How To Create A Really Great Yoga Sequence
I just returned from a service trip in Africa where I was surprised and beyond delighted to see that, because of the presence of the Africa Yoga Project in Kenya for the last six years, yoga is truly everywhere in that beautiful country.
One afternoon I hosted a community class and more than 300 yogis (many of whom were already certified in Power Yoga), showed up with their mats. Looking out at all of those curious and passionate new faces was a stunning site. And as I began to walk around the room and teach the class, I realized immediately that I was just as curious about their practice as they were about mine.
Curiosity is what keeps us all inspired, teachers and students.
So I taught them my signature sequences, the OMG pose, Shiva and Rainbow Warrior, which they picked up so quickly and beautifully it felt like the pose had truly fallen, in a spirit dive, from the sky.
What I was really teaching was a 90-minute class from 25 years of my own practice.
It can take a lifetime to learn how to teach.
When it comes to creating and teaching a really good yoga sequence, my most enthusiastic and loving advice is nothing more than this: stay on your mat. Freedom comes from discipline, so if you can commit to the practice and go to your mat every single day, you'll be gifted with more sequencing ideas then you will know what do with in a lifetime.
You also must learn to stay curious and have fun. This is the heart of good sequencing. Of course, it’s also super helpful to have a guide or teacher (someone who has rolled out his or her mat consistently for years) to be a resource for inspiration and support on your journey.
My teachers did that for me. I always felt as if they tagged me and said you’re it … and now I'm here to tag you. YOU ARE IT!
Here are 5 VIP tips for good sequencing:
1. Teach from your own practice, daily.
Start your practice around the same time each day. I find that early morning is best, but find a time that works for you and commit to it. Your mat is your laboratory for learning, listening, and creating.
2. Build your practice from the ground up.
Like a baby must learn to crawl before walking, when setting up a sequence, I always tell my students to literally move from the ground up. Start with poses that open and engage the lower chakras and work your way on up. Students should leave your class with their crown chakras (the mind) feeling open and free.
3. Trust your breath. It's your PRANA!
Try focusing on your breath before you focus on the actual pose. Your breath will create freedom and reveal the different shapes from moment to moment. Instead of forcing your body into a pose that you think "should" come next, remember that the shapes are a gift and a way to open the body and free your mind. You are creating art with your body and it's every new moment.
When the prana, or breath, flows freely through the body, it will align each pose in your sequence like connective tissue, energetically and spiritually. Your breath creates space for creation, it creates room for the pose and then links them together in a sequence … in a dance. Set up your practice so that you can align with your inner yogi dancer and lover!
4. Be patient.
Stay on your mat. Don't answer your phone, change the laundry or answer the door. You and your mat are here to explore. If you need help getting pumped up to STAY in your practice, start by creating some playful "mini" flows. Experiment with a warrior pose sequence and then repeat it over and over and over. Each time come at it in fresh ways.
Or turn on your fave tunes and let the music inspire and inform the movement, like you're actually creating the music with your body. Or stand on one leg in as many variations as your leg can handle: tree pose to eagle pose to OMG to dancing shiva to warrior three … they are all connected by the breath.
5. Keep it very simple.
It can be really easy to over-complicate a sequence and spend too much time thinking or worrying about what might feel good to every person in your class. I tell my students to keep it simple. If it feels good in your body, it will almost always feel good in other bodies. You can only teach what YOU KNOW to be true.
And what we we all know to be true is this: a really good savasana can only come from a really good sequence.
So KEEP CREATING and share what you discover. This is the "divine job" or dharma of the yoga teacher.
Now go on. Get to your mat so you can tag somebody else!