Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Yoga Teacher Training and Memorizing the Baptiste Flow

Photo by @the_lost_coast.

A few years ago, I completed my first yoga teacher training to become a vinyasa yoga 200 hour certified teacher. As part of my training, I memorized the Baron Baptiste vinyasa flow. This series of sun salutations followed by a variety of basic Hatha postures can serve as a great basic foundation for teaching a 60-75 minute yoga class.  

Photo via Pinterest.

For all of you yoga teachers out there, you know the challenge of learning a flow. You’ve got to repeat it over and over until it’s second nature. There’s a lot to think about: remembering the sequencing, staying in tune with the breath, reading the energy levels of students, and staying on track with the timing of the overall class. Early on in this process, it's helpful to focus on the basics— knowing the order of the poses and the basic cues for getting students in and out of the poses safely.

Since there’s not a lot of info online about methods for memorizing a flow, I wanted to share what’s been working for me lately. Please feel free to add your thoughts in the comments, too!  
Photo by @the_lost_coast.

How to Memorize a Yoga Flow
On Your Own
Read it. I look over my outline of the poses frequently. It helps to get an in-depth guide by referring to Baron Baptiste’s Journey Into Power, and it’s also great to have a bare-bones outline simply for memorizing the order of the poses.

Write it down. Especially if you are a kinetic/ visual learner, it’s helpful to write out the order of the flow yourself. Put things into your own words. Add colors, highlights or symbols as a way of reminding yourself of the details. Make a chart or create a diagram that will jog your memory.

Group postures into sections. In the Baptiste flow, the class is organized into segments which correspond to the type of energy you’re generating in the body. For example, Sun A and Sun B salutations are followed by a vigorous series of postures referred to as “Vitality.” As you’re getting started, focus on the bigger picture: how each segment of class leads into the next. Consider the peak / high point of class when students are exerting the most energy, and how you want to build them up to that point, and then cool them down afterward.
Photo by @the_lost_coast.

Feel the flow in your own body. I’ve found perhaps the easiest way to memorize the flow is to practice it on my mat repeatedly, to the point where my body knows what’s coming next without me having to consciously think about it. Once I have this body memory established, I can access it while I teach. Even a simple arm movement or twist can serve as a reminder for where to take students next.

Speak the flow out loud as you practice it on your mat. If you’re going to use the above point as a way of memorizing, consider adding an additional level of depth: actually speak as you move through the postures. This will help you develop physical strength, both in your voice and your breath, as well as solidify the flow in your mind.

Photo by Brynna Bryant of Respiro Photography.

Speak the flow out loud driving to and from work, or during a road trip. This has been my most effective method so far! Every morning and evening during my commute, I commit to practice teaching in my car. I like to chant to some kirtan music first in order to find my focus (lately it’s Ganesha Sharanam and Kali Bolo with Jai Uttal, whose voice inspires me every time!). Then I settle in and go through section by section, or jump in midway through the class and do, for example, only the “Balancing” series, or just Sun A through Vitality. Depending on where I feel I need more work, I can focus in on different sections or specific postures and practice those over and over.

Be patient. Practice ahimsa with yourself, speaking only kind words, accepting and loving yourself no matter what happens. Thank yourself for working through fear and discomfort. Apply what you know about being on your mat to your teaching: practice, and all is coming.

Photo by Brynna Bryant of Respiro Photography.

With Others
Practice teach with a partner. Getting together with fellow teacher trainees to do one-on-one teaching has really boosted my confidence. I find that I’m most comfortable in a small setting where I feel less pressure to perform, and where there’s not too much attention on me. When I’m working directly with a student, I’m also able to learn more quickly how well my words are being communicated and whether they make sense or not. Watching a student closely can also give me hints about better ways to cue alignment, and how to get my pacing on track to accommodate for much time it takes to transition between postures. Small group settings have helped me integrate my identity as a teacher, and really step into my voice with assurance and assertion. 

If you're in a training, make plans with your fellow teachers and create a mini-class! You can teach round robin style where you each have a part and you switch from person to person. Also feel free to invite friends and family over for a full class. This will be helpful so you can start to learn to link together the different sections of the flow and create a more cohesive experience for students.
Photo by Jobi Otso.

