I was talking to a friend a few weeks ago about how find your own sequencing style. This friend is a really accomplished yoga teacher who has been teaching about the same amount of time as me and has also done lots of teacher trainings, including an anatomy training and is currently doing a yoga mentorship.
But she admitted to me that, after working in a studio with a strict sequencing style for so long, she is struggling with finding her personal voice/style.
In talking this through with her, I was astonished to learn that she never goes back to sequences she has already taught in the past. What I mean is that, though she’ll plan a class for all her group classes for the week, once that week is over, she starts from scratch and never goes back to a sequence she has already taught.
Ever. Meaning she has at least a few years worth of classes she has never retaught.
When I heard that I immediately urged her to go back through her notebooks and revisit her old sequences. There are SO. MANY. REASONS. WHY.
Let’s start with the obvious.
Reusing old sequences can save you time and energy and can help prevent burnout. As teachers, we live a pretty crazy, entrepreneurial life. And having to think of a new sequence for our group classes each and every week can get exhausting really fast. One simple way to prevent burnout is to go back to our old, tried and tested classes and reteach them.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Won’t be my students get bored and leave me for a teacher who is more creative?”
Let me answer this question with another question. How many times have you gone to a yoga class that went almost exactly like this?:
Downdog -> Plank -> Chaturanga -> Updog -> Downdog -> Step to Lunge -> Warrior 2 -> Side Angle -> Warrior 2 -> Reverse Warrior -> Triangle -> Warrior 2 -> Cartwheel hands down to lunge -> Downdog -> Repeat on other side
Did you ever walk out of the class because you were bored or because the sequence wasn’t creative enough? I have been to like, HUNDREDS of those classes. And never once have I thought, “Well this teacher just isn’t creative enough for me.” Usually, I was focusing so hard on something in the pose, I barely noticed the sequence. And truth be told, the repetition made me feel like I could “progress” in some way. After all, you don’t learn something by doing it just once. You have to keep on practicing the same thing over and over in order to get better or stronger.
So repetition is great for students. But what about for us as teachers? Is it cheating ourselves to do what we’ve already done?
Glad you asked!
Revisiting old sequences is actually a really illuminating activity in terms of personal growth. First of all, when you teach something over and over, you learn from your mistakes (what landed, what didn’t, what needed to be refined, etc.) and you make it a lot better. So even if you taught that class for one week, by the end of the week, that “same” class has evolved into something better and more useful that could then be retaught to all your students with more clarity.
Also, when you go back to sequences you’ve taught in the past, you often look at them with fresh eyes and it can really shed light on the things you would do differently and WHY. Looking backwards can help to ground you in what you stand for presently in your teaching, just by showing you what you would do differently now.
All of this is to say that if you’re not going back to old sequences for inspiration, then you are missing a huge opportunity for personal growth and development as a teacher.
But wait, there’s more!
When I first came out of teacher training, I thought that every week I had to reinvent the wheel from scratch. I felt this pressure to come up with some new and creative every single week. That pressure often prevented me from just being in the moment and enjoying the process of teaching my students. I would be in class worrying that it wasn’t different or imaginative enough for them.
But in the end, students didn’t care if I taught the same poses or same sequences week to week. In fact, they liked some repetition so they knew what to expect. The consistency made it easier for all of us and as a result, I was a better teacher because I could be more PRESENT in the classroom. I could pay attention to my students’ experiences rather than remembering the sequence or worrying about how creative I was being.
And speaking of being more present and confident, can you imagine teaching a class you’ve never taught before at a huge or important event where the stakes are much higher? Wouldn’t you rather have a playbook of tested and familiar classes to teach from when in it really counts?
Imagine giving a client presentation or a performance without any rehearsals. Imagine you were a singer and the first time you ever sang a particular song was during a live, televised appearance like the Super Bowl. That would be crazy, right?
And let me ask you this, would you ever go to a Beyoncé concert and think, “I can’t believe she is singing “Crazy in Love” when she sings it at every concert and I’ve heard this song a million times on the radio”? No! Of course not!
Take a cue from Beyoncé. Cultivate an album of hits...and then go on tour with it.