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5 Common Sequencing Mistakes Yoga Teachers Make
In yoga classes, most students don’t actually pay attention to the sequencing. It just feels…good. Or it should. When the sequencing is off, though, it can make the rest of their day feel misaligned, at the very least. Students might not even realize why they feel out of whack. They just do.
There are countless approaches to sequencing, and there’s not one that is necessarily right. However, there are certain things that happen—or don’t happen—during the course of instructing students through their practice that are wrong. Following are some common sequencing mistakes that yoga teachers make.
1. Teaching seated warm-ups at the beginning of class
Even in your more advanced classes, the majority of students you work with will have a hard time keeping a neutral lumbar curve when sitting. What’s behind the difficulty is usually too much time spent at the computer or steering wheel, tight hamstrings, weak lower back muscles, and over- or under-arching the lower back. When you bring students into a seated posture at the beginning of class and ask them to lift their arms overhead, perform twists, and bend forward, that can cause discomfort.
Rather than starting seated, try sequencing so your students are up on their feet at the beginning of class. From standing, now you have a great, safe place to start some anti-desk postures, such as shoulder rolls, subtle spinal movements, even lunges.
See also: The Principles of Sequencing a Yoga Class
2. Teaching poses without a proper warm-up
Students’ bodies needs to be warmed up before you ask them to attempt more challenging poses. While some bodies might be physically able to do these postures without much warm-up, they might still experience soreness or injury, or this could, over time, be dangerous and cut into the longevity of their yoga practice.
Ensure you’re proceeding these challenge poses with a proper warm-up for all areas of the body involved in the posture. This will simply feel better in the bodies of students than a sequence that doesn’t include time to slowly warm the muscles. Plus, it will help make these poses more accessible to those who are still working toward these poses—even if they can’t get there today, they did the preparatory work and will feel that in their bodies.
See also: Ways to Warm-Up Your Wrists and Shoulders for Yoga
3. Teaching poses that are too challenging
A class labeled “Vinyasa” or “Level 2” can look quite different from studio to studio. If you are teaching—and sequencing—a class that includes more involved postures or a heavy-duty peak pose, consider how you might shift your sequence if the majority of the students in the room aren’t quite ready for what you are planning to teach. Teaching poses that are too challenging for the majority of students in a class can result in injuries and some people in the room feeling like they’re “not good enough” for yoga. Remember, you are teaching to the students who are in front of you. You are not teaching to the script in your head that you carefully choreographed and can’t wait to share.
See also: 14 Modifications for Common Yoga Poses
4. Teaching the peak pose too late in class
We’ve all been there as students: Five minutes until the end of class and the teacher is cramming in a massive pose. There’s no time for a proper cool down. If you’re lucky there’s a twist before they take you into Savasana.
Having a peak pose without a proper cool down is jarring to the nervous system. Demanding poses—especially backbends—are very stimulating and the body needs time to rebalance before relaxing into Savasana. Plan your sequence to include ample time for students to recover, and adapt as needed on the fly if you’re running fast or slow through class. Remember: The class isn’t about what you want to teach students. It’s about what you can responsibly share with them as a practice.
See also: Perspective-Shifting Peak Poses
5. Not leaving enough time for Savasana
Speaking of Savasana, incorporate time for it when you plan your sequence! Five minutes is a strong and average amount of time for a 60-minute class. A longer classes can allot time for a longer Savasana. This is where students integrate the entirety of their practice—it is just as important (or more) than the rest of the class. Don’t shortchange your students by making it brief.
See also: The Benefits of Savasana
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12 Restorative Yoga Poses That Feel Even Better With a Strap
When we think of restorative yoga, we often think of blankets, blocks, and bolsters. While those props can be useful to support your body, you can also practice a restorative sequence with just a strap. The goal of restorative yoga is to give your nervous system a chance to be less busy by giving your body less activity. Using a strap can offer strong support and hold your body securely while you can settle into the positions.
This is a great go-to sequence on recovery days where you wish to release residual tension from your hips. It enables you to settle into greater spaciousness, especially in and around your hip joints.
More from Rocky Heron: Use Your Tools! How Yoga Props Can Deepen Your Practice
Somatic Breathing 1
Take a comfortable seat. Place the strap along your back ribs and hold with both hands. Take 5 slow deep breaths, focusing on the expansion of your ribs against the strap as your breathe in, and the pressing of the strap against your back ribs as you exhale.
