When I started teaching yoga in 1986, one of the most difficult tasks was to create a class plan. I was concerned about sequence. Even though I have never taught Vinyasa flow classes, I wanted my sequence to flow seamlessly from one pose to another. Timing was a concern. Was it possible to get to the end too quickly and have to make adjustments? My class plan would serve my students well, and that is the most important thing.
In my first two-three years of teaching yoga, I created a detailed plan and followed it faithfully. My yoga class plans were not reused, but I would sometimes repeat the same sequence in subsequent classes. I enjoyed starting from scratch with every class, and building on the lessons I had learned in classes.
My yoga classes didn’t always fit the needs of my students. This was something I noticed over time. Another year passed and I kept planning my classes carefully. My plan was so irregular that I stopped following it. I began to attend class without a written plan.
PLANNING Vs. IMPROVISING
This is something I couldn’t have done in my early teaching days. I didn’t know how to sequence asanas well. I was also able to modify, yoga prop use, and many other things through years of consistent practice and study.
I loved the freedom to give up my class plan. I had to think quickly and often what came out of me surprised me, usually in a positive way. I was a Deadhead for many decades and was able to see 40 shows while Jerry Garcia was alive. The fact that The Grateful Dead performed onstage without any set list was amazing to me. It was impossible to predict what would happen. Their influence may have been part of my ability to teach without a net.
YOGA CLASS PLANNING TO ONLINE YOGA
My strategy had to be changed when I was forced to teach on Zoom in 2020. Online classes can be a disaster because of their spontaneity. My students are aware that they can always unmute themselves to ask questions and make requests. However, this is not something they do often. I decided to email my students weekly with a summary of each class, including hips, hamstrings and twists, core exercises, core exercises, standing poses, core exercises, and core. Sometimes I have a plan for presenting a sequence, other times I make up my own. Each week I offer them the chance to ask questions ahead of time, which I then incorporate into the class.
This method has been very successful. It’s actually more efficient than improvising. I noticed over the years that the same requests kept popping up in classes, mainly for hips, low back, and shoulders. Sometimes, I felt like other practices were being overlooked. These requests could be approached in a variety of ways. Many poses can affect the hips, low back and shoulders in different ways. I believe that my students can have a more balanced practice by changing the focus of every class.
YOGA CLASS PLANS VS. IMPROVISING : UPSIDES & DOWNSIDES
BENEFITS FROM MAKING A YOGA CLASS PHONE
- Planning classes is an art in and of itself. Planning is an artistic process. Planning involves thinking about how and what you’re going teach it. Planning a yoga class gives us the opportunity to think about timing, coherence, and sequencing. The planning process can lead to new ideas.
- You can make a plan for every class to ensure that you are covering everything and don’t get stuck in routines. Everyone has their favorite poses. When we improvise, it is easy to get lost in teaching our favorites poses and forgetting the ones that we don’t like.
- A yoga class plan is a great resource for beginning teachers and students. Yoga students are not like guinea-pigs. You should rely on the sequences that your trainers have shared with you and your training. You should also explore other strategies and sequences for your home practice. You never know what you might find!
- For longer workshops, class plans are crucial. When I teach workshops, I always create a detailed yoga class program. It is extremely helpful to plan how to combine both practice and principles, since I am teaching both. My classes last for 90 minutes. I’m able to fill this time in a way that makes sense. When it comes to a workshop lasting three hours, I want it to flow in a way that keeps everyone interested.
BENEFITS FROM IMPROVISING YOUR YOGA CLASSES
- Improvising your classes allows you to be more responsive for your students’ needs. It might surprise you to learn how often your students need the same practice.
- It’s great to surprise yourself in class with something you say. You can let go of your rigidity in planning your yoga class, and often the knowledge that you have accumulated over time will come out as you teach.
It is important to keep a consistent home practice. Your home yoga practice can be your lab for discovering how you feel about sequencing. You will find that what works for you may not work for others. It will help you feel a sense of what might work well for your students.
The best way to teach yoga is based on your personal preferences and motivations. You don’t need to choose one or the other. You can start with a general idea and let it unfold throughout the class, as I do in my Zoom classes. You can also plan your classes when it is important to make a point and then let your students decide if your plan is not working out for them. Ask your students for feedback. Ask your students what worked and what didn’t. Listen to their answers, and learn from them.