways in the brain.
  2. Increase capacity and reception for change. 
  3. Embrace fluidity, balance, and creativity. 
  4. Shift perspective, and develop the cognitive ability to step back and see the bigger picture.
  5. Embody the cosmic flow and rhythmic cycles within the body (heart) and the cosmos (universe). 

Breakdown of a Mandala Yoga Sequence

Take the Class On the Practice with Clara Apps

morning yoga
About the Class

A fluid class featuring mandala namaskars from Prana Flow Yoga that creates space and length in the body to prepare you for deep twists.

Twisting gives the internal organs a massage and stimulates the digestive system; B.K.S. Iyengar called twisting the squeeze and soak action as they compress and release oxygen-rich blood into the bloodstream. Hamstring and inner thigh lengthening and an inversion with shoulder stand complete your morning practice, so you feel engaged and refreshed to start the day. 

Opening Sequence + Theme

Come to the top of your mat with your feet hip-distance. Close your eyes and breathe deep. Bring your hands to your heart or your third eye. An excerpt from the Bhagavad Gita opens the class: 

“Surrendering all thoughts of outcome, unperturbed, self-reliant, he does nothing at all, even when fully engaged in actions. There is nothing that he expects, nothing that he fears. Serene, free from possessions, untainted, acting with the body alone, content with whatever happens, unattached to pleasure or pain, success or failure, he acts and is never bound by his action.” —translated by Stephen Mitchell.

The offering for the practice is to do the actions of the yoga—breathe deep. Be present. Let go of all expectations of the outcome, for this is where we find ease and presence. 

Wave 1

Tadasana (mountain pose) 

Urdhva Hastasana (hands to sky)

Uttanasana (forward fold)

Roll up to stand with the knees slightly bent

Repeat this sequence 3x

Ardha Uttanasana (half lift)

Anjaneyasana (low lunge) variation with wide legs

Utthan Pristhasana (lizard pose) variation on fingertips inside the front leg.

  • Inhale and lift the chest with the front knee bent,
  • Exhale and take the hips back over your back heel as you straighten the front leg.
  • Repeat this several times. 

Skandasana (squat pose) variation with one arm lifted to the sky. 

Anjaneyasana (low lunge) variation facing the back edge of your mat. 

  • Inhale and take the arms overhead,
  • Exhale and spread the arms wide as you twist to one side. 

Adho mukha svanasana (down dog)

Phalakasana (plank pose) 

Chaturanga 

Bhujangasana (cobra pose) OR Urdhva Mukha Shvanasana (upward dog)

Adho mukha svanasana (down dog)

Eka pada adho mukha svanasana (3-legged downward dog)

Ashta Chandrasana (high lunge) 

Uttanasana (forward fold)

Urdhva Hastasana (hands to sky)

Tadasana (mountain pose) 

 

Repeat the same sequence on the SAME LEG, so you face the front of your yoga mat. 

Wave 2

Tadasana (mountain pose)

Utkatasana (chair pose) 

Uttanasana (forward fold)

Repeat this sequence 3x

Ardha Uttanasana (half lift)

Anjaneyasana (low lunge)

Anjaneyasana (low lunge) variation with wide legs

Ardha Hanumanasana (half splits) variation with wide legs

Skandasana (squat pose) variation with one arm lifted to the sky, option to take the top arm behind your head and lean your head back. 

Anjaneyasana (low lunge) variation facing the back edge of your mat. 

  • Take one hand to your sacrum, 
  • Take the opposite hand to the sky,
  • Twist toward the side of your mat.

Parivrtta Anjaneyasana (revolved lunge) variation with wide arms. 

Adho mukha svanasana (down dog)

Phalakasana (plank pose) 

Chaturanga 

Bhujangasana (cobra pose) OR Urdhva Mukha Shvanasana (upward dog)

Adho mukha svanasana (down dog)

Eka pada adho mukha svanasana (3-legged downward dog)

Ashta Chandrasana (high lunge) 

Parivrtta Anjaneyasana (revolved lunge) 

Eka pada adho mukha svanasana (3-legged downward dog) variation with hips stacked.

Parsva Vasisthasana (rockstar pose)

Ashta Chandrasana (high lunge) with fingertips on the ground.

Uttanasana (forward fold)

 

Repeat the same sequence on the SAME LEG, so you face the front of your yoga mat. 

Closing Sequence

Halasana (plow pose)

Sarvangasana (shoulder stand) OR Viparita Karani with legs up the wall.

Savasana or seated meditation to close.

