How to Sequence a Vinyasa Class
how to sequence a vinyasa class
how to sequence a vinyasa class
Sequencing a yoga class can be both a science and an art. There are many systematic methodologies to approaching yoga class sequencing, but the creativity of the sequence ultimately comes through in your artful and unique personality.
Sequencing is the key to leaving a lasting impression with your students and creating a transformational experience. But with all of the information out in the world on sequencing, it is essential to note that there is no specific right or wrong way to sequence, and all sequences are valid. So, please take what you read below as insight and guidance, and then make it your own!
The Importance of Sequencing in a Vinyasa ClassGood quality sequencing can often mark the difference between a thriving yoga teacher and a teacher who struggles to fill their classes. Sequencing provides an experience for your students, and when it feels choppy or disorganized, this can confuse your students and may even lead to injuries.
Particularly in vinyasa yoga classes, the flowing nature of this yoga style requires greater awareness and consideration of how the different poses fit together. As you create your sequences, it is essential to consider how different poses can work better together, particularly when considering anatomical alignment and injury prevention.
How to Write a Yoga Class PlanThere are many different ways to write out a yoga class sequence. You can go the old-fashioned route and write it down on paper with the names of the poses, or you can get even more artistic and draw little stick figures as a cue to remember.
Another option is to use various online sequencing tools, such as Tummee or YogaClassPlan which contain a database of thousands of yoga poses that you can put together with helpful details and images. No matter which tool you choose to use, the vital thing to remember when writing a yoga class plan is to make it easy to read, simple to remember or memorize, and legible.
The Traditional Vinyasa Class Plan
Traditional vinyasa classes follow a standard linear class plan. These classes start with a grounding, move into a gentle warm-up, and then shift into sun or moon salutations, standing poses, seated poses, and end with a peaceful savasana.
Vinyasa sequencing was born out of the sequences in Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga created by Pattabhi Jois. These sequences contain a set of poses that mirror the above-described vinyasa flow, but this style of yoga has a higher level of intensity and is typically only practiced by more experienced yoga practitioners.
You can view the flow of a traditional vinyasa class like a bell curve. These classes start slow, building intensity to a peak, and then gradually cool down, providing the students with a cohesive, energetic experience from start to finish.
What are the Parts of a Yoga Class?See below for the main components of a yoga class and discover how you can use this as a foundation to create your own vinyasa yoga sequences.
1. GroundingThe grounding portion of a yoga class is possibly the most crucial time of a class because it helps the students transition onto their mat. Students often come to classes from hectic situations in their lives, and giving them time to settle into the practice is essential. This is also a great time to practice meditation and pranayama. This portion of a class typically lasts between 5 to 10 minutes.
Here are some recommended poses to use in this section of a class:
- Child's Pose (Balasana)
- Easy Pose (Sukhasana)
- Thunderbolt Pose (Vajrasana)
- Corpse Pose (Savasana)
- Reclined Bound Angle Pose (Supta Baddha Konasana)
- Hero's Pose (Virasana)
- Adept's Pose (Siddhasana)
2. Warm-Up and IntegrationA yoga class's warm-up phase is essential to prepare the body for practice, particularly if you have a more rigorous sequence. You can use this portion of the class to activate the core and warm up the joints. This section of class often lasts between 10 to 15 minutes.
Some common yoga poses practiced in this section include:
- Cat-Cow Pose (Marjariasana and Bitilasana)
- Boat Pose (Navasana)
- Side Bending (Parsva Sukhasana)
- Seated Twist Pose (Marichiasana)
- Joint Warm-Up Series (Pavanmuktasana Sequence)
3. Sun/Moon SalutationsThe next primary portion of a vinyasa yoga class is the sun or moon salutations. These are another great way to warm up the body and link movement with breath. Sun salutations are typically more active sequence, whereas moon salutations are good for a calming yoga class.
This portion of the class generally lasts between 10 to 15 minutes. An excellent place to start is with a few rounds of Sun Salutation A or B. It is best to do a maximum of 5 unless you are going for a very active yoga class or even the famed 108 sun salutations practice.
4. Standing and Balancing PosturesThe standing and balancing poses portion of a vinyasa yoga class is often the longest part. This portion typically lasts between 20 to 25 minutes and is where you build the most heat in the yoga class. Some teachers prefer to mix in the balancing poses or practice them together after the standing poses.
Some common standing and balancing poses practiced in this section include:
- Warrior 1 Pose (Virabhadrasana I)
- Low Lunge Pose (Anjanyasana)
- Tree Pose (Vrikshasana)
- Eagle Pose (Garudasana)
- Dancer Pose (Natrajasana)
5. Seated and Supine Postures
Transitioning into the seated and supine poses of the yoga class is when things start to cool down. This is also a time where you can incorporate core work before. The seated portion of a yoga class generally lasts between 10 to 15 minutes.See below for some popular seated yoga poses:
- Pigeon Pose (Kapotasana)
- Forward Fold Pose (Paschimottanasana)
- Happy Baby Pose (Anandabalasana)
- Head to Knee Pose (Janu Shirshasana)
- Bridge Pose (Setu Bandhasana)
Every yoga class ends with the signature savasana or Corpse Pose. To allow for deep relaxation and integration, it is best to have your savasana last at least 5 to 10 minutes or longer.