Somatic Breathing 2
Place the strap around your left ribs and hold both ends in your right hand. Take 5 slow breaths as you did in the previous posture, this time focusing your breath into your left side ribs and against the strap on that side. Switch the position of the strap and repeat on the right side.
Somatic Breathing 3
Wrap the strap around your back ribs, loop the ends around and hold in opposite hands. Take 5 deep, slow breaths, this time focusing on the three-dimensional expansion of your ribs against the strap.
From a seated position, bend your knees and open them out so that you can join the soles of your feet together. Create a large loop in the strap, and place it around your torso. Secure the back of the strap across the top of your sacrum and loop the front of the strap around your ankles. Adjust the strap to hold your feet close to your pelvis. Lie back and rest your arms by your sides with your palms facing up. Use a pillow under your head if available. Stay for 3–5 minutes.
Ardha Apanasana (Half Wind Relieving Pose)
Widen the loop in the strap and place it around your torso. Lie back with the strap underneath your back ribs. Draw your right knee into your chest, open slightly toward your right shoulder. Loop the strap around your right shin and tighten it to hold your knee and thigh in position. Straighten your left leg and extend it along the floor. Rest your arms by your side. Stay for 2 minutes. Loosen the strap, release your right leg, and lower it to the floor. Repeat the pose on the left side.
Lie on your back with the strap positioned around your back ribs. Bend your right knee into your chest and loop the strap around your right foot. Press into the strap to straighten your leg. Adjust the strap as needed to accommodate the position. To regress the range of motion in your right hip, you can bend your left knee and place your foot on the floor. To progress the range of motion, straighten your left leg on the floor. Stay for 2 minutes.
Supta Padangusthasana 2
Keeping the strap in position, open your right leg out to the side. You can support your outstretched leg on a block of pillow if needed, but attempt to keep your pelvis and torso flat on the floor. Your left leg can once again bend or straighten depending on your range of motion. Stay for 2 minutes then switch sides, starting with Supta Padangusthasana 1 on your left leg.
Eka Pada Jathara Parivartanasana (bent knee variation)
Make a large loop in the strap and place it around your left shoulder. Lie on your back and bend your right knee into your chest. Shift your pelvis several inches to the right and twist your right hip to the left. Place the other end of the strap around your right leg, just behind the knee, and tighten the loop to hold your leg in position. Open your arms like a T to either side. Widen your left ribs and attempt to bring your right shoulder to the floor. Stay for 2 minutes. Switch sides.
From a seated position, bend your right knee and place your right shin on the floor in front of you. Sweep your left leg back behind you and straighten your knee. Lean to your right hip and place the small, looped end of the strap around your left foot. Drap the tail of the strap over your left shoulder. Turn your pelvis forward and balance on your shins. Hold the strap overhead with both hands and lean forward. Work your hands up the strap as you bend your back knee. Pin the strap down with your hands to maintain the position. Stay for 1–2 minutes then switch sides.
Put a big loop in the strap and sit with your legs in front of you. Place the strap around your torso, behind your back ribs. Bend your knees, hinge forward at your pelvis and loop the other end of the strap around your feet. Tighten the strap and bend your knees enough so that your trunk can come in contact with your thighs. Straighten your legs as much as you can maintain this position in your hips. If available, you can rest your head on a block between your shins. Stay for 2 minutes.
Lie on your back with your legs slightly wider than hips width. Place the strap across your closed eyes. Open your arms slightly wider than your shoulders and spin your palms up. Slide your shoulder blades away from your ears and lengthen the back of your neck. Relax your body fully and stay for 5-plus minutes.
More prop-supported sequences from Rocky Heron
Over the next few weeks, we’ll explore how to use props to enhance your practice, whether by regressing or progressing your movements. Here’s what you might have missed (and what’s coming up):
About our contributor
Rocky Heron is an internationally acclaimed yoga and movement educator, artist, and musician. Known for his uncanny wisdom and in-depth understanding of human anatomy, Rocky’s teaching is informed by years of study in many yoga styles and movement modalities. Considered a “teacher’s teacher,” Rocky works worldwide and online facilitating trainings and continuing education for teachers. Rocky works in collaboration with Noah Mazé as a faculty member and key contributor to the curriculum at the Mazé Method, and as a featured teacher on Yoga International. Rocky enjoys a rich and dynamic life with his magnificent community of artists, and is a founding member of the Queer Wellness Collective, which seeks to promote well-being to members of the queer community. Students steep themselves in Rocky’s teaching for his intelligence, humor, and innovative approach to movement, as well as his ability to make complex concepts accessible. Follow him on Instagram @rockyheron.