Planning a yoga class is more than slapping some cool-looking poses together. Do it that way and you run the risk of committing 3 common mistakes in sequencing yoga classes.
If not more.
While yoga has the ability to improve all areas of your life, unfortunately it’s too common for people to become injured because of their practice. Teachers are especially prone to injuries because of overexertion and repetitive motion.
Strength-building poses might give you a banging body, but without stretching and relaxation, this can impact your body in negative ways. What good is a beautiful exterior if your rotator cuff is always jacked up?
Prefer videos? Watch 3 Common Mistakes in Sequencing a Yoga Class.
3 mistakes when sequencing yoga classes
When sequencing a yoga class, not only do you need to choose poses carefully, but you also need to organize them in a logical order.
In Sanskrit we call this vinyasa krama, or logical sequencing, a concept where we have a beginning, middle, and end.
Another layer of vinyasa krama means we start simple and progress to the complex. Both ideas apply whether you’re designing the entire practice, a series within, or a single pose.
Also, don’t confuse the principle of vinyasa krama with vinyasa flow classes. Similar, yet different, uses of the Sanskrit word vinyasa.
You can minimize injuries by avoiding these 3 common mistakes when sequencing a yoga class:
#1 forgetting variations
Not everyone who attends yoga classes is in perfect shape and condition. Just because someone appears capable and healthy doesn’t mean they are. Too often they won’t tell you when they have fused disks, a rod in their ankle, or asthma.
We all have a unique make-up of abilities and limitations we bring to the yoga mat. Variations help us adhere to the principle of simple to complex. When you allow your clients to progress in this manner, they achieve maximum gain with minimum effort.
No one has left in the middle of class because you gave too many variations. In fact, they might appreciate the nuances because it created more awareness or relieved boredom.
👉 We used to call these modifications however this term has negative connotations.
#2 neglecting counterposes
A counterpose is a pose we use to balance the possible negative effects of other asanas.
Counterposes help maintain the balance of your body because every action has two effects: one positive and one negative.
For example, a twist and other asymmetrical poses (Warrior 1, Triangle, Tree) must be completed on both sides in order for your body to balance out. If you didn’t, you’d have one side of your body that was stronger and/or more flexible than the other.
👉 But the most neglected counterposes deal with forward bends.
A typical class usually involves a lot of forward bends (because these stretch the back and hamstrings) but without including back bends you risk building up negative effects and excessive tensions that can lead to injuries down the road.
Back bends include cow, cobra, prone boat, bridge, wheel, camel, arch backs, seal (yin), sphinx (yin), reverse plank, updog, bow, melting heart.
Where forward bends stretch the back, back bends strengthen. Unfortunately, you have to practice back bends with caution otherwise you might hurt your neck or spine.
For any one pose there are various counterposes. If you’ve got five forward bends in your sequence, you don’t have to do five wheel poses. You can select the gentler variations such as cow, cobra, or prone boat.
And if you hold a forward bend for five breaths (because it feels so good), give the back bend the same amount of air time.
#3 overlooking transitions
During yoga teacher training, I harp on transitions the most.
Transitions are any time you enter or exit a pose, and people rarely put the necessary attention into the movement use to stand, sit, or release a posture.
👉 And it’s that lack of awareness that causes injuries during an asana-practice.
Also, if you’re not careful with the transitions, you’ll make your clients look and feel like fish flopping on dry land. Rather than jump from one random pose to another, think about which pose makes the most logical sense to go to next.
Good yoga teachers help move their participants into poses, one incremental step at a time (vinyasa krama at work again). Great yoga teachers place as much emphasis on exiting the pose, completing the vinyasa cycle of beginning-middle-end.
All mistakes can't be avoided
Of course there are no guarantees. Injuries can occur in any physical activity, a fluke accident can happen to you, to your clients. But you can minimize risk by avoiding these common mistakes.
A well-balanced asana-practice minimizes injuries, reduces stress and tension in your body, prepares your mind for meditation, and carries over into non-yoga areas of your life.
Looking for more tips on sequencing yoga classes?
📗 If you’re looking for more theme ideas, check out the first in my new series of planners The Yoga Teacher’s Ultimate Class Planner. You’ll find hundreds of themes, intentions, quotes, and affirmations to elevate and enhance your yoga classes. Perfect for yoga teachers who love to DIY their classes but are tired of spending hours researching.
📓 For yoga teachers who are still nervous or burned out planning yoga classes, then the Yoga Sequencing Society is for you. Never feel unprepared or overwhelmed again with our library of done-for-you sequences and scripts.