As new yoga teachers, creating yoga sequences can feel overwhelming at first. But over time, as your teaching experience grows and you are consistent in your personal practice, creative yoga sequencing will flow to and from you as naturally as your breath.
Maybe you teach at a yoga studio that adheres to a specific style…
…but if this is not the case, which style(s) should you incorporate into your sequencing?
One of the biggest tips I give to students in my advanced teacher training course is to teach what you practice and let your own direct experience be your guide. These following tips will help you with the rest!
1. Select A Theme
Themes are an important aspect of any thoughtfully crafted sequence.
A theme could be as simple as inviting students to create an intention, focus on postures specific to parts of the body (chest and shoulders, hip flexors, hamstrings), time of day or mood (morning yoga, yoga for joy), specialized or prescriptive (prenatal yoga sequence, restorative yoga for back pain), chakras, yoga philosophy and many more.
The most important detail in your theme is your authenticity, choosing a theme and using your unique voice to weave it into your sequence.
Introduce your theme at the beginning of the practice. As you move through your yoga sequences weave your theme into your cuing, maybe recalling an intention or using cues specific to your theme. If you’re teaching a heart chakra themed class, for example, cuing to spread and soften through the heart.
And culminating with a poem, reading or thought related to your theme as part of your closing, is a beautiful touch.
2. Choose Yoga Poses From Each Category
If you are using a theme, be mindful to choose poses that compliment your theme. For example, if you were teaching a root chakra themed class, including restorative or yin yoga sequences that are calming and grounding.
Similarly, If you are building your sequence up to a peak pose, you would incorporate poses that foreshadow and prepare students for the more challenging pose ahead.
In addition to choosing poses that make sense with your theme, including poses from each of these categories will ensure that your classes have a natural, balanced flow: warm-ups that link breath to movement, standing poses, seated and prone poses, twists, backbends, hip openers, supine poses and always including savasana.
3. Break The Timing Into Manageable Chunks
It can be helpful to break your sequences into roughly timed segments to ensure that you are not finishing too early or running late. Considering that most studio classes are 1 hour in length, you can break the timing into manageable chunks to help you better plan your classes.
This is how I’d recommend breaking down your yoga class:
- Centering and Warm-up: Spending the first 15 minutes of class centering, connecting to breath and moving through gentle movement
- Standing Sequences: Moving into 20 minutes of standing postures that may include Sun Salutations, twists and dynamic movement.
- Peak Pose/Balance Poses/Backbends: For the next 5 minutes, working on a peak pose, balance postures or backbends
- Closing Sequence: Leaving 10 minutes to wind down, working on seated and supine poses to prepare you to slip into a juicy savasana
- Savasana & Meditation: Spending the last 10 minutes (or more) on savasana, meditation and closing.
4. Make It Flow Together
You have all of the pieces, now it is time to make it all flow together!
So how do you do that?
Cue the breath… a lot! Use the breath to incorporate dynamic movement and flow from pose to pose.
Seamless transitions linked to breath that are mindful and intuitive will create the experience of a moving meditation for your students and keep them coming back to your classes.
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5. Make Sure It’s Safe
A consistent personal yoga practice it the most authentic way to create thoughtful, intuitive and safe yoga sequencing.
Practicing your sequences is just as important as creating them. Feeling the poses and transitions in your body will help you to design sequences and transitions that are thoughtful and safe.
It is important to keep in mind that even with proper planning and practice, you must leave room for change if necessary depending on your audience.
3 Yoga Sequences That You Can Steal Today
Now that we’ve covered the basics of creating a good yoga sequence for your yoga class, I want to share with you three sequences that you can use today. The first sequence is a warm-up introducing gentle postures that will help students connect to breath and warm their bodies. The second sequence is a super intuitive circular practice, perfect for new teachers. The third is a closing sequence that will seamlessly transition students into savasana.
Yoga Sequence #1 Warm-up/Connect to Breath
- Beginning in tabletop – Cow and Cat for 5-10 breaths – hip circles in both directions – Child’s Pose walking hands to left and right, finding length in the spine and stretching through side bodies.
- Plank with knees down – lower to belly – baby Cobras (hands come to sides of mat tenting fingers and bending elbows), lifting and lowering for 5 breaths – table to Child’s Pose.
- Plank on knees or toes (lifting knees off mat) – lowering down (long spine, elbows graze sides) – Cobra – Downward Facing Dog, pedal the legs, bending one knee at a time.
- Plank on knees or toes, lowering all the way down or to Chaturanga – Cobra or Upward Facing Dog, Downward Facing Dog.
- Step to top of mat, Forward Fold – Half Lift – bend the knees and fold, rise to Mountain. Option to move through these standing vinyasas or Sun Salutations – end Mountain pose.
Yoga Sequence #2 Mandala (Circular Sequence)
- Beginning in Mountain pose at the top of your mat – Step left foot back to High Lunge, bending into right knee – Warrior 2 gaze over right hand – Extended Side Angle right arm comes to thigh or block – Open to Goddess – Pivot feet to High Lunge facing back of mat, bending into left knee – Warrior 2 gaze over left hand – Extended Side Angle left arm comes to thigh or block.
- Reverse Triangle – Hands come down to frame left foot (facing back of mat now) – flow through a vinyasa or step back to downward facing dog.
- 3 leg dog right leg – knee to nose 1X (engage abdominal muscles, round back) – right leg through to Warrior 1 – Humble Warrior – open to 5 pointed star – Wide Leg Forward fold, keeping leg muscles engaged – pivot feet to Warrior 1 (facing front of mat) – Humble, step forward to Mountain
- Option to move through a few standing vinyasas (arms up, forward fold, half lift, fold, rise to mountain) or full sun salutation. Repeat Mandala moving in the opposite direction (stepping right foot back to High Lunge to begin). Ending in Mountain at the top of the mat.
Yoga Sequence #3 Closing Sequence
- Beginning in Mountain – Forward Fold – left leg back to Low Lunge (knee down), twist right, option to take half bind with right arm – tabletop – Cow/Cat 3X – left leg forward to Low Lunge with knee down, twist left, option to take half bind with left arm, step back to Downward Facing Dog.
- Pigeon right leg forward (hold for 1 minute) – Downward Dog – Pigeon left leg forward (hold for 1 minute) – Child’s pose, offer arms by side palms up.
- Prepare for Boat Pose – hold 3-5 breaths and lower, transitioning to supine, use the abdominals to slowly lower.
Supine twist right and left, arms in T or cactus, gaze away from knees.
- Hug the knees in, micro rock side to side – happy baby
- Settle into Savasana, 3 deep breaths, inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth