Saturday, April 23, 2005

Sequence and Intention



Huh? What's this?

The first line is the response I get when I type "yoga" in the search box at

"WordCount™ is an artistic experiment in the way we use language. It presents the 86,800 most frequently used English words, ranked in order of commonness."

Play with it. It's fun.

The word "yoga" is number 18,879 on the list. "Asana" isn't in the database. "Pose" is 6,640.

"Pain" is 1,402. And "bliss" is 13,185.

"Enlightenment" is 11,113, right next to "insolvency."

"Stretching" comes in at 6,183 while "aerobics" hits the chart at 15,329.

"Workout" sits at 30,379, right next to "clydesdale" and "unicorn". That must mean something.

I know scads of people who work out; only a small fraction of them do yoga. But the word "yoga" is used more than "workout"--by a long shot. Maybe it means we work out a lot, but we hardly talk about it. Or maybe it means that English speakers want to do yoga, so they talk about it a lot.

The creators of the web site say:
"Observing closely ranked words tells us a great deal about our culture. For instance, “God” is one word from “began”, two words from “start”, and six words from “war”. " "As ever, the more one explores, the more is revealed."
Seems obvious to me that one of the things we do as human beings is look for and create meaning. We design. We intend.

Here's the big yoga tip for the day: To make your yoga practice more meaningful, pay attention to sequence. Create an intention and order your poses to reflect that intention.

This is not rocket science.

You can begin by experimenting with a few principles that are easily stated:
1) I'm going to practice easier poses before harder ones.
2) Whenever I do headstand I will always follow it sometime later with shoulder stand.
3) Seated forward bends seem easier if I do twistings first.
4) I finish each practice with a quiet, restful relaxation.
5) I follow an intense back bending practice with poses that release the muscles in my back.

These principles are not prescriptive. I'm giving them as examples of how you can organize your practice.

As you practice more, you'll get a feel for principles you want to apply from time to time, or all the time.

Look in yoga books at pose sequences the authors provide. It's great fun, and rewarding too, to try to figure out why the author put some poses in but left others out of a pose sequence. Just why does she suggest practicing downward facing dog pose (adho mukha svanasana) before full arm balance (adho mukha vrksasana)?

Don't just read about it. Get up. Experience it. Experience yoga!

Kevin Perry

p.s., One great way to sequence poses is to group poses with similar actions and structures together. Similarities in structure and action are often revealed by the Sanskrit names of the yoga poses. We show you how to group similar poses together, by name, in the Experience Sanskrit workshop. Our next Experience Sanskrit workshop will be held in St. Louis, in June at the St. Louis YogaSource. See you there.

p.p.s., I almost forgot this. What does the second row of words above mean? also has a function called QueryCount. It displays the freqency with which web site visitors query the system looking for the position of a particular word. The first dozen words are basically unprintable. But "Jesus" was right up there at 14 when I looked last. If you're the voting sort, you might want to go to and search on "yoga" a bunch of times. Maybe it'll move up from its current rank on the QueryCount of 1,356.

Copyright 2005. All rights reserved by Mo Yoga LLC.


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