Yoga Hero: Teachers Podcast – Episode 17

A complete guide to sequencing yoga classes

17: Go from ‘Oh goodness, what am i going to teach?!’ to ‘I know what I’ll teach and I can’t wait!’

This episode is a complete guide to sequencing yoga classes; taking you from not having a clue what you’ll teach, to knowing exactly what you’ll teach, how you’ll keep it flexible and respond to who’s in the room and how you can teach it again and again, keeping it fresh each time!

We’ll start with the intention for the class, which absolutely underpins everything about the class, We then move methodically through the sections of the class, keeping them focused and flexible, before ensuring that the class itself, and the class plan, work perfectly for you.

This episode is accompanied by our ‘A complete guide to sequencing yoga classes workbook’ – download yours to plan your classes fully and efficiently!

Download your A Complete Guide to Sequencing Yoga Classes Workbook

As always, we would love to know what you think of the Yoga Hero: Teachers Podcast, do leave an honest review if you can, or drop us a message @yogahero_teachers

Listen to ‘A complete guide to sequencing yoga classes’ where you get your podcasts:

Thank you, and happy listening!

Previous Episodes of Yoga Hero: Teachers Podcast

Episode 16: Do you need to teach a new yoga sequence each week?

Episode 15: Introducing yoga philosophy in to your asana classes

A Complete to Sequencing Yoga Classes – Transcript

This episode is a complete guide to sequencing yoga classes!

A guide to take you from not having a clue what you’ll teach, to knowing exactly what you’ll teach, how you’ll keep it flexible and respond to who’s in the room and how you can change it up, update it and and teach it again and again, and again keeping it fresh!

There are a bazillion different approaches to sequencing, and one day we’ll talk about them, but that day isn’t today. Today, is taking you from ‘Oh goodness, what am I going to teach?’, to ‘I know what I’ll teach and I can’t wait!’.

So this is where we’re off to:
We start with the intention, the aim, the goal, the motivation, the theme, the focus; whatever you want to call it. This will underpin everything that you choose to do, and to not do in that class, so that’s where we start.

We then set up sections; like arriving, meditation, pranayama, warm up, main flow or mid-section, cool down, ending sequence, meditation, pranayama, savasana, intention setting etc. You might use all of these, you might use none of these, they will be personal to you, your teaching and your intention, but rather than immediately planning what asanas to teach, it’s necessary to take a step back and wider view and think overall about what you’ll do and what will lead in to what. This will also include mini-aims for the section. eg:
Arriving aim: help people draw a line under their day so far and be present
Warm up: prepare the body for the main flow

Then, we take each section, and fill it in, ensuring that what you’re putting in is working toward the mini aim of the section and the overall theme of the class.
Once the sections are filled out, it’s time to practice, make any notes, change anything that doesn’t feel quite right.

Then, it’s time for us to focus on making it usable. In the time that I’ve lead teacher trainings and had the studio, I’ve seen teachers with full essays detailing every asana and every transition, I’ve seen individual languages emerge as asana names are compressed in to one or two letters! I’ve seen stick people…. so many different, great ideas. You have to think about what YOU need. Will you be likely to lose your place? If so, you want to keep it short and just a reminder. Will you worry you’ll forget such and such a transition that you know you definitely want to include? Maybe you highlight it. Will you be able to understand your own stick people? etc etc. There is no one right way to note down a sequence, it has to work for you!

Also in our make it usable section, we’ll talk about how to make your sequence fit the time you have for the class and the yogis that you have in front of you.
Then, you’ll sit with it. Do you feel excited to teach it? Are there parts that you’re worried you’ll forget, or get wrong? Is there one sequence that’s too long and you’re worried you’ll mess it up? This podcast is about helping yoga teachers teach with passion, so let’s make this a sequence that you’re beyond passionate about! Sit with ti, visualise it, teach yourself it, whatever you need, but make sure that each part makes sense to you and feels right to you.

And lastly, once the aims, and sections are clear, and it’s usable, you’ll return to your intention. What else will this class achieve? In our last episode I talked about how to ‘re-use’ sequences, let’s say you’ve created a sequence working up to Natarajasana – Dancer balance. One week, you could teach this sequence through the lens of stretching the hip flexors , front torso and shoulders and preparing the body for the backbending aspect of dancer.  The next time you teach it, you could approach it through the lens of heart opening, then the next time you teach it, you approach it from a de-desking point of view.

Let’s go!

Setting your intention

…your theme, your focus, whatever you want to call it.

