(6) Use variations and props.
Variations and props can help create and vary your sequences. They are great tools for the stiffer students in the class, since they help them feel included. They also are great for teaching your other students deeper aspects of the postures.
Balance may be challenging to many of your students. Consider demonstrating part of your sequence at the wall. When it is time to move into the center of the room, those that have trouble with balance can choose stay at the wall. In the classical version of this pose, the arm lifts over the head and grabs the foot. This action requires very open shoulders. In public classes, this will prove to be impossible for many students. There are two options: instead of holding the foot with the arm over the head, reach the arm straight back and grab the inside of the foot; or work with a belt.
Introducing variations and using props before attempting the final pose gives hope to beginning or stiffer students. It also gives your sequence more character and variety.
(7) Teach a beginning, middle, and end.
A good sequence is like a good story. There is a beginning (an introduction), the middle (the heart of the story), and the end (the conclusion). The beginning of a sequence needs to include a general warm-up of the whole body and then introduce key alignment points and principles that will be carried throughout the class.
The middle of the sequence needs to go more deeply in warming up the specific component parts of the pose that we are working toward. This middle section should also break down the pose, thus including more poses that work toward the final pose. As you approach the end of the middle section of the sequence, you are building toward a peak—your final pose. This is a good time to introduce variations. Then put together the final pose.
The end of the class is an unwinding, or reversal, of the final pose. In this case, we should include simple forward bends and twists that lead toward a deep forward bend, possibly Paschimattanasana (Seated Forward Bend). It is good to time the ending so that there is plenty of time for Savasana (Corpse Pose).
Making sequences is an art, and it is also fun. There are endless ways to teach the same class, and endless ways to sequence toward a given pose. Keep in mind that the students’ health and well-being are far more important than the pose. In other words, make wise and safe choices about which pose to introduce, and be willing to modify if you see the need.
Maty Ezraty is co-creator of the first two Yoga Works yoga studios in Santa Monica, California. A former YJ Asana columnist, she travels around the world leading teacher trainings, workshops, and yoga retreats.