When you’re a brand new certified yoga teacher, chances are that you can’t wait to start teaching. You’re ready to pull out all the stops and teach some badass, feel-good yoga classes. You sit down to plan your sequences and come up… blank. Thoughts rush through your head: Will my students like this? Is this pose perhaps too difficult? Do all these poses flow well enough? Is this even a good flow? Is it simple enough? Is it too simple? Sound familiar? Well, we’ve got some tips.
We all want to kick off our first class with an amazing flow – first impressions last, after all. Well, as with all things in life, less is always more. Especially when you’re first starting out. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try and get creative. By all means, go for it, but know that there will be many more classes in which you can explore a variety of things.
1) Decide what you want to teach your students
When planning your yoga sequence, Do You Yoga suggests that the first thing you do is decide what the learning objective for the class is. Thus, what do you want your students to achieve during and at the end of the class? What do you want them to learn? Choose a theme or mantra for the class – here you can totally get creative. As soon as you have a vision for what you want to achieve, creating the flow to get there will already be much easier. Also, keep in mind what you’d like your students to take with them off their mats.
2) Choose a peak pose
It’s hard to create a flow if you don’t know where it’s going – you need a point of focus, a pose you’re moving towards. For every sequence you teach, choose a peak pose, and try to tie it to your mantra for the class. When choosing the peak pose, keep in mind what level your students are at. Always have modifications ready for students whose bodies are not yet ready to move into the pose. This way, everyone in the class will feel like they achieved something at the end.
If, for example, you choose King Dancer (Natarajasana) as your peak pose, you will dissect it, looking at the muscle groups that are at work. Focus on the areas that need to be warmed up in order to get into the pose safely. In this case, it will be the quads, the hamstrings, the back, and the shoulders. Choose poses that will warm up these muscles. Then look at poses that mimic the peak pose, which in this case will be Mermaid Pose and “normal” Dancer Pose. Add some heart openers to your Sun Salutations and Crescent Lunges. Throw in a Flip Dog here and there. Do Cowface Pose to warm up the shoulders for the final pose, and let your students spend some decent time in pigeon to loosen up the hamstrings.
As soon as you start to focus on the muscles you need to warm up and what the body is doing in the pose, the options for a sequence become practically endless.
3) Practice the sequence yourself
Once you have your sequence all put together, you might think you’re all set. Nope, you’re not. Guess what? You need to practice it before you teach it. Of course, as times goes on, this won’t be necessary anymore, but if you’re just starting out, it’s pretty much compulsory.
Why? Well, once you start to flow through your sequence yourself, you will encounter the poses or transitions where you might experience hiccups in class. You’ll feel where it doesn’t flow right. You might even get more ideas or figure out a better or different way to do a certain pose for that specific flow. Flowing through it beforehand means that you get to experience how the flow feels, plus, you’ll be able to time yourself and make sure that everything you plan to do will fit into the time allocated for the class. This way, you won’t rush through the poses for fear of running out of time. You also get in some time to practice on your own, which is a win once you start teaching.
Practicing the sequence will provide you with the perfect opportunity to plan your cues as well, so you’re less likely to be tongue-tied in class. Explaining to your students who’ve never done Figure 4 before how to come into the pose might come easier in class once you figured out how to cue it at home.
4) Get some feedback from your students
Once you finished teaching your awesome, kickass flow and there’s time left after class, take time to chat with your students about how they’re feeling and how they experienced it. Ask them what they enjoyed and what they didn’t. Constructive feedback is always great, and it’ll help you to adjust to your students’ needs as well. It’s also a great way to get new ideas for the next flow.
5) Don’t be too hard on yourself
Teaching yoga, just like the practice itself, is an ongoing process. You’ll never reach “perfection”. There will always be something new to do, something you can do differently, or certain elements you can improve on. Keep this in mind. Don’t try to be the perfect teacher, just try to be an authentic one. Nothing beats being yourself. In the end, people will come to your class because of the way you present it. And yes, not everyone will like your style – try to be okay with that. There’s another teacher out there for them. The right people will stick with you.
Enjoy the journey
Being a yoga teacher is an amazing privilege. Enjoy it! Enjoy the learning process, enjoy your students, and remember that teaching in itself is a practice. You’ll get better at it the more you do it, but what makes it so great is the fact that you’ll never reach a point where you’ll be able to say that you know everything – and that’s the beauty of yoga.
So, create that flow. Don’t overthink it too much, and go teach it with joy and confidence. Soak up the feeling of being able to share the gift that is yoga. It’s probably one of the greatest privileges in the world. Five easy steps to create a kickass yoga flow.
Over to you: Do you have any great tips for sequencing a class? Drop them in the comments.