As a group of students committed to sharing the experience of learning yoga, we have spent a lot of time discussing the importance of time in regards to our practices -- how often to practice and for how long, how many seconds or minutes or breaths any particular pose should be held, how long it may take to "master" some pose(s), how many weeks is it appropriate to devote to some sequence, etc. Right timing is an ongoing part of Yoga. And this post will present even more ideas on timings.
We are currently in the process of learning the new poses which constitute Weeks 14 & 15. We are not yet ready to experience that sequence in its entirety, and that's OK. We stepped away from the sequence completely for two weeks in order to introduce the components of Salamba Sirsasana I (Supported Headstand First Variation), and I have been very pleased overall. I am witnessing good choices being made, and the integrity in the room is palpable!
There are several new asanas left to learn, and I am going to insist that we learn them well before moving on. It will absolutely be worth the time and effort. In the meantime, however, I do not want us to lose our familiarity with the sequence as we've gotten to know it thus far. I want to focus on continuing to master what we already know while also incorporating all that is new. With that in mind, we practiced a "Sort've Week Fourteen" sequence today (09/21): we followed its order as prescribed, but omitted the poses we have not yet learned. From my perspective, it went rather well.
The "Sort've Week Fourteen" Sequence Part 1:
Opening meditation and Warm-up. Consider giving yourself time for a brief (5 minutes) warm-up which can include Cat/Cow variations, Surya Namaskar variations, and/or poses which specifically target the areas which you know are inhibiting your Sirsasana. Or start immediately with Sirsasana.
Salamba Sirsasana I
Virabhadrasana I, II, & III
Prasarita Padottanasana I & II
Urdhva Prasarita Padasana (UPPs)
Salamba Sarvangasana I
Ujjayi Pranayama with inhalation retention in Savasana
If the form of any of these poses still needs attention, then continue to focus on that. If the form has been well-established, then shift your focus to something more subtle, such as the steadiness of the breath, smooth transitions in and out, the interrelationships between poses, and/or extending your stay.
In regards to how long poses should be held: the standing poses each range from 20-60 seconds. Sixty seconds is longer than you think, and if you have never experimented with holding each of the standing poses for that long, I recommend it. It is deceptively challenging, but informative and valuable. If Full Boat pose is accessible to you, try adding some time to it -- 30 seconds is good in the beginning, but build up toward a full minute or a little more. Similarly, Half Boat should eventually grow from its initial 15 seconds to 30-60. However, remember that increasing the amount of time you spend in these poses (in any pose for that matter) should be done in response to your having improved its form. By that I mean, if you are still in a preparatory, or less-than-full-form variation of the pose, then your attention should be more on its physical components and less on its longevity. The suggestion of adding more time to the poses is only applicable if the form is well-established.
We added some time to Shoulderstand today. Everyone maintained good posture for at least five minutes, and a few for as long as seven. We will be comfortable with ten minutes before you know it! If your Plow Pose has good form and is comfortable in its current state, it can also be held longer; as much as five minutes. But like anything else, build up to that gradually in, say, 30 second increments. The other variations of Shoulderstand (Karnapidasana and Ekapada, for now) are typically not held very long -- 15 seconds at first, and up to a minute with proper experience. Also, keep in mind that along with proper form, another prerequisite to adding time to a pose is proper breath. An ability to maintain consistent Ujjayi is imperative. Focus on form, focus on breath, and your practice will grow organically.
Om Kala Vide Namaha (Om Kah-lah Vee-deh Nah-mah-hah) Om and salutations to the knower of the right (or proper) time.