How to Build a Yoga Sequence for your Yoga Class?
It’s time to recall back your memories of being a school student and remember how your teacher in class taught you the lesson of your favorite subject. Did she used play cards to teach words and alphabets, rhymes to make us learn the name of rivers or a math theorem, pipes to teach us the measurements and drawing charts to decipher the anatomy of our human body?
This means even though you have a Bachelor of Education degree in Yoga or merely holding any diploma or certificate in Yoga training, you do need a lesson plan to teach a Yoga class. Yoga, like any other subject needs a plan or Yoga flow sequence to partake a Yoga lesson to Yoga students.
Many Yoga teachers create their own Yoga sequence. Some take the help of online tool to prepare one. For a smooth Yoga class you must first know the dynamic flow of how each posture connects to one another.
According to Workout labs it’s not enough to simply shout out postures in hopes that they will fluidly move together. If you do this, you should kindly stop to prevent injury to students.
Each Yoga Style and Pose can have different Yoga Sequence
Well, to prepare a lesson plan or a sequence for a Yoga class you first need to find out which type of yoga class you want to teach. Like Vinyasa flow Yoga sequence might differ from Iyengar Yoga. Similarly, how to teach each Yoga pose might have a different sequence to follow. For an example while learning the mountain pose or Tadasana my Yoga teacher had first started the class with simple muscle strengthening exercises followed by walking on toes, moving further with raised arms and then began to teach various poses of this asana. So to teach this Tadasana with Yoga styles you have to follow different sequence.
In Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga, Tadasana is performed on the toes and is the beginning and ending asana in the Surya Namaskar sequence which is used to warm up the body and is sometimes interspersed throughout the entirety of all Ashtanga Series if performed with full Vinyasas, in addition to being a foundational pose for all standing poses. Placing the feet wider is common in Vinyasa styles of Yoga and provides a more stable base in this and other standing asanas.
The Vinyasa and Hatha sequences generally create a focus on breathing, and self-energy while targeting specific areas of the body.
In Iyengar Yoga, this Tadasana is performed with the arms that can be raised over the head or kept at the sides of the legs. So you see each yoga pose sequence depends on the type of yoga you are about to teach.
How to prepare a Yoga Sequence?
Before you begin to prepare a Yoga Sequence for your Yoga class keep in mind that if you have new students then they need a different yoga plan to start with.
Ask yourself these questions
- What is the time of the day (eg early morning vs late evening)
- Season, the months (eg summer vs winter)
- Phase of the moon we are on (eg. energy levels, women cycles)
- What is happening in the world we can relate to
- What is happening in your live we can relate to
- Any theme / yama / niyama / chakra we would like to focus on
- What is your timeframe
- Which poses are you going to offer options
- Which poses are you going to teach alignment
- Any inspiring quotes
Regular or advanced Yoga students will require different poses or options. This means you can prepare options and alternatives for your students and change according to their needs and ability.
1. Start with Centering
Remember that Yoga is a subject related to more of physical aspect and human body has to be prepared to start Yoga lessons. To give clarity to the body and to provide it a space to begin the show you need to get the body tuned by few basic actions like a short meditation or breathing exercise of inhale in and inhale out. This can be covered for at least 10 minutes for a new Yoga student. These exercises can help your students collect and concentrate their awareness.
Pranayama or working properly with your breath, is best Yoga practice to follow here or it can also be done after physical asanas. Starting class with a short breathing exercise will allow your students to cultivate awareness and presence in their body and mind. Lion’s Breath, Alternate Nostril breathing, Sama Vritti, Kapalabhati, and Ujjayi are just some of the styles of Pranayama Yoga poses you can include at any point during your sequence.
2. Warm up Postures
Then prepare students for the class and poses. Warm reduces risk of injury and is already preparing students for the peak or maja pose(s).
Teach simple exercises to warm up the body in preparation for your theme of the practice. Warming up is essential so that your body gets ready for more vigorous posture. This can be carried out for another 10-15 minutes.
3. Sun Salutations or Surya Namaskar
Watch Donna Farhi practising Surya Namaskar.
Choose a Sun Salute variation of choice (Surya Namaskar) and instruct them through 2–10 rounds.
Sun Salutes is about breathing and flow, don’t worry too much about alignment at this stage unless you see a risk of injury.
4. Standing and Balancing Poses
Now your students can feel that body is ready for the real workout. As the movement of muscles are flexible to take the different Yoga poses, you still need to teach the basics of Yoga that is balance the body by standing Yoga poses. These standing asanas may include warriors, lunges and other standing postures to create a ground balance. This can be held for full 20 minutes or so.