In my humble view, there’s no wrong intention, no wrong theme. I think when you set a theme or intention that you’re passionate about, it shows and people get inspired by that. Here’s some ideas for class intention of theme setting – and some of these we mentioned briefly in episode 16:

  • the calendar; e.g. lunar events, world health days, the day of the week e.g. beat the Monday slump or a happy Friyay class
  • a body part; such as heart opening, happy hips, shoulder strength, core, hamstrings or even a hands-free class for sore wrists
  • a population; such as desk workers, runners, 60 going on 40, crossfitters, climbers, worriers, parents. For this, you could have a think if there’s some characteristics that some or most of your yogis have in common and purposefully create classes for them
  • a particular pose, usually when we think about sequencing up to a pose, we think about picking a complicated, challenging asana, but that doesn’t necessarily need to be the case. You could sequence up to Adho Mukha Svanasana, Downward facing dog; or Uttitha Parsvakonasana, Extended side angel, for example. When thinking about the intention of using a peak pose, you can join this up with a calendar based class or a population based class. For example, if you were teaching yoga for runners, you could sequence up to hanumanasana; splits, which would help to target the areas that most runners need.
  • a philosophical theme, we talked about this in episode 15, about introducing philosophy in to your classes, and soon we’ll look at practical tips to weave philosophy in to your lasses, so for now, if this comes easily to you and your passionate about it, great. go for it. and if not, then, it’s just going to be present in your classes fir now which is absolutely fine!
  • energetic state, how do you want to make people feel? Ready for bed / energised, calm, inspired, confident, the list goes on.

Ok so hopefully that’s got your cogs turning about setting the tone, the intention for your class, and like i said before, this really underpins everything else, so, pretty sensible place to start.

The sections

Now, to set up your sections.

The sections that you do or don’t include will depend on your intention, of course, also the length of the class, the style or styles of yoga that you’re teaching and what you feel comfortable teaching. If teaching pranayama fills you with dread, then you won’t teach it. Actually you might like to look at our Hatha, Pranayama and meditation course that we have on in October with Hali Schwartz, that would definitely get you passion about teaching pranayama.

Have a think about, or note down, the sections that you’ll have in your class. I would say most classes start with arriving, then a warm up, then a main flow or main section, then a cool down, maybe some pranayama, ,maybe some seated meditation then of course, savasana. So, write down the sections you want to include. And if you want my advice, keep it simple. I’ve known so many yoga teachers overcomplicate things in a bid to make it unique or really enjoyable by the yogis, but remember they’re there for you, and to be taught yoga, you don’t have to make it majorly creative and complicated, you can let the practice do the work. Especially if you’re a newer teacher. Creativity comes with experience and confidence. If in doubt, keep it simple.

Have you noted down or had a think about your sections? This is not set in stone either. As you start to fill them out it might be that something is missing, ok no problem, make any edits you need then! You also might want to note down a ballpark how long each section is, to make sure that your sequencing doesn’t end up way longer or way shorter than the class time.

Fill in the sections

Once your sections are  in place, let’s fill out each section. You might start at the beginning… or if you’re sequencing up to a peak pose, you might start with the main flow! There’s no one right way to do this.

Bear in mind what will make sense to you in the moment; we mentioned this before; stick people / shortened names, bullet points, highlighted asanas, full written out instructions – what works for you?

You might like to do this on your yoga mat, get in to an asana, see how it feels; where does your body want to go next? then where?
On our teacher training courses, we look at planning the sequence itself in sections too; so if you’re taking longer to get through your sequence than you thought, you can take out a section of the flow, it’ll still be a well-rounded and balanced class, just shorter. You’re not risking missing out the second side, you’re not risking diving in to savasana straight from downward dog, you’ve got it covered. Running over on time? There’s the bit you can take out of the flow and you’re back on schedule.

Once you’ve finished this part of our guide, you’ve got your sequence ready to go, in a way that serves you. All your asanas, your pranayama techniques, any meditation, is all there in the sections; a complete class ready to go, that works up to you overall aim!

So, now, it’s time to make it usable!
If you’ve planned a 60 minute class, and tomorrow there’s an opportunity for you to cover a class but it’s only 45 minutes long, is there a section you can take out to achieve that? Or maybe there’s a part of a section, or two parts across two sections or a section of the main flow like we talked about before? Or what is the cover class is 75 minutes long, where’s the flexibility in your class plan to extend something, or repeat a bit, so you’re not having to think about adding something new.
What if you remember the whole first half of your class, then your mind goes blank, how will you quickly find the right bit of your class plan? Top tip: remember no one’s looking at you when they’re in downward dog child’s pose, so you can get your yogis there and then find out where you are!
If you class plan is super energising and quite challenging, and everyone mopes in to the studio, they’re all yawning and knackered, what then? Can you easily extend or repeat your first sections, and take a chunk out of the challenging part? What if you have a total yoga newbie in your class? We’ll talk soon about teaching total yoga newbies, but how can your class plan adapt to that?

Ok, so with all those bases covered, a flexible adaptable class plan, you’re really nearly, ready to go!

So, do you feel ready? Do you feel excited? At this point, you might move through the entire sequence again, or leave it a day and do it tomorrow with a fresh view on it. You might visualise or practice teaching it. How does it feel? What’s clunky? Are there any bits that for some reason just don’t quite feel right? What’s hard for you to explain in the moment? Make any edits and changes that you need, make it sequence that you love to practice, and love to teach!

Ok – now you’re ready, inspired and chomping at the bit to teach your class. Amazing!

Now that you’ve put all that work in, you’ll want to make this a class that you can teach time and time again and make sure it feels fresh every time. Think about how you felt when you moved through your class? Think who this class would be really suitable for? What time of the day, or week, or month or year would suit the class? Note down the alternative aims and intentions at the top of your workbook, now it’s ready for you to teach as often as you want.

Well done!