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3 Tips for Designing a Smart Curriculum

Mapping out what you want to teach and how you're going to do it sets you—and your students—up for success.

There are a few things every good yoga teacher should know: how to correct unsafe alignment, how to sequence a class, how to offer modifications. Let’s add one more: how to develop a yoga curriculum.

A yoga curriculum identifies the learning objectives and maps out a clear strategy for teaching your students. This sets your students up for success by giving them not only a thoughtful, systematic approach, but also a chance to actually practice what they’re learning.

Here’s the truth: We miss a big opportunity when we think short-term about our classes. Structuring a single class offers a snapshot of the practice, whereas a curriculum develops concepts into larger ideas. It illustrates how the work of a single class relates to the practice as a whole.

The difference between a curriculum and a sequence

Think of a smart sequence as a day trip—it guides your students through a brief tour of a concept. A curriculum, on the other hand, plays the long game. It weaves multiple concepts together into a larger story. It lays down a carefully crafted foundation onto which your students can build a deeper understanding of yoga.

  • Teaching from a yoga curriculum gives you some structure. A long-term plan, even if it’s just for one week, provides you with some room to explore and play.
  • Instead of trying to communicate everything you want your students to know about a concept or a pose in a single class, you can develop concepts over time.
  • A yoga curriculum offers you some support when you’re feeling uninspired, burnt out, or when you’re working through personal challenges. You can lean into the structure and stability of your curriculum rather than feeling pressure to come up with a new plan for every class.

How to build your yoga curriculum

Developing a curriculum takes time but the payoff is well worth the investment. Here are a few tools to help you get started.

Choose your focus

Start with a big picture idea then zoom in and identify the components. Say you want to design a curriculum around the idea of balance. Balance is a pretty broad theme! What concepts do you need to teach in order to unpack and demonstrate the meaning of balance? Each concept can be developed into its own sequence or series of sequences, depending on the timeframe you’ve set up. For example, if you wanted to create a three-week yoga curriculum around balance, you could introduce a different component of balance each week. The first week could explore the concept of ground and rebound, the second could examine the concept of stability and ease, and the third could unpack the concept of practice and non-attachment.

You could also develop a curriculum by choosing a specific posture and then zooming out to a larger idea. For example, if you wanted to build a curriculum around Handstand, first identify the actions of the pose. What, specifically, do you want your students to understand about Handstand? What physical, philosophical, or energetic concepts would support their work in the pose? For example, you might weave in Sutra 1.12 (practice and non-attachment) to help students find a balance between their desire to achieve the goal and a dedication to the process.

Identify your timeframe

Next, identify the timeframe for your yoga curriculum. This will determine the structure of your sequences and how far you can take your focus. For example, planning a week’s worth of classes obviously gives you less time to develop a concept than planning for a whole month or an entire season. When determining your timeframe, consider the context, audience, and overall goal. For example, workshops and retreats give you more space to dive deep into an idea with a consistent group of students. Weekly classes are shorter and can attract a mixed crowd, but they can be organized into larger monthly or seasonal themes.

See also: 8 Yoga Poses to Celebrate Spring and New Beginnings

Create your framework

A framework outlines your lesson plan for each sequence. Your framework should be intentionally simple to allow for creativity and evolution. Choose a specific posture or postures that you feel best articulates your concept. For example, if you were developing a yoga curriculum around the idea of balance, you might choose Vrksasana (Tree Pose) to demonstrate the concept of ground and rebound, Virabhadrasana 3 (Warrior 3) to explore stability and ease, and Adho Mukha Vrksasana (Handstand) to illustrate practice and non-attachment. Be sure to identify the work required for each posture so that you can choose related postures that will prepare your students to practice your chosen pose and concept.

See also: 

8 Tips for Leading Stellar Online Yoga Teacher Trainings

5 Ways to Master Your Online Yoga Observational Skills


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