5. Standing Twists / Inversions / Backbends
Difficult to most of us but beneficial poses. Great for digestion and detox the body. Make sure your students are properly warmed up. Take your time to teach and instruct these poses.
6. Seating Asanas
After balancing the body also needs to know how to control the muscles and coordinate in sitting poses. Here you can then introduce few sitting asanas so that besides learning to control mind and body in a sitting position it also learns to relax when needed. You can take approximately 15 minutes performing seating asanas on what we call the Yin part of the class.
7. Pranayama / Meditation
This section is optional and may decide not to include it. Pranayama uses breath techniques and exercises to direct and expand the flow of prana in our body. Our breathing is improved, our bodies function better and we clear and calm the mind.
See also Which Pranayama Is Best For Me?
8. Corpse Pose or Savasana
You can end your class sequence by making the student finally calm itself by going back to its original state from where it began its journey that is Savasana resting posture. One a typical 60-90 mins class, please allow at least 10 minutes of Savasana to end your class.
Yoga sequences are linear in nature, meaning one asana follows another in a sequential manner. You can teach classes by starting with less challenging Yoga poses and move gradually to the more tougher ones and again return to the easy and simple ones to balance the body strain and stress without causing any discomfort to Yoga students.
Use of Audio and Visual Media
Who doesn’t make full use of audio and visual aids to teach a lesson in class? Students learn best by observing and copying what they see. As they learn by copying a Yoga teacher. But it is evident that learning is more effective when sensory experiences are stimulated. These include pictures, slides, videos and other audiovisual tools. You can create a display board and design a theme each day for the Yoga class you are going to teach on that day. Draw some Yoga postures on the whiteboard or make use of cards with Yoga poses and distribute to the students so that they can grasp the pose easily by looking and memorizing it.
Also can try power point presentations or teach them through other methods of learning or end the class with shows so as to recall them what they have learnt for the day.
The use of visual helps the Yoga teacher to present the Yoga lesson effectively so that students learn and retain the concepts better for longer duration. But remember that improper and unplanned use of these aids can have negative effect on the learning outcome. So you should be well trained through in-service training to maximize the benefits of using these aids. Your Yoga curriculum should be designed that there are options to activity based learning through this means.
Few tips to begin with Yoga Sequences
- Always include an inspirational speech or story to begin your yoga sequence in class. This will motivate the students and prepare them mentally to learn easily.
- Never make use of negative words in your Yoga sequence. Remember while teaching a yoga asana to a yoga student who doesn’t catch up according to your way of teaching doesn’t mean that you will talk negative of him and say you cant learn. You can build a separate yoga sequence for him to get him learn.
- Just because you enjoy complicated yoga sequences in your personal practice doesn’t mean you should attempt to teach this way. Note that yoga students enjoy and benefit from more straight forward sequences where they can focus on the present moment instead of trying to keep up.
- The beginners yoga class sequence should include fewer postures which are repeated more frequently so that it lets your student intuitively move from one position to the next.
- Seek advise from big yoga studio owners who already have build many types of yoga sequences and can be an inspiration for a small yoga studio owner.
- Focus a yoga pose one at a time. Center your class on that yoga pose only until the students are comfortable to move to the next sequence. By having a clear and simple yoga pose, both you and your students will be able to practice with purpose and intention.
- Carry a notebook to the class where you can jot down what you feel is missing in your yoga sequence and implement it then in the coming lesson plans. This way even you can refer back to older classes which saves time when you need to map out a new class.
- Teach what you practice first. Every teacher has to grasp the lesson first before teaching it out in a class. Understand how each of the postures and transitions feel in your own body and then you will know where to adjust your sequence to flow more fluidly. You can record your own sequences and learn from yourself.
- Don’t prepare and plan too many yoga sequence. Take one sequence and follow it according to the type of yoga you are teaching. One or two yoga sequence are enough to begin a yoga class.
- At the end of your yoga class don’t just roll up your mat and move away. But take out few minutes to discuss with your students and get feedback on what you have taught. In case any student feels discomfort in doing a yoga pose change the course of action. Feedback from Yoga students helps you create the best plan for your yoga class to progress.
- You can draw inspiration from your favorite yoga teachers and do your best to remember or imitate the sequences taught in class.
Finally have confidence in your own yoga experience and what you have learnt to teach. No yoga sequence is perfect at first because yoga is a journey to learn, practice and grow.
Once you teach your sequence, observe your students, notice their reaction, how they feel, the expression on their faces. Some teachers ask are the end of class – you can now do any pose of your choice. This is your feedback. If you see students twisting, that was missing in your sequence.