Tip Tuesday: Help! I Need a Yoga Sequence

Tip Tuesday is a weekly feature where I offer a few yoga tips that have worked for me in the hopes that they can help you too.

Ever intend to practice yoga at home, but get stuck because you don’t know what poses to do? I’ve certainly been there. More often than not, when my home practice is, er, lacking, it’s because I can’t seem to decide what class sequence to do. I’ve never been one of those people who does well with total “free-form”–that is, doing any pose that feels good to do next. Instead, it helps me to have a class sequence outlined in the beginning. I don’t have to stick with it completely, but it gives me a place to start.

If you’re a yoga teacher, you might sometimes experience being uninspired about what to teach on a given day. Occasionally I feel undecided about what to teach (Backbends or inversions? Twists? What kind of sequences?). Sometimes I just feel like I want to mix up my sequencing more for some variety.

To help myself (and hopefully you too!), I created an online notebook of yoga sequences. Some of these are classes that I’ve created for my classes. Others are sequences inspired by another yoga class I’ve taken with my own spin on it. There’s also several classes directly from workshops or classes I’ve taken with Ana (as best I’ve been able to remember afterwards). For each class, I’ve noted the theme, physical focus, and approximate length and level.  [Note: these are mainly Forrest Yoga sequences, but I note when there are non-Forrest yoga classes]

My hope is that these can help you on those days where you’re drawing a big question mark on the practice or you just need a few ideas to get you going on a class sequence. These can provide a place to start, riff from, and experiment with as you see fit. It’s helped me to refer to spark some ideas or to just give myself a direction for the practice on any given day. You can find the link at the right side of the blog.

The classes also live in Google Docs and are open to anyone to add class plans to, so feel free to add yours to the mix!

Pretzel Sticks for Public Speaking

When I was in kindergarten, each student who behaved and did not have to sit in time out received a pretzel stick at the end of the day. Pretzel sticks were a popular snack at my house so I used a similar tactic to coerce my younger sisters into playing school with me. I’d bribe them with pretzel sticks to get them to complete their assigned “homework”.

Fast forward twenty or so years when I became a teacher of another kind: a yoga instructor. After finishing my initial teacher training, I landed my first real teaching gig. Needless to say I was petrified. Teaching a group of paying students was a far cry from the practice teaching I’d done in my training.

I confessed my nervousness to my youngest sister who had some great advice for me. “Megan, just pretended you are teaching school to us when we were little and promising us pretzel sticks.” I laughed, but wouldn’t you know, this trick really worked.

To this day, whenever I’m scared or apprehensive about a new or challenging teaching situation, I think about pretzel sticks. I can then connect back to the enthusiastic teacher I was in childhood, perfectly at ease with her students. Then I seek to bring the same confident, exuberant (though hopefully less bossy) manner into my yoga teaching.

What tricks do you have for calming yourself before teaching or speaking in front of a group?

Circus yoga class for kids


Image credit: Deviant Art

I recently did a yoga class with elementary school students where we went to the circus.
Throughout the class I tried to weave in the theme of focus and working together in a variety of different partner and individual activities. Here’s some of the circus ideas I had for the class:

Elephants: Warm up with elephant pose as you interlace hands together into a forward bend letting head and neck hang. You can lift their trunk up then down again to eat peanuts or take a shower and walk around with heavy feet.

Unicycle: Laying down on the mat, bicycle the feet. Or start bicycling from a seated position (trying with no hands) pedaling forwards and then backwards. For even more challenge, try pedaling all the way down, then back up to sitting. Did you have to focus especially when you changed what direction you were pedaling?

Lions jumping through a hoop: Take a few rounds of lions’ breath, then stretch up into downward dog. One at a time, everyone can jump through a hula hoop by placing hands on the other side of the hoop and jumping the feet forward from downward dog. How did different parts of your body have to work together to help you make it through the hoop?

Tightrope: Walk heel to heel along the edge of your mat or along a strap or string. At the end of the “rope”, take a balance pose. This could be dancer pose, airplane, or bringing a knee up and then extending the leg straight. Combine different balances together for a more difficult balancing routine. And of course there’s walking backwards to where you started. What did you have to do to help you keep your balance? What helped you keep your focus?

Juggling: Sit in a circle and quickly pass a small ball around the circle. Then start passing a second ball of a different size in the opposite direction and see how well the group can work together to “juggle” the balls going around. How can you still keep your focus when two different balls are going around?

Trapeze: With a partner, face one another and hold onto each other’s arms and take airplane pose. Come up and take a partner chair pose while facing your partner and holding arms. You can try this with other partner poses with one partner leaning forward and the other partner gently pulling their arms back to give a chest and shoulder opening or making partner table.  Notice how you had to work together to help your partner (and you) balance, stay safe, and enjoy the poses. Another way to be a trapeze artist is to use a wall and take upside-down “L” pose. Feel how being upside down challenges your balance and focus in a different way.

Magician’s hat: Wave a colored scarf over a top hat and turn it into a rabbit. Everyone can then take rabbit pose and/or practice bunny breath. You can also pull out multiple scarves from the hat for some creative movement using the scarves.

Circus music could go well with these activities. Be sure to ask your performers as they may have some great ideas for some acts to add to the circus.

I’d love to hear any further ideas you have for a circus-themed yoga class.