29 Common Sequencing Mistakes Yoga Teachers Make
Greetings, my lovely Yogis, Yoginis, and Yoga teachers. I’m George Watts, a BWY yoga teacher and creator of the online Yoga Genie Lesson Planner.
If you’re a yoga teacher, it’s time to discover the most common yoga sequencing mistakes. I’ve created hundreds of yoga lesson plans over the past 10+ years, and have looked at 1000+ lesson plans created by yoga teachers. I love creating lesson plans because I’m aware of the significance that a well-crafted lesson plan has on the lives of my students. It’s not just a piece of paper that I take into class, it’s a way of life.
For this post, I searched through 62 yoga lesson plans that I created when starting out as a teacher, but I didn’t stop there. I also looked through 359 yoga lesson plans created by yoga teachers who use my online Yoga Genie Lesson Planner members. I then wrote about the most common mistakes.
Next up, are the 29 most common sequencing mistakes yoga teachers make.
29 Common Sequencing Mistakes Yoga Teachers Make
Here are the most common sequencing mistakes that yoga teachers make:
Mistake 1: Overlooking The Importance Of Warm-up
A proper warm-up is crucial to prepare the body for practice and prevent injuries. Teachers who skip or rush through the warm-up sequence may put their students at risk.
After polling the 1000+ members of my online Yoga Genie Lesson Planner, here are 20 poses that are commonly used as warm-ups at the beginning of a yoga class:
- Cat-Cow pose
- Child’s pose
- Downward Facing Dog pose
- Sun Salutation A
- Sun Salutation B
- Sun Salutation C
- Mountain pose
- Standing Forward Bend pose
- Extended Triangle pose
- Warrior I pose
- Warrior II pose
- Extended Side Angle pose
- Plank pose
- Cobra pose
- Upward Facing Dog pose
- Low Lunge pose
- High Lunge pose
- Squat (Garland) pose
- Chair pose
- Eagle pose
- Tree pose
These poses work to gently warm up the body, increase circulation, stretch the muscles, and prepare the mind for the practice ahead. Each pose can be held for a few breaths.
Mistake 2: Focusing Too Much On One Area Of The Body
Focusing excessively on specific parts of the body like hips or shoulders and neglecting others can result in muscle imbalances and increased risk of injury. As a yoga teacher, it is essential to create a balanced practice that targets all areas of the body, ensuring that each muscle group is adequately stretched and strengthened.
Mistake 3: Not Offering Modifications Or Variations
Every student is different, and some may need modifications or variations to accommodate their unique body limitations or injuries. Teachers who don’t offer modifications may leave some students feeling excluded or frustrated. Most new teachers are a bit scared to give modifications, but there’s no need to be.
My top tip is to go overboard in discovering as many modifications and variations for a pose as you can get your Yogic hands on. I turn it into a game. For example, when preparing for a class, I came up with 22 Modifications for a Wrist-friendly Sun Salutations A Sequence for a student that I know has wrist pain. I could have stopped at two or three modifications, but I kept my thinking cap on, and after 30 minutes I got to 22 of them. You may think that’s a lot of work, but it’s not really when you consider that you can use those modifications for the rest of your yoga teaching career. So, those 30 minutes of “thinking” would be a good investment of your time.
After writing down as many modifications as I can, I then visualise teaching them. I sit with my eyes closed and visualise myself giving all 22 modifications to students in my class.
And finally, I get on my yoga mat and practice the modifications over and over and over again.
The visualisation along with the repetitious practice of the modifications will plant them in your long-term memory.
Mistake 4: Adding Too Many Variations Or Modifications
This is the polar opposite of “mistake 3” above. Teachers who add too many modifications and variations can make it difficult for students to follow the sequence (unless “varations and modifications is your class theme), leading to confusion and chaos.
Mistake 5: Neglecting To Balance The Lesson Plan
A well-rounded yoga plan should include a mixture of strength, flexibility, and relaxation. Teachers who only focus on one aspect of the practice will leave their students feeling unfulfilled, and out of sync.
Mistake 6: Not Considering The Level Of The Students
Teachers who don’t consider the level of their students may end up teaching sequences that are too advanced or too basic. This can lead to students feeling frustrated or bored.
