In yoga classes, most students don’t actually pay attention to the sequencing. It just feels…good. Or it should. When the sequencing is off, though, it can make the rest of their day feel misaligned, at the very least. Students might not even realize why they feel out of whack. They just do.
There are countless approaches to sequencing, and there’s not one that is necessarily right. However, there are certain things that happen—or don’t happen—during the course of instructing students through their practice that are wrong. Following are some common sequencing mistakes that yoga teachers make.
1. Teaching seated warm-ups at the beginning of class
Even in your more advanced classes, the majority of students you work with will have a hard time keeping a neutral lumbar curve when sitting. What’s behind the difficulty is usually too much time spent at the computer or steering wheel, tight hamstrings, weak lower back muscles, and over- or under-arching the lower back. When you bring students into a seated posture at the beginning of class and ask them to lift their arms overhead, perform twists, and bend forward, that can cause discomfort.
Rather than starting seated, try sequencing so your students are up on their feet at the beginning of class. From standing, now you have a great, safe place to start some anti-desk postures, such as shoulder rolls, subtle spinal movements, even lunges.
2. Teaching poses without a proper warm-up
Students’ bodies needs to be warmed up before you ask them to attempt more challenging poses. While some bodies might be physically able to do these postures without much warm-up, they might still experience soreness or injury, or this could, over time, be dangerous and cut into the longevity of their yoga practice.
Ensure you’re proceeding these challenge poses with a proper warm-up for all areas of the body involved in the posture. This will simply feel better in the bodies of students than a sequence that doesn’t include time to slowly warm the muscles. Plus, it will help make these poses more accessible to those who are still working toward these poses—even if they can’t get there today, they did the preparatory work and will feel that in their bodies.
3. Teaching poses that are too challenging
A class labeled “Vinyasa” or “Level 2” can look quite different from studio to studio. If you are teaching—and sequencing—a class that includes more involved postures or a heavy-duty peak pose, consider how you might shift your sequence if the majority of the students in the room aren’t quite ready for what you are planning to teach. Teaching poses that are too challenging for the majority of students in a class can result in injuries and some people in the room feeling like they’re “not good enough” for yoga. Remember, you are teaching to the students who are in front of you. You are not teaching to the script in your head that you carefully choreographed and can’t wait to share.
See also: 14 Modifications for Common Yoga Poses
4. Teaching the peak pose too late in class
We’ve all been there as students: Five minutes until the end of class and the teacher is cramming in a massive pose. There’s no time for a proper cool down. If you’re lucky there’s a twist before they take you into Savasana.
Having a peak pose without a proper cool down is jarring to the nervous system. Demanding poses—especially backbends—are very stimulating and the body needs time to rebalance before relaxing into Savasana. Plan your sequence to include ample time for students to recover, and adapt as needed on the fly if you’re running fast or slow through class. Remember: The class isn’t about what you want to teach students. It’s about what you can responsibly share with them as a practice.
See also: Perspective-Shifting Peak Poses
5. Not leaving enough time for Savasana
Speaking of Savasana, incorporate time for it when you plan your sequence! Five minutes is a strong and average amount of time for a 60-minute class. A longer classes can allot time for a longer Savasana. This is where students integrate the entirety of their practice—it is just as important (or more) than the rest of the class. Don’t shortchange your students by making it brief.
See also: The Benefits of Savasana