July 11, 2012

Vinyasa Yoga Sequence: Cresting the Wave. ~ Tracy Johnson

There are days when I walk into class with a well planned, purposeful sequence of asanas.

Then there are days when I walk into class with no plan but I feel tuned in—completely connected—and a sequence comes through me as if Divine Light is pouring through me and I am merely a channel for something infinitely graceful.

And there are the other days.

For those days when I find myself standing at the front of the room wondering just what the f!#% I’m going to do for the next hour, I keep this sequence in my mental back pocket and pull it out as needed. I’ve been using this sequence for so long that I don’t remember what inspired it but it’s always been a favorite among my students.

Cresting the Wave is meditation in motion. The postures are basic. The sequence builds upon itself, starting at the same place and adding a single posture each time, then rolling back down the postures in reverse order to the starting point.

The primary focus is to bring equal attention to the transitions and space between the poses as to the poses themselves. To achieve this I do a bit of explaining before class begins, and then try to keep verbal cueing to a minimum during class. I establish a rhythm with my voice and it becomes part of the moving meditation.

Use your own voice but here are a few of the points I might hit before diving in:

>>Have you ever arrived at your destination and realized you were oblivious to the journey there? Do we do this in yoga, seek the poses but lose focus between them? Bring attention to how you flow into and out of the poses.

>>Today, be mindful of the space between the poses. Notice what happens to move your foot forward, to raise your arm. Minimize unnecessary movement.

>>The breath comes first. Breathe and let your body ride on the breath like a surfer riding on a wave. Try to give yourself just enough time to reach the pose so the flow remains continuous, no pauses except in the final pose of each set.

>>If the pace I set doesn’t work for you find an internal rhythm that does. Make it smooth, strong and steady. Each set ends in a held posture. This is our opportunity to reconnect as a group and also your opportunity to explore options or variations of the pose.

>>If you feel comfortable closing your eyes I invite you to explore Antara Drishti, directing your gaze inward toward the third eye.

Physically the sequence is good for increasing circulation and improving mind/body connection. The first half builds up a decent amount of heat while the almost continuous flow of heightening waves pumps blood, lymph and prana through the body. Energetically it is a balancing practice.

The standing poses move prana through vyana vayu, distributing the prana and removing energy blockages throughout the body. The second half consists of 3 longer waves which build in intensity and move Prana up from the root to the heart or throat chakras and then back down, incorporating prana, samana, udana and apana vayus.

Teachers Note: This may be an especially challenging class for your Pitta students (aka: intensity seekers, boundary pushers). The challenge for them comes in the lack of “super bendy look what I can do” poses. Those who are always looking for more have an especially hard time being here, now. When you see them slipping away gently guide them back to the purpose of the class. Remind them that the real challenge is to remain present in each moment, to fully embrace and feel the subtleties of each transition and posture. Dare them to remain present.

Teachers, I highly recommend that you do the sequence yourself and become comfortable with it before attempting to teach it.

Read the following legal stuff before you go further:  

Not all exercise is suitable for everyone. This or any exercise program may result in injury. Consult with your doctor before use. Yoga instructors teaching this sequence to students should have comprehensive yoga training and liability insurance. To reduce the risk of injury, never force or strain yourself or your students during exercise. If you feel pain, stop and seek medical attention if necessary.

This sequence may not be appropriate during pregnancy. Any instructor teaching yoga to pregnant women should have specialized training in Prenatal Yoga and should provide appropriate modifications for contraindicated poses. Those with special health considerations should consult their medical practitioner before performing any exercise.

elephantjournal, Yoga in the Valley/Tracy Johnson cannot guarantee that this yoga program is suitable and safe for every individual. Any liability, loss or damage in connection with the use of the following yoga sequence, including but not limited to any liability, loss or damage arising from the performance of the exercises demonstrated here is expressly disclaimed.

Cresting the Wave

 Warmup:  (hold each pose 5-10 breaths)

>>Balasana (child’s pose)

>>Marjaryasana/Bitilasana (cat/cow 5-10x)

>>Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward facing dog)

>>Uttanasana var. – feet wider than hips, knees soft, hold opposite elbows, gentle sway from side to side (standing forward bend variation)

>>Tadasana (mountain pose)


Surya Namaskara A (3-5x)


Surya Namaskara B/ Standing Poses: (6 sets)

Begin each set with Surya Namaskara B, using the step to Vira. 1 as your transition into the standing poses. Hold the last pose in the set for 3-5 breaths, then reverse the set and flow your way back to Vira 1. Vinayasa & repeat on the other side.  Finish each set in Tadasana.

Another option to simplify or save time is to eliminate the Surya Namaskar between sets. You could just do a vinyasa to Adho Mukha Svanasana or go straight to Adho Mukha Svanasana instead.


↑ indicates inhalation

↓ indicates exhalation


  1. ↑Virabadrasana 1
  2. ↑Vira. 1—↓Virabadrasana 2
  3. ↑Vira. 1—↓Vira. 2—↑Viparita Virabadrasana
  4. ↑Vira. 1—↓Vira. 2—↑Viparita Vira.—↓Utthita Parsvakonasana
  5. ↑Vira. 1—↓Vira. 2—↑Viparita Vira.—↓Utthita Parsva.—↑Utthita Trikonasana
  6. ↑Vira. 1—↓Vira. 2—↑Viparita Vira.—↓Utthita Parsva.—↑Utthita Trik.—↓Ardha Chandrasana


See Video for demo of 6th set.

Disclaimer: This is not one of those super hot young yoginis in her bedroom practicing in her underwear type video clips. If that is what you are looking for you will be sorely disappointed by fully clothed, middle-aged mom practicing in a yoga studio. 

Hold the following poses in each wave for 5-10 breaths each. To maintain the focus on flow and connection be mindful of transitions. Move with the breath.

1st Wave:


>Dolphin Pose


>Balasana with side stretch (right & left)

>Setu Bandha Sarvangasana

>Ardha Apanasana


2nd Wave:

>Balasana Var. right & left (one arm extended, palm down, stretch chest—also known as 1/4 Down Dog)

>Salamba Sirsasana (opt. repeat Dolphin)


>Parivrtta Anjaneyasana—Ardha Matsyendrasana (do both on same side before changing sides)


>Parivrtta Balasana (R&L)


3rd Wave: (for a beginning or lower intensity class omit this section)


>Anahata Chakra Asana (like down dog but with knees down, reach chest toward the floor

>Pincha Mayurasana Prep (like Dolphin but with hands apart, forearms parallel)


>Ardha Mastsyendrasana (R&L)

>Urdhva Dhanurasana

>Ardha Apanasana—Supta Padungasthasana—Jatara Parivartanasana




>Savasana (resting pose)


Please comment and let me know your feedback on this practice or others I have posted. I take requests. Are there themes or poses you would like to see a sequence for? Let me know and I’ll see what I can do. Namaste.

Tracy Johnson is a yogateacher-dancermartialartist-mom-wife-dreamer-lizardkeeper-animallover-chef-amongotherthings in Hudson, WI. You can try to keep up with the wanderings of her thoughts and ideas at www.yogainthevalley.blogspot.com, www.homeschoolhudson.blogspot.com and www.nonightshades.blogspot.com.


Editor: Mel Squarey

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