There are several movement patterns present in modern day yoga sequences that are reflective of the cultural context in which yoga originated.
A posture like Ardha Matsyendrasana is an example of this. Effectively there is the requirement for a deep squat, a comfortable cross legged sitting position, and a twist. The effect of this posture traditionally is to stimulate the abdominal organs; to create a seal, or bandha around the abdomen.
However, due to the lifestyle of individuals in a modern industrialised western nations, squatting and sitting cross legged are no longer essential activities of daily living (ADL's). Because of modern conveniences, it’s possible to get through years of one’s life without ever having to squat deeply or sit on the floor. As a result, people can effectively lose the ability to do these movements due to increases in tightness and subsequent inelasticity in the muscles around the hips and pelvis. (NB: This differs in certain modernised eastern cultures, where squat toilets are still the norm. Here, squatting is a crucial ADL, and a competent squatting movement very quickly becomes a priority!)
Enter basic traditional yoga sequences. In Light on Yoga, twists like Marichyasana and Ardha Matsyendrasana are introduced fairly early in ‘beginners’ sequencing.
In the Ashtanga primary series, an inability to squat or sit on the floor with open hips will effectively relegate one to sun salutes and standing poses, with much of the floor series remaining effectively inaccessible.
Depending on the individual, preparation poses and movements may be helpful, and these can be blended seemlessly into ones practice. A prelude or beginners series based on these functional movement patterns can subsequently represent an effective and efficient use of one's time (if one's goal is to actually address functional limitations and reduce the risk of injury or overexertion), given that the available time for doing yoga is typically curtailed for many people living busy modern lives.
Malasana variations, Utkatasana variations, Horse stance variations, and other preparatory moves found in traditional dance and martial arts can enable one to access lost range of motion and begin to move with less restriction and more grace.
Below is an example of how one might construct a short sequence with these concepts in mind. (However, any such sequences require individual prescription to address a students unique needs)
It’s helpful to look at traditional ways of moving and sitting to gain some context for the traditional sequences and the necessity for adequate preparation work (for certain individuals). Some people are naturally either open in the hips, or can naturally squat without issue; in which case the traditional sequences may be appropriate, without the need for modification. In this case, this is due to luck, rather than design, in the construction of these sequences as suitable unmodified exports into the modern world.
Indian Cobbers Sitting