Learning to create sequenced flows that maximise student engagement

Dancer pose, balancing sequences can be a lot of fun and keep us really engaged.

Here are my three things you need to know about creating beautiful yoga sequences that maximise student engagement.  

Student Engagement

First let’s talk about keeping students engaged. It’s important to note that keeping students engaged doesn’t always have to come from very advanced yoga poses or tricky, clever sequencing. Most people chose yoga as a holistic practice for overall well being.

Game of Thrones, is very engaging but not as beneficial for our nervous system.

Each person in yoga class is on their own path. They have their own level of fitness, their own amount of mobility, flexibility within the body. They have their own goals and their own reasons for being in your class.

Remember that and knowing that if you do the same sequence, there are people who do the same sequence for decades. Each day is different and each time there is something different to work on within ourselves.

Take surya namaskar , the sun salute sequence for example. This sequence has been practice daily by generations of people. What makes yoga different from the stretches in an exercise class? It’s the mind body connection, it’s the sense of bring the breath, the spirit, the whole self into the practice. The sense of peace and well being that we get from the practice.

Have you tried setting an intention for your sun salutes? Inviting your students to set their own intention for their practice makes each practice unique and empowers them to think about what they want and take ownership of their practice.  

You, as their teacher can set a challenge with the sequence and do it in very different ways.

Some examples:  

  • Try slowing it down and focusing on the alignment of the spine within each pose?
  • What about trying it with the eyes softly closed?
  • And how about focusing on the gaze point as you flow through?
  • Can you flow through the whole sequence with your awareness gently placed on the exhale as you flow?  

Staying engaged with the breath through out the practice trains us to focus, so rather than advancing the sequence or the asana, we are advancing our practice within the same sequence.

We awaken prana, or energy in the body as we focus on different things within the same sequence . To achieve this we need to begin with a simple sequence that we know and then we can advance our practice within the same yoga sequence.

Remember just because you feel its simple doesn’t mean its simple for your class. If they are not engaged is there something else going on?

It might seem like we are repeating ourselves but as we do, we go deeper and we have those moments when we suddenly “get it”.

Teacher’s engagement

Humans are social and people come to a class to be a a space held by a teacher, a real human that sees them. If not they could do free youtube yoga.  

We’ve all had that experience where a teacher has been bored and just going through the motions. It’s not fun.

How do you feel about your yoga sequences?

Doing your own personal practice,  in your body, and seeing what works for you, is going to keep you excited about sharing yoga.

Make time for your own personal practice.

Of course being human, we’re all going to come to points when we’re disengaged, or mentally clock off, and we bring ourself back. That in itself is yoga, its a training in mindfulness. When we practice focus, we are practicing dharana, concentration.

Rather than trying to do all the new sexy yoga things to keep ourselves and our students engaged, maybe inviting ourselves and them to notice the distraction and bring the focus back.

Third thing, I promised help with sequencing so here it comes.

Start playing with the sequence that you know. It’s heaps and heaps of fun. Your first call to call if you want to start to engage students with different sequences, is to roll out the yoga mat, on your own with that intention.

Get down on floor and start to move.

Not sure where to start? Maybe try to begin with something simple like moving from Child’s Pose into table into downward dog. Back down to hare pose.

Pause and think where can you go from here? And if your natural thing is to go back up to downward dog, then think for a moment. Is there anywhere else that would feel good to go from here?

Maybe rather than going up and back, to downward dog you go down and forwards under the gate into cobra, or an upward dog. Chose your adventure!

From up dog is is back to down dog again? Or maybe you try something else, plank? and see where you can go from there? Side plank? Why not? What else?

Have fun and play. Don’t try to remember it all just enjoy and flow.

You might notice we often move up and down. Open down in space, open down the mat, forwards backwards, up and down.

Here’s another challenge for you is get off your mat. Go and practice on the grass or the carpet in your sitting room and stretch it all out there. Can you make movements that come off the sides rather than staying in that rectangular shape?

Maybe start in table and from challenge yourself to get to face the other direction by moving through poses so your head ends up where your tail was.

For example from table we can lunge, twist, go through gate pose, hands out in front, plank perpendicular to where we were so we change sides!

Play until you find a pattern that works.

Once you’ve done that,  make some notes of it and figure out, how it’s best to instruct your students. 

Once you start to do things like that, they will be engaged and follow you but if its new they may get mixed up or frustrated so get very clear with your cues if you start to create really new sequences.  

Its good, its a bit yoga for the brain when they do get a little bit lost.

Creativity is so much fun and learning is so good for the whole person’s well being.

Challenge yourself go from Child’s Pose into warrior two in three different ways. And then you can let me know your favourite way in the comments.

Have fun!

Remember that there’s a beauty and being able to know enough to close your eyes and move through your your postures without having to keep watching the teacher so the days when you are not feeling playful and inspired, trust what you know and just show up for your students. You never know when something will suddenly land with one of them. Its all about the journey.

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