Mistake 7: Not Allowing Enough Time For Savasana
Savasana is an essential part of the practice that allows students to integrate the benefits of the practice and relax deeply. Teachers who cut Savasana short may deprive their students of this crucial restorative time. Give your students at least 10 minutes in Savasana.
Mistake 8: Overcomplicating The Sequencing
Teachers who try to create overly complex sequences may end up confusing their students and taking away from the essence of the practice. Simplicity is often best when it comes to sequencing.
Mistake 9: Trying To Cover Too Many Areas Of The Body
Teachers who attempt to cover too many areas of the body in one sequence can lead to students feeling overworked and overwhelmed. It’s important to balance the practice and consider the students’ energy levels.
Mistake 10: Including Complicated Transitions
Including overly complicated transitions between yoga poses can cause confusion and frustration for students, and may even lead to injury if they are not executed safely.
Smooth and rhythmic transitions are essential, and teachers should avoid sequences that require frequent changes from standing to sitting or other challenging movements that may cause discomfort or confusion. Teachers should also consider their students’ experience levels and physical abilities when designing sequences, and choose transitions that are appropriate for the class.
By creating smooth and flowing sequences, teachers can help their students stay focused and engaged in their practice, without feeling rushed or stressed.
Mistake 11: Rushing Through The Poses
When it comes to practicing yoga, it’s important to allow sufficient time for each pose to let the body settle in and find its alignment.
Teachers who rush through poses or try to fit too many into a short time frame can leave their students feeling stressed and frazzled. Rather than focusing on the quality of the poses, students may end up focusing on trying to keep up with the pace of the class.
As a teacher, it’s important to balance the number of poses with the amount of time given for each one. By allowing enough time for students to breathe and find their alignment in each pose, the practice can become more meditative and mindful. This can help students to connect with their bodies, breathe deeply, and experience the full benefits of the practice.
Mistake 12: Lack Of Clear Intention Or Focus
Without a clear intention or focus for a yoga class, students may feel like they’re just going through the motions without understanding the purpose of each pose. This can lead to a lack of engagement and leave students feeling unfulfilled.
It’s important for teachers to set a clear intention or theme for each class, which can be based on a peak pose, chakra, or even a philosophical yoga concept. Having a clear intention allows teachers to guide their sequencing and cueing, giving students a better understanding of the purpose of each pose and how it fits into the larger picture of the practice.
By setting a clear intention, teachers can also create a more cohesive and meaningful experience for their students, helping them to connect with the practice on a deeper level.
Mistake 13: Failing To Add Proper Alignment Cues
It’s important for teachers to offer proper alignment cues in order to prevent students from practicing poses incorrectly and potentially causing injury or ineffective practice. Even experienced teachers can benefit from studying other teachers’ cues to improve their own instruction.
For example, a teacher might watch multiple videos of a particular pose and take notes on the cues used by each teacher. They can then select the cues they find most effective and incorporate them into their own teaching. This approach allows for continuous learning and improvement, and ensures that students receive the best possible instruction.
Proper alignment cues not only enhance the safety and effectiveness of a practice, but also help students deepen their understanding of the pose and their body, leading to a more rewarding and fulfilling practice.
Mistake 14: Too Much Sanskrit
Teachers who use too much Sanskrit or complicated yoga terminology can make it difficult for students to follow and understand, leading to confusion.
If you’re using a lot of Sanskrit in a beginner to intermediate class you are subconsciously trying to impress your students with your vast knowledge. I used to be guilty of that, but now the only Sanskrit I use in my classes is Savasana (only because students already know it by that name) unless one of the objectives of the class is to teach Sanskrit for the poses.
Mistake 15: Teach Poses That Are Too Advanced
If you teach mainly beginners and intermediate students, then you shouldn’t be teaching Down Dog Split pose, because it’s an advanced pose for advanced students.
The truth is that you’re probably subconsciously adding complicated poses to a class to impress your students with your amazing skill when demonstrating the pose. The reality is that the students will know you’re showing off, and won’t consider that to be very y0gic.
