Calling all yoga teachers, and teachers in training!
How do you sequence your yoga classes? What tips, tricks and tools have helped you learn to put together a class that 'flows' beautifully?
Sequencing can be a challenge for yoga teachers, especially in the beginning...I know for me it took a few years to feel totally comfortable creating new yoga sequences. When you're fresh out of teacher training, you may have one memorized sequence you're ready to use, but how do you branch out from there? What helps keep you creative and coming up with new ideas?
Putting together a cohesive, intelligent, engaging yoga class is not easy. In an effort to encourage and inspire all of my fellow yoga teachers out there, I'd love to share some awesome advice from three of my favorite teachers on how they sequence a class, memorize a flow, and create an environment for students that is supportive and fun. Enjoy!
The most authentic inspiration that I find for classes is to get on my mat and move. Some days I just allow myself to be led by my breath and intuition. Other days, I may have a specific intention/focus that I want to bring to class, so my movement is informed by this.
I’m visually minded, so once I have my game plan, I write/draw out the sequence for class. I like to use symbols, abbreviations, and little stick figure yogis. :) I keep a format that divides the various sections of class, so that it's easy to reference when teaching, if needed.
I love the way that this starts to build a catalog of classes. It is fun to look back at past classes; I will often revive, and sometimes refine, things that I've taught in the past.
In the beginning I would write almost every single transition or pose down in a linear list (took up half a page!) but now I focus on just one or two key poses or transitions that I really like and put in my basic flows around those pieces. I stop writing as much down too and just practice on my mat more WITH music. For me, music inspires my movements so getting on my mat with a great playlist is where I get inspired. From there, it's a random note-fest of transitions or poses that I must have in my class.
The biggest tip my teacher had for me in my classes she would take was "BREATHE!" I try to never skip a breathe cue. I try to emphasize fuller breaths in the middle and end of class when that can sometimes be forgotten. When I feel lost or nervous, I breathe. I also remember that some of my favorite classes was more because of the vibe and energy of the teacher and less to do with the sequences or poses.
Because I work with those with some mobility challenges, I pick a pinnacle pose and develop a sequence around the pose that doesn't require getting up and down off the floor in between poses.
So I try to think in terms of a wave. We begin seated, move upward and end on the floor again. Since my background is in dance, I find that if I do the sequence myself beforehand I can commit it to memory better. I also use tummee.com to see the visuals of my sequence and can rearrange things if it doesn't look quite like I wanted. Of course, if the class requires something else when I get there, I have a few alternates in mind.
Aren't these tips super helpful? I can't wait to try some of them when I'm putting together my next class sequence.
I'm so grateful to each of you-- Tristina, Jany and Elizabeth-- for offering all these awesome ideas on how to sequence a yoga class.
To summarize, here are some ideas for how to create a class that flows effortlessly:
- Spend time during your own practice noticing the transitions between poses.
- Keep a journal of class sequences you've taught.
- Let music inspire you.
- Choose a peak pose and work up to it.
- When you arrive to teach, remember to breathe and adapt to who's in the room.
For all you Vinyasa yogis, I also recommend checking out my post on how I memorized the Baron Baptiste sequence during my 200 hour training.
Do you have tips or tricks for sequencing? I'd love to hear in the comments below!
Photos of me in this post by Brynna Bryant of Respiro Photography, and courtesy of Tristina, Jany and Elizabeth.