When designing classes that will inspire students and keep them coming back week after week, it is essential to approach class planning with creativity and passion. This doesn’t require you to work for hours on end or to reinvent your planning process. Here are five strategies to help build creative yoga sequences that students enjoy over and and over again.
1. Approach Something from Multiple Angles
An easy way to breathe creativity into your classes is to approach something familiar from multiple angles. You can choose a pose to workshop, tie a philosophical idea into multiple parts of the class, or work on a particular part of the body in various ways. Choose an area that people are familiar with, like their shoulders, and try poses or movements that access them in a different or indirect way.
The key in this strategy for creative planning is to make the exploration fun or exciting. Offer the variations like an experiment or a game, just to see what happens! This lighthearted approach means that students don’t feel disappointed if something new doesn’t suit them or just feels odd because of its novelty. The simple act of planning your class in this way will give you new ideas that you can use again and again.
2. Offer Contrast
The second key way to plan creative yoga sequences is to make sure to build contrast into the sequence. You may already be familiar with the concept of pratipaksha bhavinam, often studied in the philosophy of The Yoga Sutras. One interpretation of this concept is "cultivating the opposite." One of the reasons this is such a common and useful practice in yoga is that comparison is such a useful learning tool. Offering contrast aides in understanding.
Whether it's contracting and then opening a particular part of the body, trying two variations of a posture, or approaching the same thing with contrasting focus or energy, the opportunity to compare and contrast offers practitioners the opportunity to see and experience something in a new way. It lets students make their own choices and embody their practice in a way that leads to better progress or self understanding.
3. Offer Opportunities for Progression
A great way to help students find their unique practice in a group class is to include opportunities for progression. Both within a single class and over the course of several classes regularly attended by the same students, try including postures and sequences that allow students to grow and challenge themselves appropriately.
A misconception about creative yoga sequences is that they can't be repetitive. Repetition can be your best friend if it allows you and your students to build towards something. Maybe you always include a similar balancing sequence so students can gain confidence with those postures over time. Maybe you repeat a flow so students can nail their transitions and start to experience moving meditation. Repetition is not boring, but rather leads to growth and progression if you use it well.
4. Sequence Based on How You Want Students to Feel
Another approach to building creative yoga sequences involves thinking about how you want students to feel rather than just focusing on postures or class components. Consider the overall effect of the class, taking into account where students are starting energetically or mentally and where you would like them to go.
This could allow you to choose movements and language that embody the state you want to create. Again, think about how to bring in contrast, approach that concept from multiple perspectives, and include ways for students to dive deeper into the theme throughout the class.
5. Give Yourself Useful Boundaries
Finally, the most useful thing you can do if you're running low on creativity is to narrow your focus instead of broadening it. In order to adapt to unique bodies or class situations, it’s useful to be creative on the spot. While you may never use these class plans, it will help you find new ways to do things when faced with a student with a unique need. Ideas could include:
Relate every pose to a chakra.
Build a sequence that can't contain anything on the knees or hands.
Create every pose to have an opposite or counter pose.
Make every pose related to an animal.
When planning your next class, think about what will serve your students best. Would repetition towards a goal be helpful? Do they need to experience something in multiple ways to gain understanding? Do they need something included or taken away from their practice to help them experience things in a new way? Whether you feel a lack of inspiration, under supported, bored with the same sequences, or simply in search of something new, we hope these suggestions support you in your creative class planning efforts.
If you have an interest in diving deeper, we offer a 3-hour, pre-recorded Creative Class Sequencing continuing education course or a full 20-hour Creative Sequencing advanced training course that applies toward our 300-hour program.