Practice teach in front of a large group. While getting together in small groups was a great way for me to practice teach, it was also important for me to step outside of my comfort zone and teach in front of larger groups. Standing in front of a large group has been perhaps the most insightful experience of teaching, and it’s because it’s the hardest. I get nervous and have to make a very conscious effort to ground down, stand in my feet, find confidence in my words, and just generally relax. Patience and presence are key for teaching in front of a large group, and for me, the experience becomes more rewarding the more I detach from the outcome and am able to be kind with myself about any hiccups along the way. 

Notice your body language and where you stand in the room. Puff your chest up, and let your shoulders rest down your back. Be confident. Allow yourself to be seen by your students. They're grateful to have you!

When you forget, keep going. More often than not, your students will hardly notice that you missed a halfway lift or asked them to twist in the wrong direction during crescent lunge—unless your voice shows it. However much attention you give to your “mess up” is how much attention your students will give it. Be assuring and confident with your energy; others feed off of that. And honestly, there’s no need to apologize! Saying “I’m sorry” while you’re in the middle of leading class is distracting. Instead, just keep going! You know what you’re doing, and if you get confused, your students will show you the next posture. Or, if worse comes to worse, let them rest in child’s pose! Give yourself a moment to gather your thoughts. Trust your ability to be spontaneous and allow yourself to breeze through mistakes. 

 Photo by Jobi Otso.

Other Ideas to Try
Record the flow and listen to it. By recording your own voice, you’ll pick up on patterns in your speech, intonation and pacing. You can see if you’re repeating certain words too frequently, or perhaps forgetting certain cues. Listening to a recording by your favorite teacher can also be a great way to emulate what you like about their methods in class. And again, solid repetition of the flow helps ingrain it into your head.

Create flashcards and eventually use them to bring in variety in your flow. I have a plan to make a flashcard for each posture in the series. As I’m building my foundation, I’ll flip through them in the exact order of Baron’s flow. As I become more comfortable playing with sequencing, I’ll re-order them differently and see what unique progressions make sense and work well.

Photo by Justin Kral.

Do you have experience with memorizing a flow? Or are you familiar with the Baptiste series? I’d love your thoughts on how you mastered it! Feel free to leave comments below.

PS Wondering what the Baptiste flow is? Here’s the whole sequence for your reference.

Photo via Pinterest.

The Baron Baptiste Vinyasa Flow
*Note: sun salutations can be repeated 3-5 times. For each of the series starting at Balancing (Equanimity), 2-4 poses are taught for a 60-minute class.

Integration Series: Presence
· Child’s pose
· Downward facing dog
· Rag doll
· Mountain pose
· 3 OMs


Sun Salutation A: Awakening
· Arms up
· Forward fold
· Halfway lift
· High plank
· Low plank or all the way to the ground
· Cobra or upward facing dog
· Downward dog

Sun Salutation B: Awakening
· Chair 
· Forward fold
· Halfway lift
· High plank
· Low plank
· Updog
· Downdog
· Warrior I (right foot forward)
· Chaturanga
· Updog
· Downdog 
· Warrior I (left foot forward)
· Chaturanga
· Updog
· Downdog
· 3-Legged dog (right foot up)
· Flip dog
· Downdog
· 3-Legged dog (left foot up)
· Flip dog
· Downdog
· High plank, heels together
· Side plank (right side)
· High plank
· Side plank (left side)
· Vinyasa flow

Warrior Series: Vitality
· Sun Salutation B
· Crescent lunge
· Revolving crescent lunge (twist)
· Warrior II
· Extended side angle (with half or full bind)
· Vinyasa
· (Repeat on other side)
· Chair twist
· Fingers to toes forward fold
· Palms to toes forward fold (Gorilla)
· Crow


Balancing Series: Equanimity
· Eagle
· Standing leg raise
· Airplane
· Half moon
· Dancer’s
· Tree


Triangle Series: Grounding
· Sun Salutation B (Warrior II)
· Triangle
· Proserita
· Pyramid
· Revolved triangle


