The Art of Sequencing: Asana Modifications – Book Review
Sthira sukham asanam – Sutra 2.46, Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
In the first chapter of The Art of Sequencing – Asana Modifications – Volume III, yoga teacher Melina Meza evokes Sutra 2.46 from the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali as one of her guiding principles in conceiving the book. From the Sanskrit, sthira means “steadiness” sukha means “ease,” and asana means “seat.” In essence, Sutra 2.46 translates as, “the seated posture should be steady and comfortable.”
According to Meza, “this verse about asana conveys the importance of being in touch with mind and body when doing a yoga postures practice. Having steadiness and ease, intelligence and right alignment, is the key to tasting the fruit of your practice as well as preventing injury or harm.”
Meza, who has been teaching yoga for more than 20 years, has created a lovely book that will benefit anyone working toward that delicate balance between steadiness and ease in asana. For those seeking to expand their knowledge and understanding of sequencing, it will be an invaluable resource.
The volume is overflowing with beautiful photographs of asana modifications. Meza uses the wall, chairs, blocks, bolsters, straps, and blankets to create unique versions of each pose.
As a yoga teacher who works extensively with students one-on-one who deal with a variety of physical issues, I found much of the book enriching and enlightening, and discovered many new variations to offer my students. I spent many hours with the book and my collection of props close at hand, exploring Meza’s suggestions and growing excited each time I discovered a new way of experiencing a pose I’d practiced and taught hundreds of times.
The visual element of the book is exceptional. There are hundreds of beautiful photos, taken by Le Mellow. Most pages of the book contain anywhere from five to twelve of these simple and clear pictures. Each one depicts Meza demonstrating a modified asana.
While the illustrations are excellent, I’d like to see more verbal explanation. The text is limited to a one-page biography of Meza, a laudatory foreword written by Baxter Bell, MD, a short introduction, and one explanatory page prefacing each of three chapters. Aside from these pages, the only other text consists of briefly worded captions beneath each photo.
In the first chapter, “Asana Modifications,” Meza offers modified versions of 63 yoga poses. Each page consists of the name of the asana in Sanskrit and English, a large photo of the essential pose, and anywhere from four to six small photos of adaptations of the pose. The captions underneath each of the small photos either explain the purpose of the modification or describe a key action of the body in the modified pose.
In this first chapter, I appreciate the brevity of Meza’s comments below the photos. A few words are usually sufficient to transmit the intention of the modification, with the photos providing a very clear visual representation.
In the two subsequent chapters, “Peak Poses” and “Therapeutic Yoga,” the lack of explanatory text feels lacking. In “Peak Poses,” Meza lays out 12 class plans, each of which revolves around an intermediate or advanced asana. Each plan includes several pages of photos, with the aforementioned captions below each one, but with a small difference: the captions now include only the name of the pose and a short instruction for performing it. I found myself wanting more explanation from Meza as to why she included each asana as a preparation for the peak pose.
The “Therapeutic Yoga” chapter presents the same issue. In this final chapter, Meza focuses on 10 therapeutic themes, such as back care, core strength, and shoulder and neck care. As in the prior chapter, Meza lays out each sequence with little explanation as to why these poses would be appropriate for someone dealing with the theme at hand.
Perhaps Meza made a conscious choice to limit her written explanations in order to encourage students to explore the poses and sequences on their own and discover for themselves the impact and import of each modification. In my own experience of working with the book, that was an excellent choice for the first chapter. A more articulate approach for the second and third chapters would have been helpful.
Nevertheless, I highly recommend this book for yoga students and teachers interested in a deeper understanding of asana as a personal practice. In her introduction, Meza stated her intention for the book: “May this book serve as a map to guide you into new territories of your body, to allow you a richer inner journey, and to inspire you to learn modifications so that yoga can be your companion for life.” She has succeeded admirably in fulfilling this intention.
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Christine Malossi, RYT is based in New York City, where she offers a mindful, alignment-focused Vinyasa practice that cultivates balance, awareness and equanimity. In addition to teaching private clients and group classes at studios throughout Manhattan, she also teaches at the Spencer Cox Center for Health at Mount Sinai Hospital’s Institute for Advanced Medicine whereshe designs a practice specifically tailored to patients diagnosed with HIV and other chronic illnesses. Christine is honored to be teaching yoga and to have the opportunity to pass on to others the joy and freedom that she has found in her own practice. Find her at www.christinemalossi.com