Teaching Yoga

Confessions of a yoga teacher: Class prep

I started this year teaching 5 classes a week at 4 different locations, and the 2 classes at the same place had different audiences (weekend vs. mid-work day). This meant that I pretty much had 5 groups of students that I saw once a week if they came regularly. From a planning stand point, I really only needed to map out one sequence that I could repeat at every class, making only minor adjustments based on the audience.

As a new teacher, this was perfect. I had the opportunity to tweak my sequence across multiple classes. By class number 5, my cues were well-rehearsed and had been through enough iterations that I worried less about whether it was memorized perfectly and with the right pacing and instead focused more on watching my students and offering better guidance. There was even room for improvisation if the mood was right!

For students who got the beta version of my fresh sequence, I really hope they didn’t notice too many flubs (did we do the left side already?). Even though I’ve taken myself through the sequence – and in the beginning, I’d make my husband go through it too – there are certain transitions or cues that don’t land well or make sense outside of my head. Or I’ll get halfway through a first-run and realize that I way over sequenced, forcing me to chop a lot out of my “lesson plan” quickly to maintain a decent savasana.

This is the art of sequencing, huh?

By summer, I was teaching 9 classes and starting to see some repeat students. I’m so thankful that they enjoy my classes enough to attend 2-3 times a week. But then, I was starting to feel pressure to keep things interesting. I was constantly fiddling with my playlists and tinkering with my sequences or starting over from scratch.

I’m not exactly sure why I feel this way, considering I did the same ashtanga primary series for SEVEN YEARS, week in and week out. Every single time I stepped on my mat, it was a new practice. While I don’t practice ashtanga as often (in its entirety) anymore, it STILL feels like a new practice to me. I’ve changed and grown since the last time, so it will always land in my body and mind in subtly different ways.

In any given week, I’m teaching upwards of 13 classes, which is about max of what I can handle before things start to deteriorate. I’ve gotten a lot smarter and more efficient with my sequencing. Sometimes, I’m working around a specific theme or carrying a set of poses over from the previous weeks. Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of seated balances in class. I don’t find them to be taught in many places outside of ashtanga, so it’s fun to mix a little of the old school with contemporary vinyasa.

When I think about how I put together classes a year ago, I was playing and experimenting with my teaching style and even my sequencing style. Is an around-the-world vinyasa class my thing? High energy, sweaty yoga? Peak pose? A little of everything? A class focused just on hips? I tried it all. I think where I am now is building a class that’s a bit ashtanga-esque but softer, slower and stretchier. My classes are only an hour, so I’ve had to really pick and choose what we work on and trust that my students will come back for more the next week and the next week and the next.

I’m still figuring out my class prep schedule, but I’m settling more into a 3-4 day run of the same sequence before I change it up. Mostly, I find that I need the change and the creative process of playing on my mat.

Perhaps I’m overthinking all of this. Do I really notice when I’ve gone to class with the same teacher (outside of ashtanga) and whether he or she taught the same sequence or not? Do any of you?

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