Mistake 16: Always Teaching One Style Of Yoga
Even if you did a Hatha yoga teaching course, you can sprinkle some poses into a sequence from other styles of yoga such as Kundalini or Yin yoga.
Mistake 17: Never Using The Wall
The walls at your teaching venue are “props” that you should use sometimes (e.g. Legs Up Wall pose).
Mistake 18: Never Using The Chairs
Most yoga venues have lots of chairs stacked up. Those chairs are valuable “props” that you should use sometimes (e.g. Chair Blast-offs pose).
Mistake 19: Neglecting To Include Counterposes
Teachers who don’t include counterposes can leave students feeling imbalanced and potentially cause injury. You don’t need a counter pose after every pose (that’s overkill). If you create a balanced class of side bends, back bends, forward bends, and balance poses the counterposes will be built into the plan without you having to give much thought to it.
Mistake 20: Focusing Too Much On Alignment
Teachers who focus too much on alignment can leave students feeling self-conscious and potentially cause them to neglect the inner experience of the practice. There is a sweet spot – not too much alignment and not too little. You’ll know when you’ve got it right because you’ll notice more smiles in your class.
Mistake 21: Not Creating A Gradual Progression
Teachers who don’t create a gradual progression in their sequences can leave students feeling unbalanced and anxious (and can potentially cause injury).
Mistake 22: Using Music
I personally don’t think music should be used in a yoga class because it will turn your class into an exercise class, and yoga is so much more than that. If, however, you feel compelled to add music use soft, background music with no lyrics.
Mistake23: Overusing Props
Using props in yoga practice can be beneficial, but relying on them too much can hinder a student’s progress.
When teachers overuse props, it can create a dependency on them, which can limit a student’s ability to develop strength, balance, and flexibility. However, not using props at all can also be problematic for some students, who may struggle with certain poses due to physical limitations. Therefore, finding a balance between using props appropriately and encouraging students to work on building their strength and flexibility is essential.
As a teacher, it’s important to assess each student’s individual needs and offer modifications that will help them progress in their practice while avoiding excessive reliance on props. By doing so, students can develop a deeper understanding of their own bodies and build a strong foundation for their yoga practice.
Mistake 24: Ignoring The Breath
Excluding breathwork from a yoga sequence can make students feel disconnected from the meditative aspect of the practice. Yoga is incomplete without incorporating breath awareness. Without mindful attention to the breath, yoga poses can become generic exercises lacking the holistic benefits of the practice. It’s essential for teachers to emphasize the importance of breathwork to create a comprehensive and meaningful yoga experience for their students.
Yoga teachers use three main techniques to get their students to focus on “the breath” during a class:
Focus On The Breath Technique 1: Start the class with a breathing exercise or pranayama, which helps to bring awareness to the breath.
Focus On The Breath Technique 2: During the practice, teachers may also cue the students to breathe deeply and to match the movements with the breath.
Focus On The Breath Technique 3: Teachers may also use verbal cues to encourage the students to focus on the breath, such as “breathe deeply,” “inhale,” “exhale,” or “let your breath guide you.”
Here are 20 ways yoga teachers use to guide students to focus on their breath during a yoga class:
- “Take a deep breath in and out.”
- “Draw a long inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth.”
- “Inhale and expand the chest, exhale and release the tension.”
- “Breathe in, breathe out, let it go.”
- “Inhale deeply and let the breath carry you into the pose.”
- “Exhale with a sigh and release any stress or tension.”
- “Breathe into the belly, expanding on the inhale and releasing on the exhale.”
- “Take a few deep breaths, filling up the lungs and emptying them completely.”
- “Allow the breath to be slow and steady, like ocean waves.”
- “Breathe through any discomfort or challenges in the pose.”
- “Inhale and lift, exhale and deepen the stretch.”
- “Breathe into the back body, expanding the ribcage with each inhale.”
- “Exhale with sound, like the breath of fire.”
- “Inhale and visualize the breath as a healing energy.”
- “Exhale and release any negative thoughts or emotions.”
- “Breathe in gratitude, exhale negativity.”
- “Inhale and find length, exhale and release tension.”
