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Feedback From the Field: Yoga Sequencing

In a previous issue of Inner IDEA Body-Mind-Spirit Review, we asked: Do you have your own “secret formula” for creating yoga sequences? Do you prepare your lesson plans before class or do you improvise depending on the collective tone?

“I took some courses on sequencing from an Iyengar teacher here in Delray Beach. I found these courses to be very useful in preparing my own sequences. When I prepare for a class, I choose a theme (shoulders, opening up, hips, etc.). I write down everything beginning with ‘sit in sukasana and say three oms.’ I rehearse the entire class the same afternoon to see how it ‘plays’ and then I bring my ‘cheat sheet’ to class with any additions and/or corrections. If I’m distracted, I glance at my program.

“I keep my sequences in a folder with the date I used them. This way I can look back and get the more successful ones and re-use them. However, I never duplicate a sequence. There is always a new idea or two I have percolating in my brain that I want to try out!”

— Renee Priest, Delray Beach, Florida

“I am normally prepared with what I would like to focus on for class, but if for some reason the class as a whole is under the weather, moods aren’t in the right place, or people are feeling any discomfort, I improvise. If a certain stretch needs to be done to decrease tension, or just to help with their mood, I include it in the practice. My participants are always happy when they leave and feel so much better than if I had done what I wanted to do in spite of the overall tone. I always tell myself and the class this is not my practice it is their practice and if they feel a certain way I will conform to their needs. I am always prepared to be in the moment.”

— Loretta Pflug, Youngstown, Ohio

“It depends on the feel of the class. Occasionally I have a practice written on paper, but more often than not, the class determines what the lesson will be. If I walk in and they are wired, then I know we need to flow and move. If there are new people in class, I know I will have to modify some of the poses. I have a general idea of the poses I want to teach and I see how the class is feeling. Sometimes, if I know I want to teach a certain pose that is more advanced, I will break it down and make a sequence, taking into account each body part that needs to be opened to achieve the advanced pose.”

— Susan Niziurski-Shellman

“I usually create my classes around themes that include a physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual component. For example, I may focus on opening the chest and shoulders (including gentle backbends) around the theme of ‘creating joy.’ As students focus on their breathing in a supported backbend/chest opener, I describe the heart chakra, including its effects on the physical, mental and spiritual aspects of our being, and how the class will focus on awakening and balancing the heart chakra energy. I offer ideas for visualization (breathing in healing green, etc.) and also offer a mantra related to the theme. (For example, ‘I open myself to joy.’) I might even wear a green yoga top, bring in a green plant or burn a green candle to further support the theme. I also usually share a poem or saying that can serve as inspiration.

“We move through the class with carefully selected poses that support the theme. Each pose can be modified to suit the various needs of the students. I end the class with a short guided meditation, usually with a mudra that students can use for their own meditation practice. I personally enjoy taking classes that have a clearly defined theme or focus. I feel that I’m deepening my connection to yoga. Of course, if I’m teaching and I get the sense that the class wants to move in a different direction, I’m always prepared to modify, adapt and adjust my plans to better suit their needs.”

— Peggy Hall, Aliso Viejo, California

“I have a teaching journal where I plan my classes. I typically choose one thing to focus on for the entire class and build my lesson plan around it. For example, it could be a core class, or a breath class, etc. I follow it pretty much the first time through. But when I revisit, I allow myself to go with the flow and take in the energy of the room. I end up creating new and wonderful classes that were inspired by the ones I had already planned and taught. I write these down also because they are usually amazing! And they spawn other wonderful classes that seem to be exactly what everyone needs that day. I love what I do and I love the immense satisfaction my students experience when I guide them through their practice.”

— Adriana Beauchamp, Tampa, Florida

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