Teaching yoga is not an easy job. Providing a thoughtful, intelligent and meaningful yoga class for your students will take years to master, and yet, this is exactly what makes the craft of our work so fulfilling. The intricacy of leading an effective class for your students will forever evolve as you evolve. There is so much to discuss about how to create incredible yoga sequences for your students. I drilled it down to five simple tips to keep you grounded and growing as you teach.
#1 Get Specific
Sequencing is really easy when you know where you are headed. Before you show up, make sure you know exactly what you want to teach that day. Be specific: is it a pose? Is it a movement that happens in the body during the pose? Is it a region of the body? Is it an energetic or philosophical theme? Ask yourself: if my students could walk away learning ONE thing from my class today, what will it be? And let your sequence communicate for you.
If you arrive in the studio and ask your students, “So, what do you want to do today?” You might get one student who wants backbending and another who wants arm balancing. These two posture groups do not work well together or feel good together, and now you are tasked to do both.
Be assertive and trust yourself to decide where exactly you are headed as a class. You are the teacher, so step into that role! Moreover, if you take the time before class to think about what you want to teach, you can find a collection of postures, quotes or music that directly complements what you are teaching.
#2 Stay Focused
Make each pose happen on purpose in your sequence. Are you starting the class in child’s pose? Why? Is that directly related to what you are hoping your students will learn that day? Focus your energy specifically and intentionally on what you are teaching.
This is the fun part about creating yoga sequences: you have a variety of awesome postures, transitions, themes and philosophy to guide the students deeper into themselves. If you stay focused and engaged, you have the opportunity to enhance the lives of your students!
When you take the time to know the function behind the poses you are using, and most importantly, why you are arranging poses in this way, your classes will be rich, connective and intentional.
#3 Balance It Out
Balance in a yoga class is such an art, especially for powerful vinyasa classes. Be sure that you are spending just as much time strengthening the backside of the body as the front side of the body. And, take the time to stretch the (often overused) chest, shoulders, hip flexors and quads.
Spend artful and intentional time in grounded and seated postures, as these are mirror postures to our standing poses, and they are important poses for slowing down. As teachers, we can facilitate humble, quiet, introspection. This balances out the go-go-go energy our students encounter every day.
Don’t skimp on savasana, as this is a potent and relevant posture. Savasana is the pose where the body heals and the meditation is practiced. Hold this important space for your students.
#4 Adapt to the Room
Teaching a multilevel room is really tough! Give yourself a big hug and know that you are not alone if you find this difficult. So, maybe you came with a plan to teach one-legged-crow pose, and you look around and see your students are struggling with chaturanga and virabhadrasana II. What do you do?
Well, you don’t teach one-legged-crow. You keep generally the same sequence, yet make it easier and move slower through the poses. Teach students what they don’t know—try not to be attached to your peak posture. Then, you can instead teach a simpler pose that they must master to achieve the more difficult posture (in this case, chaturanga or regular crow would be a good fit).
If you come into the room and your students are doing handstands to warm up, well then you have the opposite problem! Keep your same sequence and your same destination, just add in more challenging transitions and variations through side planks, balancing postures, inversions and binds.
#5 Reconnect to your “Why”
At the end of the day, the best yoga sequences are ones that reflect your heart, your intellect, and your creativity. Why do you teach yoga? Reconnecting to your purpose will help when teaching gets difficult and you are feeling lost. Share your why with your students, as it will most likely resonate with everyone in the room.
To learn more about creating yoga sequences, please join me for upcoming workshops or retreats! Also, the art of teaching yoga is a focus of my upcoming 200 hour yoga alliance certified program: The Craft of Teaching Yoga. In this program, we will take in the yoga scene in its entirety and learn how to teach creative and intelligent vinyasa flow yoga.
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