5 Tips for Yoga Sequencing
When I was a new yoga teacher, I had a lot on my mind: alignment, instruction, room temperature, offering modifications, building connection with my students, to name a few. In addition, I had the sequence to consider. From class to class, should I vary the sequence? Would my students be bored if I did the same thing every time they came to class? Would more advanced students stop coming if I stuck to the same general sequence? How would my students grow without my introduction of more challenging poses?
These were all the things (and more) I considered as I began teaching. In my training as a Baptiste Certified Teacher, I was always encouraged to stick to the same sequence. I’ll admit; as a new teacher, there were more times than not that I strayed. I’d go to a class and be inspired by someone else’s variation or I loved working on hips and the idea of inserting a hip sequence was attractive to me.
This is one of the challenges of teaching yoga. We get pulled into some of the same mind games that our students do. In order to keep it interesting, we sometimes think we need to switch things up. But to help our students grow, build muscle memory, get stronger and connect to the more meditative aspect of yoga, it’s helpful to stick to a similar sequence from class to class.
Here are some related thoughts on the topic:
1. A similar sequence from class to class gives you one less thing to worry about: As a new teacher, there’s a lot to consider plus, there are all the things you’ve not thought of that will come up. For instance, there’s the student who asks a question mid-class or the student who’s injured and needs lot of help. These “unknowns” become so much easier to manage when you don’t have to also think about what pose you’ll present next.
2. Sticking to a regular sequence helps your students build strength and flexibility: Changing sequences often can make it harder for your students to build up their strength and flexibility. By staying with the same general movements, you help them get more solid in their feet, more proficient in the poses and start to stretch a bit more. This gets harder to do when you’re changing the sequence from class to class.
3. A regular sequence helps your students become more efficient in their practice: “Efficiency” is an interesting word to use when describing a yoga practice but think about it this way: as a new student, you’re unfamiliar with alignment. You’re constantly moving your hands and feet in the pose to find the right position for your body. As you move, you’re expending energy and this can tire a new student out faster than a more practiced yogi. As you become more adept in the practice, your hands and feet land in the right spot (for you) and you’re able to move in a more efficient way. This preserves your energy so you can sustain yourself longer, without tiring. This becomes harder if the sequence changes from class to class.
4. Regular sequencing helps students (and you as teacher) connect to the meditative aspect of yoga: You’ve all heard the concept that yoga is a “moving meditation.” As we bring students through the postures, we encourage them to slowly disconnect from their “thinking” mind and connect to the present moment. We also try to do the same thing as teachers so we can really see our students, give them the help that would be most meaningful in the moment and share from our hearts. This is harder to do for both parties if we’re constantly thinking about what to offer next.
5. Regular sequencing gives you the space to be yourself, speak from the heart and inspire: Not every class is going to be one where you share a meaningful theme or story. In fact, for many classes, you may stick to the basics of alignment, breath and offering silence as a way to help students connect to their bodies. But regardless if you teach a class from an “essential language” perspective or share more from the heart, it’s aided by your commitment to sticking to a regular sequence. This will help you shine through more, will give your students a chance to experience you as a teacher and help them connect more to their own bodies.
Please understand that with many guidelines for yoga teaching, they are just guidelines. They’re meant to provide general structure but you, as the teacher, based on your experience, may stray from these guidelines from time to time. You’ll do this less so, when you have less experience and will feel more confident doing it more as you gain more.
There may still be times you stick to the essentials; as an experienced teacher this might be your technique for beginners classes or you may use it as an aid when you’re tired or distracted in your own life and you need something to ground you. Or you may use essential sequencing as a technique when you’re teaching a group with whom you’re unfamiliar. This becomes one of your tools along the path to gaining more experience and proficiency as a teacher. As always, teach to what you see and have the courage to be yourself.