- “Breathe into any areas of tightness or tension in the body.”
- “Exhale and let go of any distractions or worries.”
- “Inhale and create space, exhale and let go of what no longer serves you.”
Mistake 25: Not Offering Enough Adjustments
Insufficient adjustments from teachers can make students feel unsupported and unsure during their yoga practice.
It is crucial for instructors to provide adjustments and guidance to help students deepen their practice and prevent injury. While teaching a class, instructors should aim to offer adjustments whenever necessary, rather than solely demonstrating poses. This creates a supportive and beneficial environment for students.
Mistake 26: Failing To Create A Safe & Comfortable Space
Teachers who don’t create a safe and comfortable space can create an unwelcoming environment for their students.
For a welcoming and safe yoga environment, prioritize cleanliness and decor by using soft lighting, calming colours, and natural elements. Providing high-quality yoga equipment, greeting your students, and encouraging questions foster open communication.
Additionally, avoid language or actions that exclude any group and prioritize safety by keeping the space hazard-free and informing students of potential risks.
Lastly, create an environment of mutual respect and kindness to encourage self-respect and respect for others.
Mistake 27: Not Having A Sequencing Formula
Teachers who have to reinvent the wheel every time they create a lesson plan are at a very high risk of burning out and quitting teaching. It’s important to have a sequencing formula that you stick to most of the time. With the online Yoga Genie Lesson Planner you can click a button to copy a lesson plan (with your formula) and edit it which makes sure you’re not reinventing the wheel.
Mistake 28: Failing To Build Up To The Peak Pose Without Proper Preparatory Poses
When a complex pose is introduced too quickly without proper preparation, it can be overwhelming and intimidating for students, leading to frustration or even injury.
For example, attempting a headstand without first building up the strength and alignment in the shoulders and core can be dangerous and ineffective.
To avoid this mistake, it’s important to include preparatory poses that help to build strength, flexibility, and proper alignment. These preparatory poses should be accessible to all levels of students and gradually build towards the more complex pose. The online Yoga Genie Lesson Planner provides several preparatory poses for each of the 3000+ yoga poses.
Mistake 29: Not Using My Online Yoga Lesson Planner
Hmmm, okay, you got me. Mistake number “29” was a bit of a self-serving one for me to add to the list. But, I really do believe that it is a mistake not to use a yoga lesson planning tool like my online Yoga Genie Lesson Planner. It will save you time and give you access to thousands of yoga poses, breathing exercises, mudras, and mantras. You can draw yoga poses on paper, and use the Lesson Planner – it’s not a case of needing to choose one method over the other.
Next up, is my conclusion.
In conclusion, sequencing in yoga is a responsibility that should not be taken lightly by a teacher.
It requires intention, attention, and compassion towards the individual needs and abilities of each student. By being aware of common sequencing mistakes, teachers can strive to avoid them and create safe and effective classes for their students. Although avoiding all mistakes may not always be possible, being familiar with these mistakes can help teachers to recognize and correct them quickly.
With dedication, practice, and a commitment to ongoing learning, teachers can develop strong sequencing skills and provide their students with a transformative and fulfilling yoga practice.
Hey, you might like this article I wrote called: 21 Yoga Poses For Your Spine: 101 Ways To Improve Spinal Health.
And oh yes, I almost forgot…
My free Yoga Pose Directory has over 3000 yoga poses. So, as a yoga teacher, you’ve got instant access to lots of new poses, pranayama, mudras, meditations, mantras, and guided relaxations.
If you like creating yoga class themes, like this one, you’ll want to look at my blog post 101 Perfect Poses For A Peak Pose-Themed Yoga Lesson Plan.
If you want to streamline your yoga lesson planning process, check out my online Yoga Genie Lesson Planner.
And if you’ve read all the way down to here, you might as well get your paws on 37 of my free Yoga lesson plans.
Get Your Yogic Hands On 37 Of My Free Yoga Lesson Plans
Below are 37 free downloadable yoga lesson plans that I’ve created for my own yoga classes using the Online Yoga Genie Lesson Planner. Feel free to use them for your own yoga classes, or as inspiration to come up with your own yoga class themes.