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3 Tips for Smart Yoga Sequencing

Designing a yoga class is a skill every teacher should master. Here's how to build a sequence your students will love.

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Sequencing a yoga class is a skill that can and should be continuously refined. A smart sequence creates a container for the practice and builds the framework for your teaching. When you’re grounded in a clear sequence, your instructions and approach reflect your overall intention. Here are three important considerations when designing a yoga sequence.  

Center your sequence around one concept

You don’t have to teach everyone everything in every class. I know you know this, but it’s easy to get carried away and over-teach. You might find yourself getting swept up in your passion or trying to teach everything you know about a pose.

Problem is, if you overwhelm your students, they’re not going to learn anything. Choose one main concept that your students can unpack. Will there be supporting roles in your storyline? Absolutely. For example, a sequence leading to Adho Mukha Vrksasana (Handstand) could introduce concepts like core integration, scapular stabilization, leg activation, arm stability, and more. But the narrative will be clearer if you spotlight one star. Remember: You will have more opportunities to teach your students what they need to know! A thoughtful curriculum will support a deeper understanding of postures and concepts over time.

When creating your sequence, ask yourself this question: What’s the big takeaway? Choose postures and exercises that explore the concept of the class from multiple perspectives. For example, in your Handstand sequence, play with different relationships to gravity (such as Utthita Hastasana/Upward Hand Pose), prop variations (like placing a strap around the upper arms for stability), rhythms (holding Handstand versus switch-kicking on the breath), and approaches to the posture (such as varying the foundational position or adding a variation like splitting the legs).

Remember: Teaching is more about what you choose not to teach. When in doubt, less is more.

Keep things simple

It’s easy to get caught up in the idea that you need to entertain your students. This can stem from a belief that you need to do—or be—more in order to hold your students’ attention. When you fall into that trap, you may prioritize choreography over smart sequencing.

Here’s the truth: You don’t need a lot of bells or whistles to teach a great class. Yoga is enough. You are enough. Don’t entertain your students—teach them.

The best tactic for clear, effective teaching is to keep your sequence simple. Simple doesn’t mean easy or boring. In fact, a sequence rooted in simplicity can offer some of the deepest and most challenging work. Streamline your transitions, consider the logistical flow of the sequence (standing, sitting, laying down, moving to/from the wall), and edit out the fluff such as filler words or poetic language that clouds concrete instruction.

A simple sequence gives you a container to explore your passion for the practice. Ignite curiosity and wonder by demonstrating the infinite process of learning. Teach your students that there’s always something more to learn.

Don’t be afraid to make changes

A sequence is meant to be a general roadmap for the practice. It doesn’t have to be carved in stone. When you cling to your sequence without considering what’s happening in the classroom, you miss opportunities to teach the people in front of you.

I continue to learn this in my own teaching—when I bring my agenda to class without also looking at who’s in the room, I run the risk that what I’m trying to teach is actually irrelevant. This doesn’t mean that if, for example, you’ve prepared a sequence leading to Handstand only to realize that the students in your class are not ready to explore the full pose that you now have to throw away your plan and teach something else entirely. It just means that you need to reevaluate your approach. Can you explore the spirit of Handstand in other postures? For example, can you teach your students the actions and principles of Handstand in Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog), Plank, or Virabhadrasana III (Warrior III)? When you’re grounded in simplicity, you can more effectively meet your students’ needs.

Your sequence doesn’t need to account for every minute of the class. Build a clear framework that tells a logical story about your chosen focus, then strip your sequence down to the studs so you have wiggle room to adapt in real time. This approach will keep you grounded in your intention and also receptive to your students and their needs. After all, some of the most effective teaching happens when we show up fully and then get out of the way. Make a plan, but leave space for inspiration. 

See also:
Principles of Sequencing: Plan a Yoga Class to Energize or Relax

A Fresh Approach to Sequencing From Noah Mazé

Skillful Sequencing: Plan a Chakra-Balancing Yoga Class

Chrissy Carter is a yoga educator, writer, meditation teacher, and lifestylist based in New York. She shares her passion for yoga and the art of mindful living on her blog, H(OM)E. Follow Chrissy on Instagram and Facebook.