Thousands of people get certified to teach yoga each day. The beauty of the saturated market is that we all internalize, interpret and ultimately deliver what we’ve learned differently.
Therefore, no two yoga classes you’ll take will ever be the same.
As yoga instructors, we are constantly challenged with coming up with new sequences and content to stand out in the crowded landscape. This can be exhausting. It takes continual practice, patience, and refinement week over week.
To create a yoga sequence is to create a work of art. It’s not easily accomplished on a whim. The approach you take is crucial to the success of your class. Selecting each element with thoughtful and mindful consideration is a great place to start. Sharing this masterpiece is one of the greatest gifts of teaching… It has the ability to change people’s lives!
But even with this incredible opportunity, come the unique challenges of sequencing.
The purpose of this article is to educate you on how to intelligently sequence a yoga class. This article is directed towards yoga teachers, but yoga students looking for inspiration in their home practice will also greatly benefit.
I will show you my tried and tested formula, I will provide posture and transition examples, and you will learn more ideas to layer on top of a linear sequence. You’ll walk away able to easily integrate what you’ve learned into your own class all in a safe and effective manner.
Are you ready to dive in? Good. Me too. 🙂
Tips before you get started:
The Basics Are The Bomb: Don’t overdo it. Beginner and seasoned practitioners alike can benefit from returning to the foundation of the practice.
Practice Your Sequence: This ensures that what you are delivering to your students is conveying what you want them to experience physically and mentally. It will also give you more confidence teaching.
Assess Your Students: Do you have an idea of the type of student attending your class? i.e. elderly, athletes, recovering addicts, etc.? Knowing this information can help guide what direction to take your sequence.
Most yoga sequences are linear, meaning one posture follows another in a sequential manner. Linear classes are taught in a logical way starting with less challenging, moving to more challenging and returning to less challenging before savasana.
When I sequence, I typically start with a linear formula and layer on from there. This is just one way to sequence a yoga class. I’ll walk you through this way today.
My Anatomy Of A Yoga Class
- Warm Up/Integration
- Sun/Moon Salutations
- Standing/Balancing Postures
- Seated/Supine Postures
This is where we drop into the practice and start class. Create a space to invite in presence and acute awareness of breath and body. Some instructors guide a short meditation or breath work.
Child’s Pose (Extended, Traditional)
Seated Pose (Sukasana, Hero’s Pose)
Supine Pose (Savasana, Reclined Bound Angle)
After getting grounded on our mats, it’s important to physically warm up our body for more vigorous postures to come.
Gentle Core Work (Swimmers, modified side plank)
Seated Lateral Bends
Seated Gentle Twists
Thread the Needle
Introduce sun or moon salutations and link each movement with breath.
Sun Salutations are the most common way to start a yoga practice because they are heating and stimulating. This posture combination stretches and strengthens all major muscle groups.
Moon Salutations are cooling and quieting. Choose Moon Salutations if you’re leading a slower flow.
Standing & Balancing Postures
Once you complete salutations, your students are ready to be on their feet moving in a more active way. Now is a great time to come up with series that include warriors, lunges and other standing postures. Mix in balancing postures into the flow, or leave them separate.
Warrior 1, 2, 3
Wide Legged Forward Fold
Time to begin to slow the body back down. Since the body is super warm, hold deeper stretches and spend more time in each posture. These postures will begin to cool the body down, preparing for savasana.
Seated Spinal Twist
½ Pigeon Pose
Seated Forward Fold
Supta Badha Konasana/Reclined Bound Angle Pose
10 Minutes – or as long as you can accommodate!
Final resting posture. You may offer to invite back in their intention for class or read a quote related to your theme. Otherwise, silence is golden to allow space for their own experience.
Types Of Classes
Choose one or all of these things to use as you work through creating a yoga sequence. This is not an exhaustive list, but rather one to get you inspired.
Pranayama, or, breath work is the foundation of any yoga practice. Starting class with a short breathing exercise will allow your students to cultivate awareness and presence in their body and mind.
You can remind your students throughout the entire class to return to their breath. This added layer of pranayama, will assist them with being more present.
Lion’s Breath, Alternate Nostril breathing, Sama Vritti, Kapalabhati, and Ujjayi are just some of the styles of pranayama you can include at any point during your sequence. I enjoy adding Lion’s Breath during Star Pose, and Kapalabhati during Hero’s Pose.
Before you build a sequence and select postures, choose a theme. Select one theme to center your class around. This can be a quote, a word, a part of the body, etc. Consider your theme the ultimate masterpiece your sequencing artwork. This will help create a general focus for your class. Every posture and transition should embody the theme in some way.
How you deliver the theme is as important as the theme itself. Just as in asana practice, deliver your message with balance and integrity. It can be easy to overdo it, so be sure to pick certain places throughout the sequence to drop nuggets of your themed wisdom. I recommend at the very least, 3 times: beginning, middle and end.
By having a clear and simple theme, both you and your students will be able to practice with purpose and intention.
Select An Apex Pose or Set of Postures
Most yoga classes have an apex pose, or a peak posture that the class builds upon from the beginning. To do this safely, ensure you choose postures during integration that warm up and strengthen the body in preparation for the apex pose. The apex pose is the most challenging posture of the class.
If you don’t want to select one apex pose to work towards, another idea is choosing postures that open up a specific part of the body. i.e.: hips, shoulders, hamstrings, heart.
Tip: Integrate your theme into the postures. For example, if you’re theming your class around self-love, a natural selection of postures would include heart openers.
Energizing or Relaxing
Each yoga posture can elicit different energetic effects in your students. Are you teaching a power vinyasa class or a slow flow? Simply change the order of postures in a class to deliver a different effect on your students. Take this into consideration as you teach targeted classes for students with various injuries or mental and emotional states.
As a general rule, moving the spine forward (think backbends) or inverting, are generally more stimulating. Flexing the spine towards forward bending (think folds and hip flexion) are more relaxing. Whereas twisting can be considering balancing.
Don’t forget the most important part of any sequencing….
Practice your sequence! Get to know how each of the postures and transitions feel in your own body. You’ll quickly begin to realize where you can adjust your sequence to flow more fluidly. If you have a yogi friend you trust, practice the sequence on them so you can try different cues to get them in and out of postures. Practice as much as you can – you will feel so much better feeling prepared.
What am I missing? What tips can you offer for building a yoga sequence?