5 Easy Steps to Create A Mandala Yoga Sequence

How to create your mandala yoga sequence in five simple steps:
  • Choose a peak pose or a shape you want to focus on in your sequence. 
  • Write the postures that strengthen the muscles to support the pose. 
  • Write the postures that open and lengthen the muscles to prepare for the pose. 
  • Write the poses that counter the peak pose/shape. 
  • Choose the pranayamas (breathwork), mantras (chanting), bandhas (locks), and kriyas (gestures) that compliment your mandala yoga sequence. 

Additional elements to consider when creating your Mandala Yoga Sequence: 

  • Choose a theme that suits your mandala yoga sequence.
  • Create a music playlist that works with your class’s Bhav (mood). 

Questions to Deconstruct Engaged In Action Vinyasa

Take the yoga class on Practice with Clara and contemplate/write the following questions to better understand how to create a mandala yoga sequence. 

  • What is the peak pose/peak flow? What is emphasized in this yoga class?
  • What postures strengthen the body, and when are they done? (beginning, middle, end).
  • What postures lengthen the body, and when are they done? (beginning, middle, end).
  • What are the counterposes, and how do they prepare the student for the end of class?
  • What are additional subtle body practices featured? How do they contribute to the Bhav of the class?
  • What is the theme for the class? List the other elements of the class that added to the theme.
  • How did you feel in your body after the class? What was your overall reaction and sensation to the sequence? 

If you want to learn more about holistic vinyasa yoga sequencing, join the Art of Sequencing in July 2022.

This training is open to yoga teachers and students interested in learning more about sequencing and is applicable for 20 Yoga Alliance Teacher Credits. 

In this 20-hour online yoga teacher training, we’ll unpack peak yoga postures, do a deep dive into Lila Flow Yoga Wave Theory sequencing, discuss themes, explore subtle body practices, and examine how and why we aim to create balance in the muscle groups and nervous system in a yoga class.

This program features the history and practice of vinyasa yoga, specifically Prana Vinyasa Flow, pioneered by Shiva Rea. This style of yoga embodies movement, chanting, music, and breath control to direct the life force/energy (Prana).

July 15th, 16th, 22nd, 23rd
Cost is $350 USD

This training is over HALF FULL. 

Join the 2-Day Sequencing Workshop!

July 22nd + 23rd

Cost is $150 USD

Embrace Mandala Yoga Sequencing

8 (More!) Classes on Practice with Clara

Firefly Vinyasa

Playful and dynamic, this sequence works with mandala flows and builds towards Compass (sundial pose) and Tittibhasana (firefly pose) as the peak postures.

Earth Mandala Hatha Yoga 

A gentle Hatha yoga class that opens with mandala namaskars to connect you to your breath and body. This class opens all sides of the pelvis while moving through a sequence inspired by Shiva Rea’s mandala namaskars. Featuring hamstring, hip, chest, and side waist lengthening to create space in the body, you’ll feel more grounded and spacious by the end of this class. 

Open and Listen Lila Flow

Open and Listen is a short Lila Flow yoga class that opens the neck, shoulders, and chest as you flow through a mandala sequence towards Ustrasana (camel pose). This class includes quad strengthening, inner thigh stretching, and chaturanga push-ups to activate the core, chest, and upper back muscles. This class opens with ujjayi pranayama and closes with Nadi Shodhana to soothe the nervous system. 

The Divine Light of Gayatri Vinyasa

Move with breath as in mandala flows that create circles from the front to the back of the mat. With lunges, warriors, balancing poses, and back bending, feel spacious and strong after class. This class opens with the mythology and mantra for Gayatri. Gayatri is another form of Saraswati, the Muse of Creation. The Gayatri Mantra is one of the oldest in India.

Softening the Grip Lila Flow 

A playful and dynamic Lila Flow yoga class features mandala circles to challenge your perspective. This class works toward Adho Mukha Vrksasana (handstand) as the peak pose. Move forward and back on your mat through lunges, warriors, and twists as you lengthen the side waist and strengthen the abdomen. This class invites you to soften the reins of control to allow the river of the breath and practice to flow through you. Pranayama opens and closes your practice.  

The Origin of Love Vinyasa 

A steady vinyasa flow class with mandala flows builds toward a peak with Sirsansana A (headstand pose).

An Offering Vinyasa 

This slow-moving mandala/circular vinyasa practice focuses on opening the inner leg line and strengthening the back of the pelvis. The peak pose is a tripod headstand.

Grief Lila Flow 

A dynamic Lila Flow class to open the hips and side body, this class creates space to move through and express grief. This class opens by shaking the arms, legs, and entire body to release stagnancy and physical tension. Move through Mandala flows to get the blood flowing and build heat before coming down to your seat for several hip openers and twists. This class asks that you connect to grief and create space through movement and breath to release what no longer serves. 

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Read the history of our 30-Day Yoga Challenges on the Practice with Clara Apps. We host three yoga challenges per year that are free for all new members.

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