This precious time of class is an excellent time for students to relax and move into yoga's more profound meditative practices. Consider guiding your students through a body scan or progressive muscle relaxation practice during this time.
Timing Poses in a SequenceThere are some suggestions for time ranges in the above portions of a yoga sequence for each part of the class. But you can always adjust these depending on how calming or intense you want your class to be.
For example, an active yoga class may have a more extended portion of standing poses or sun salutations. In contrast, a gentle or slow flow vinyasa class may have a brief standing pose section or even none at all! Experiment with different timing options and remember to stay aware of your students, and you can constantly intuitively adjust things as you go.
Theming in a Yoga ClassAdding themes to a yoga class sequence can elevate your yoga classes to the next level and create a transformational experience for your students. See below for some examples of yoga class themes:
- Breath work
- Inspirational quotes
- Body parts
- Philosophical teachings
- Specific poses
- Concepts or words
Classes can also be themed as energetic or relaxing, or you can select an apex pose or set of poses to structure the class around. The options are truly endless! A good rule of thumb for a theme is to try and weave it into the class at least three times at the beginning, middle, and end of the class. You don't need to focus on the theme every moment, and sometimes a more subtle approach is better received.
5 Tips and Tricks for Sequencing1. Stick to the Basics – even experienced teachers and students benefit from the foundational yoga practices, and sometimes this consistency can be what facilitates true transformation.
2. Practice Your Sequence – starting with a sequence on paper is a great foundation, but bringing that sequence into your body can help you fine-tune the experience and can also help you remember it when teaching! This is also a great time to practice synchronizing your sequence with a playlist if you choose to incorporate music.
3. Assess Your Students – making a sequence is a wonderful foundation, but it is also essential to know when to let go of the sequence and support your students as needed.
4. Consider Theming – themes can take any sequence to the next level; whether metaphysical, spiritual, philosophical, physical, or all the above, a theme can help guide your sequence and add depth to your classes.
5. Relax and Have Fun – sequencing and teaching yoga should be fun and inspirational, so don't let sequencing bog you down! Bring lightness and joy to the experience, and learn how to surrender when you might get caught up too much in the details.
Moving Beyond the Poses & Making the Sequence Your OwnPossibly even more important than the sequence of poses is the deeper undercurrent of the breath and philosophical teachings. Even if you teach the same sequence in every class, these components can cultivate a unique experience and transformation that extends deep into the practice.
It is also wonderful to incorporate some of your own creativity through the sequencing process. There is no exact "right" or "wrong" way to sequence; all sequences are valid. So, express yourself in this process and make your distinctive mark on the yoga world.
Learn How to Sequence a Yoga Class in Our Online Yoga Teacher Training
Although you can certainly learn a lot about yoga class sequencing through your personal yoga practice, it also greatly helps to have the guidance of a trained yoga teacher. In our online yoga teacher training programs, we will guide you through how to create your own yoga sequences step by step.
Sequencing is genuinely an art that is learned with practice. So, get on your mat and start flowing; this is where the fundamental transformation begins! And when you are ready to take this to the next level, reach out to us to join our upcoming online 200 hour yoga teacher training program and dive in deeper.
Steph has over 25 years of experience in yoga and movement. Her understanding of yoga and the human body has been influenced by lifelong dancing and holistic health. She found her life’s purpose in helping people become happier and healthier through her own healing journey. Steph assists her students in knowing the joy and wonderment of integrating the mind and body through accessible yoga. She encourages an authentic and life-nurturing practice, one that brings greater consciousness to each moment and every movement of the body with a heavy emphasis on breath.
With a masters degree in counseling, Steph brings awareness, acceptance and a down to earth approach to her classes. She studied with Maty Ezraty and later completed her second 200-hour training with Nancy Candea at Yoga Impact in New Jersey and her 300-hour training with Chris Loebsack at Boundless Yoga Studio in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. The perpetual student, Steph has studied with Leslie Howard, Travis Eliot, Bryan Kest, Donna Farhi and countless others. She has extensive training in pelvic floor yoga, restorative yoga, yin yoga, power yoga and accessible yoga. Most recently, Steph was certified as a Grand Master of Meditation through Swami Vidyanand.
Steph founded Yoga and Ayurveda Center with her husband. She later launched Online Yoga School to support her local trainings and has recently launched a virtual yoga studio to accommodate the international community of trainees.
When she isn’t on her mat, Steph can be found volunteering, enjoying her husband and children, dancing and cooking. She currently enjoys serving on the board of World Yoga Federation and Meditation Alliance International and previously enjoyed serving on the Education Committee of Yoga Alliance and places a strong emphasis on inclusivity in her teacher trainings.