Backbends: Igniting
· Locust
· Floor bow
· Upward facing dog
· Camel
· Bridge
· Wheel

Core: Stability
· Scissor legs and 60/30 lift
· Abdominal twists (bicycle)
· Boat

Hip Openers: Opening

· Half pigeon
· Double pigeon
· Frog

· Supta baddha konasana
· Happy baby

Release
· Seated single leg extension
· Seated forward bend
· Table top
· Fish

Rejuvenation
· Shoulder stand (headstand or handstand optional)
· Plow
· Deaf man’s pose
· Fish

Final Rest
· Supine twist
· Butterfly
· Savasana


Thanks for reading such a lengthy post! All the best with your yoga teacher training :)

16 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for this! I'm about to do my TT with the Africa Yoga Project in two weeks time - I've not done Baptiste yoga (and haven't managed to get the Journey into Power book yet as I live in Uganda) so this is really helpful!

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  2. Thank you for writing this. Your suggestions are very helpful. I've been having a hard time memorizing a set sequence for a vinyassa class. And it made me not feel alone that I'm not the only one who has to work hard to get it down. Thank you for that.

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  3. I love yoga! I always feel so alive and present after each class

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  4. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post! I've been doing the very same thing with a Baptiste flow taught by an excellent yogi at BBY. I'm glad to see that I'm not alone in the desire to break an asana down into the modular sections based on timing and types of poses.

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  5. Hi! I just recently obtained my 100 hou training cert in power yoga, finishing up the last 100 soon. I love your tips on remembering the flow! I had to learn the entire baptiste flow as well - i find it super helpful when coming up with sequences for my classes, as I can use one or 2 segments for the class (balancing, hip openers, etc). I learned by reading his book, writing down the entire sequence with all the benefits of the poses, then typing up the entire sequence. I then practiced on my own, going through the flow to learn it. I used that printed out guide and practiced on friends until I knew the sequence! Now, memorizing classes I put together are so.much.easier. once you have a good base, repetition and experience are key. and patience! Thank you so much for sharing!

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  6. I visit this page at least once a week. I am in a Baptiste training currently and I am teaching my first class in one hour. Thank you for all of the suggestions and for breaking down the series so well. Namaste.

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  7. I attend a Baptiste Yoga STudio and I love it.
    Question: Why are these poses done so much and why is it I am ALWAYS so uncomfortable in them, not matter how much I do it?
    "Fingers to toes forward fold
    · Palms to toes forward fold (Gorilla)"

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    Replies
    1. Hi Stephanie! Thanks for your comment. My first recommendation for your forward folds is to bend your knees. You can stretch your hamstrings with bent knees as well as straight legs, so feel free to put a deep bend in your knees! Let your neck release, no strain in the muscles in your neck. Bring weight into your toes. It's also very important to keep breathing! Where do you usually experience discomfort? Please feel free to email me at aliveinthefire at gmail dot com and we can discuss further too :) Namaste!

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  8. Thank you for taking the time to write and share your experiences...this has been helpful and encouraging information as I embark on teacher training.

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  9. interesting piece of information, I had come to know about your web-page from my friend pramod, jaipur,i have read atleast eight posts of yours by now, and let me tell you, your blog gives the best and the most interesting information. This is just the kind of information that i had been looking for, i'm already your rss reader now and i would regularly watch out for the new posts, once again hats off to you! Thanks a million once again, Regards Regards devops training in hyderabad

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  10. Just what I needed to hear. Teaching my first Private Yoga session today after taking an almost 2 year break from teaching shortly after acquiring my 200hr Power Vinyasa Cert. This will help me sleep tonight. :) Lovey your blog! Thank you!

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  11. Thank you so much for this! I'm currently working towards the completion of my 200hr Power Yoga Teacher Certification and preparing for my first (practicum) class this coming weekend. Before reading this post, I certainly feel like I'm going through this blindly. Glad to know that I'm doing the same things you suggested so now I feel that I am not alone in struggling memorization haha

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  12. Great great post. I'm going to try to memorize this - you inspired me!

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