Can ChatGPT Sequence a Vinyasa Class For Me?
By: Steph Ball-Mitchell, E-RYT-500, RPYT, RCYT, YACEP
The world we are living in today abounds with technological miracles. Things that would never have been possible even five years back are increasingly doable and, to a point, alarmingly so. A lot of the technological revolution that’s so intrinsic to our lives today relies on Artificial Intelligence, or AI. Artificial intelligence (AI) is a wide-ranging branch of computer sciences. It is concerned with building smart machines that can supplement and even replace tasks that would normally require human intelligence and labor. In other words, a machine and an algorithm does your work for you.
AI is an interdisciplinary science that has multiple approaches. It allows machines to model and even improve upon the capabilities of the human mind and human input. The alternatives are something else, too! From the proliferation of smart assistants like Alexa and Siri to new tools that can literally write pages and pages of content for us, there’s nothing AI can’t do right now. Advancements in the machine and deep learning have led to a paradigm shift that is now being felt in virtually every industry. One such important and ultra-recent AI tool is ChatGPT.
First things first— what is ChatGPT? Well, it is a commercial artificial intelligence program built by a company called OpenAI. In 2015, Sam Altman, Greg Brockman, Elon Musk, Ilya Sutskever, and Wojciech Zaremba founded OpenAI as an artificial intelligence research organization. Among other programs, ChatGPT was introduced in 2018. It is based on GPT-3, which is the third model of the natural language processing project.
It embodies a pre-trained, large-scale language model that can sift through a massive pool of data available on the internet to reference and build answers to questions that users feed into its system. It is a well of knowledge with a unique ability to communicate with the end users. It can be used for summarization, language translation, answering questions, completing text, and even human diction. Kind of scary but also very evolutionary.
So, in essence, ChatGPT can answer whatever questions you ask it. It can compose essays, describe art and culture, build AI art prompts, and even code and have philosophical conversations with you. It’s like the internet is trying its level best to become your next best friend— and obsessively so. One of the things I really appreciate is people flocking to the chatbot to come up with help for creative holiday gifting options. The possibilities, in essence, are endless.
As a yogi teacher, therefore, my interest in ChatGPT is— can it possibly sequence a vinyasa class for me? And, can it do a better job than I can? In a word, I’d confidently say no. Of course, you’d get the basics. What you wouldn’t get is the heart. With this in mind, let’s look at how ChatGPT can sequence a vinyasa class. I asked ChatGpt to put together a sixty-minute vinyas sequencing class. Here’s what I got.
Centering and Intention Setting (5 minutes): Start by inviting students to center themselves and set an intention for their practice. You can do this through breathing exercises, guided meditation, or by simply inviting students to close their eyes and connect with their breath.
Warm-up (10 minutes): Start with some gentle warm-up movements to prepare the body for the more dynamic sequences to come. You can include movements like Cat-Cow, Downward Facing Dog, Sun Salutations, or any other movements that feel appropriate.
Sun Salutations (15 minutes): Lead students through several rounds of Sun Salutations, linking breath with movement. You can include variations like High Lunge, Low Lunge, Warrior I, and II, or any other poses that feel appropriate.
Standing Poses (15 minutes): Move into standing poses, such as Trikonasana (Triangle Pose), Parsvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose), and Virabhadrasana II (Warrior II). Encourage students to focus on their breath and flow through the poses with ease.
Balancing Poses (10 minutes): Add some balance poses, such as Tree Pose or Eagle Pose, to challenge students and help them build strength and focus.
Cool Down and Savasana (5 minutes): End with some gentle stretches and a relaxing Savasana pose to help students integrate the benefits of their practice. You can also use this time to share any final words of wisdom or inspiration.
Remember that this is just one possible sequence, and you may want to modify it based on your own teaching style and the needs of your students. Also, keep in mind that 1 hour is a relatively short amount of time, so you may need to be selective about what you cover in order to make the most of your time.
