This blog post is one in a series of articles all month long on the topic of Sequencing To The Individual hosted by Kate over at You & the Yoga Mat. Many awesome yoga experts are contributing to the blog tour throughout the month. Be sure to check out Emily Loupe’s post from yesterday and check out Gabriel Azoulay’s post tomorrow, too. Want to get all the #sequencingblogtour posts? Use the hashtag #sequencingblogtour on Instagram.
In my first online yoga anatomy course, I run through how to create a yoga sequence for the hip flexor muscles. Creating sequences for classes is something that teachers typically enjoy but without a system for doing it, it can create stress and require a good amount of preparation.
I like to head into classes for the week with a theme in mind. I teach it in my first class on Monday and then use it in the rest of my classes that week. It doesn’t stay exactly the same from class to class but it gives me something to focus on each week. I usually write an accompanying blog post on the related anatomy so students can refer to that after taking class if they wish to see the muscle images and read a bit more about it.
You can think of creating a theme for class like an outline and can work to fill in each section. The first thing is to think of your theme. I teach all my classes with an anatomical focus so developing any class of mine starts with picking the anatomical theme. It could be related to a specific muscle, like the quadriceps or a pair of muscles, like the quads and the hamstrings. It might relate to an action, like hip flexion or a pair of actions, like hip internal and external rotation.
Once I select the anatomical theme, I decide on the different sections of the practice and think about how I can bring these actions into the different sections. I also keep an open mind as to ways I can reinforce the actions outside of the poses; for instance, if I was teaching a class on “twisting,” I might use a number of twisting poses but might have students come into Chair Pose and have them place their hands together at their heart and simply twist from side to side multiple times.
I also keep an open mind as to how to begin the class (in what poses), how to piece together the sequence and how to end. I was originally trained with a very specific sequence in mind and things always had to be in specific order. I have made very intentional changes in my teaching now to place things in an order that reinforces the theme of the class.
While I spend much of the class focused on the anatomy, I might look for a related theme that speaks more to the mind or the heart. I might also just pick an accompanying theme and weave that in, even if it has no true connection to the anatomical theme. In either case, I always try to leave space for silence as well as some space for laughter (!) and a few words of inspiration; things that have buoyed me up over the years of practice or things that have warmed my heart.
Here’s a quick template for you as to how to build a sequence:
- Pick an anatomical theme
- Decide how you want to start the students (the first few poses). Be specific and intentional about how these few starting postures and movements will reinforce the theme
- Decide what you can share with the students about the involved anatomy either before class or as they are in the first few poses. It might involve showing them something on your body or someone else’s before you start or might be something you have them do while they’re in the first few postures
- Write out the 3 or 4 (or more) chunks of poses you will teach. The number of sections to the sequence will vary depending on how long the class will be. Also, keep in mind that you don’t always have to start with Sun Salutations. I like to start with Warrior 2 most of the time instead of Warrior 1 because it tends to be more accessible to students to open their hips to the side instead of trying to center them. Whatever you decide, write them down but keep an open mind as to what will happen when you arrive in class. This is just a basic structure
- As you move through writing the sequence, you could refer to online or book resources that illustrate poses and look for poses that emphasize the key action of your theme. Also look for ways to add in some creative movements, as mentioned above
- If you have a theme that speaks to you, add that in. If you can think of a theme that would relate to the anatomy involved, you could use that too. One of the common themes I use is working to create a sense of balance in the body, through focus, breath and awareness. You can speak to this in many different ways and can also bring it into class literally when you present balancing poses.
Once you write down the sequence, it’s helpful to practice it yourself so you can get a sense of how it flows. Once you try it out, use it for a few days or weeks so you can really make it part of your offering. Leave space for silence and leave space for the unknown. If you find yourself overwhelmed or you forget what comes next, go back to a section of a sequence you know well and jump back in when you’re ready.
As with all things, always be yourself and share from the heart!