10 Steps To Uncover Your Yoga Sequencing Formula
Yoga sequencing is a dark art for most yoga teachers. Even experienced yoga teachers struggle with the question: “What comes next?” So, my intention for this post is to reveal the steps I took when coming up with my yoga sequence formula.
Inner Voice Recorder
Don’t get distracted by your inner voice. Have faith in your yoga lesson plan. If someone invented an inner voice recorder and placed it inside the brain of a yoga teacher, you’d probably hear a conversation like this going on…
“Should I change the sequence from last week in case my students get bored?”
“Is it best to keep the same sequence every week like in a Bikram or Baptiste yoga class?”
“Would I scare some students away if I added a mudra or chant and when in my class is the best time to add mudras or chants?”
“Would I scare some students away if I added some partner yoga and when in my class is the best time to add partner yoga?”
“Would I scare some students away if I added pranayama and when in my class is the best time to add pranayama?”
“Should I add breathing exercises at the beginning, middle or end of a class?”
“What can I give my advanced students to do during this pose?”
“What modifications can I give beginners (or students with injuries) in this pose?”
“How long should I let the students spend in each pose?”
No Perfect Way
The only way to stop the dreaded inner voice recorder from replaying the same old questions is to understand in your bones that there is no perfect yoga class.
There are over 100,000 of us (yoga teachers) worldwide and each one of us has our own unique way of a teaching a yoga class. The only right way is “your way”.
Yoga Teacher Training
How you go about sequencing a yoga class will very much depend on which organisation trained you.
Baptiste Yoga | Same sequence every week
Bikram Yoga | Same sequence every week
British Wheel Of Yoga | Change up lesson plan each week (or every 6 weeks)
Yoga Alliance | Change up lesson plan each week (or every 6 weeks)
My Sequencing Formula
I trained with the British Wheel Of Yoga (governing body of yoga in the UK).
It was a tough 200 hour, 2 year training course that tested and pushed every trainee teacher. I’ve spoken to many yoga teachers over the years and I’ve yet to come across one yoga teacher who took the course who wasn’t surprised by how hard the training was. And we spent a lot of time on “sequencing” and “lesson planning”.
The BWY lesson planning formula was to create a lesson plan and use it for 6 weeks, and repeat that process. Some students would change up the lesson plan on a weekly basis, but they were generally either full time teachers or retired (and had amble extra time). When I first started out teaching, I used to burn the midnight oil to write a brand new lesson plan each week. Within a year of teaching I discovered my students actually preferred sticking with “one lesson plan over 6 weeks“.
My formula is: “one lesson plan every 6 weeks“.
But, you may opt for a different formula due to your personality and training.
A Type Personality
How often you change your lesson plan will depend on your training and your personality type.
Most yoga teachers are motivated, high achievers. Really, they are. Think about it. You probably did a 200 hour yoga course while juggling a job and raising a couple of kids. That’s pretty darn impressive!
If you’re an over achieving A type personality, you won’t be able to resist spending lots of time creating a brand new lesson plan each week. And the lesson plan from week to week will often be dramatically different. You will think that this “extra work” makes you a better teacher. But unfortunately that’s not how the Universe operates.
Sometimes less is more.
That’s a hard pill for an “A Type Personality” to swallow because they derive their sense of worth from busyness.
One Change A Week
If you think you’re an “A Type Personality”, and like creating a different lesson plan each week, my advice is to only change one thing each week. It will not only take the pressure off you, but it will make the classes far more enjoyable for your students. Think about it.
Students want to learn.
And how do you get a “student”, whether it’s a yoga student or math student, to learn?
Repetition. Repetition. Repetition.
Repetition is the mother of all skill.
If you don’t give your yoga students enough “repetition” each week, it’s impossible for them to learn the sequence. Consider reigning in your compelling need to change, change, change and remember that sometimes less change equals more learning.
Repetition is the mother of all skill. Constant change is the mother of all inability. You’ve heard “muscle memory”. I used to be a professional golfer and had to repeat a swing change thousands of times before it set into my memory. My coach would give me one simple golf drill to work on and that was the only thing I was allowed to focus on for weeks. We didn’t progress to anything else until that “golf drill” had literally been drilled into me.
Repetition is the secret of success in all walks of life.
Whatever you want to get good at needs repetition, and that’s the same for your yoga students’ progress on their sticky mat.
Once your students have the muscle memory of the sequence, they are able to take their practice to a deeper level. When they stop their thinking brain and use their muscle memory, they have a chance to explore each pose on a deeper level, like a well rehearsed actor knowing all their cues and lines back to front.
If an actor has to think about their lines, their performance would be wooden and not very enjoyable for the audience (or the actor).
It’s the same with a “yoga sequence” that hasn’t been well rehearsed – the sequence will be wooden. There will be no flow. With a well rehearsed sequence, the student will be able to feel and connect from their hearts. And their over-active puppy brain will not get a chance to fill them with doubt or distraction. A well rehearsed sequence lets the student go from doing to being. They will be set free to be fully in the moment.
Connect With Students
When you teach a yoga sequence over several weeks it allows you to be more in tune with each student in your class.
As the weeks go by you’ll be able to:
- Track individual student progress
- Observe individual students more closely
- Make adjustments to those who need it
- Give modifications for students with injuries
- Offer tougher alternatives for advanced students
- Offer easier alternatives for beginners
- Teach more from the heart using yoga imagery
- Give students a yoga class handout of the sequence
Your Class Formula
Below is a traditional yoga class formula. Use it as a guide to create your own formula. Spend a few minutes right now editing the formula below to create one that suits your personality. Having your own yoga class formula will save you countless hours, unleash your creativity and make teaching more enjoyable.
- Notices (upcoming classes, retreats, etc)
- Handouts (give a handout based on what they are learning – e.g. Sun Salutations)
- Centring (awareness of breath)
- Warm up
- Static Postures & Rests (yin)
- Sequences (yang)
Your Sequence Formula
Now you have editing the 12 part class formula to suit your personality, let’s take a closer look no. 7 of the 12 part formula (sequences). This is where a lot of yoga teachers get confused and stressed. Here is the traditional sequence for postures. It’s not set in stone. You may have a different formula.
- Warm ups
- Side Bends
- Back Bends
- Forward Bends
My sequencing formula changes every now and then (approximately once a year). As I evolve as a teacher, my formula evolves with me.
Here’s my formula…
- Warm ups
- Side Bends
- Back Bends
- Forward Bends
- Surprise (e.g. Yoga For Backs, Partner Yoga, Chair Yoga, Laughter Yoga)
- Mudra or Mantra
The surprise section is where I add nontraditional elements into my classes. I also have a mudras or mantras section. When my students are sitting down it’s the perfect opportunity to practice mudras and mantras.
Within the Yoga Genie Lesson Planner are the following categories:
- Ashtanga Yoga
- Bolster Yoga
- Chair Yoga
- Laugher Yoga
- Partner Yoga
- Seated & Floor Poses
- Standing Poses
These categories will help you to quickly and easily create professional yoga lesson plans.
Get something to write with (computer or notepad) and spend a few minutes writing down your own formula. Use the formula above as a framework for your own. The important part is to be aware of your formula when planning your sequences. If you want to create yoga lesson plans in minutes, take a look at the Yoga Teacher Lesson Plan Kit.
Yoga Teacher Lesson Plan Kit
If you’re a yoga teacher and are looking for a way to save time with your yoga lesson planning, take a quick peek at my Yoga Teacher Lesson Plan Kit.