So, this is definitely a good outline for the basics if we’re just looking at a starting point. But, there are also a lot of gaps in the structure and organization of the class. Also, I checked some other blogs, and it feels like ChatGPT has given pretty much the same recommendations to all of them. This takes away from the individuality and personal human touch of what these classes entail. One could certainly practice yoga with ChatGPT, but there’s a reason why so many of us turn to classes with actual yoga teachers.
We want the guidance of a teacher. We want someone to share their personal experiences and to approach what is otherwise mechanical from a human, emotional perspective.
First and foremost, you’ll notice that the ChatGPT sequence keeps speaking as if it is guiding the teacher. This means that while it can help teachers formulate the basics of a class, nowhere is it acknowledging that it can actually replace them. ChatGPT for yoga teachers could become a tool when we’re looking to get the basic skeletal framework of a session in place, but it cannot be everything. You have to bring your own individuality to the class you’re doing. Your voice, your words, and your personal experience— this is why people are coming to learn from you.
It’s not about a pamphlet of lukewarm information. Plus, there’s no guidance on how to practice the poses safely and effectively. And this is important, particularly for beginners. You don’t want beginners to enter a class and do poses that make them feel uncomfortable. Rather, you want them to feel comfortable and in a safe space where there will be modifications depending on levels of experience, body issues, and injuries. ChatGPT will not give you any guidance on how to transition from one pose to another safely— because it’s not human! It also can't help find appropriate modifications for students like an actual yoga teacher can.
Another thing that I found really impractical was trying to make it through a sixty-minute Vinyasa yoga session with very few postures. Indeed, the core tenet of Vinyasa practice is to match movement to our breathing. We move in tandem with inhalations, with one movement matching one breath. Each breath is supposed to bring the awakening of a new movement, so with such limited options, we’d be struggling to get through the entire session with little by way of dynamic flow. It would be painfully tedious, not to mention monotonous and clumsy. Also, think of someone who’s new to a class and is immediately told to do fifteen minutes of sun salutations! I’d expect that to be their last class because it would be pure torture!
Vinyasa is a style of yoga that emphasizes flowing from one posture to the next in time with the breath, though holding poses for a number of breaths is also common.
Breathing techniques such as Ujjayi, in which the back of the neck is gently constricted to produce a whispering sound reminiscent of waves lapping to safe shores, may be practiced in Vinyasa sessions. This aids in maintaining steady attention on breathing and the immediate presence during the exercise.
Bandhas, or energy and muscular locks, help you go into and out of postures and hold them securely; a Vinyasa Yoga instructor may cue their usage, as they may in Ashtanga Yoga. Equally significant are the shifts or movements between postures. In order to avoid the most frequent yoga injuries, it is important to transition between poses carefully and consciously.
The beauty of vinyasa yoga lies in variety and safe, conscious transitions, and this is something that’s seriously lacking in terms of what ChatGPT can do. It can, at best, give you something generic. You may have come to read this blog with two main questions— can ChatGPT write a yoga class?
Can ChatGPT sequence a vinyasa class?
And the answer is both yes and no. If you’re looking to really learn something from experience, it can’t. It’ll give you a skeletal framework that you must work on, build, and give flesh, blood, life, and love to. It’s incomplete and rudimentary. It is, of course, a great bit of modern technology, but it’s not the be-all and end-all. Without the human element, there’s no guidance or insight on how practitioners can keep up with the movements in the midst of injuries. How scary to think of chatGPT teaching complicated inversions in yoga. Teachers, make your own classes because you can do better. You have to. You’re in charge of connecting your students to their emotions and grounding them. That’s not something that AI can do. You, with all your heart and soul, can.
You, with all the studying and years of practice that has brought you to this stage, can. If you want to learn how to sequence a vinyasa class, we recommend taking a yoga teacher training program. You can learn the basics of sequencing in our 200-hour online yoga teacher training. If you are already a 200-hour teacher and you're interested in learning more, you can study advanced sequencing in our 300-hour yoga teacher training.