When I first started teaching Yoga, I, like many new teachers believed that "new" equalled better when planning my classes. I assumed that if I ever were to reuse a sequence, my students would immediately think that I was boring, or that I was a shit Yoga teacher and would cease to attend my classes which would result in my prompt dismissal from the Yoga studios that employed me.
But if you're a Yoga teacher and you're reading this, chances are you have thought something along the same lines or have felt pressure to continuously deliver creative, new, inspiring Yoga flows week after week which over time can become exhausting.
While I love creating new Yoga class sequences and experimenting with different movements, I am a big believer in recycling flow sequences and class plans. Especially on days when I am short on time or low in energy or just not feeling inspired to create something new (all of this is normal by the way, teaching yoga can be a really creatively demanding job) recycling a Yoga class sequence is my go-to solution.
In addition to saving your energy (and sanity, let's be honest) as an instructor, repeating a sequence gives your students an opportunity to refine their movements and observe their progress. Repetition is how most of us learn and improve at things. How can you expect your students to become stronger at executing a certain transition or posture if you've only taught it to them once?
Repetition is a good thing. To avoid it feeling redundant (for you and your students) here are my TOP 7 WAYS TO UPCYCLE A YOGA CLASS SEQUENCE:
1. USE THE SAME FLOW SEQUENCE FOR PEAK POSES THAT ARE ALIKE.
For peak poses that target similar areas of the body (eg: Seated Compass, Standing Compass, and Visvamitrasana all work: 1) deep side body lengthening 2) inner-thigh and hamstring lengthening 3) shoulder mobility, and 4) upper-body open rotation. They are basically all just different variations of the same posture.) I know that I can maintain the same warm ups, preparatory movements, and sequence to achieve the same result. So, I'll reuse the entire sequence and then swap out the peak pose. Basically, if you've created a really good sequence that preps the body perfectly for "x" movement, use it for other poses that share that same movement profile. It's the age-old principle of "don't mess with a good thing", my loves.
2. CHANGE THE PHYSICAL FOCUS OF THE CLASS.
Changing the area of the body that you are activating/focusing your awareness on, can completely change the experience of a Yoga class right down to the individual postures within the class sequence. Think about something like Warrior 2. You could cue this posture in so many different ways: 1) bringing awareness into the upper body and the arms by toning the arms or flipping the direction of the palms up/down, 2) making the focus about the hamstrings and glutes by intentionally driving the front heel down into the mat, 3) activating the inner thighs by isometrically drawing the front and back foot together. This experience is entirely driven by the verbal cues that the Yoga instructor deploys. So rather than cueing literally everything that you know about the posture, cue the rough alignment minimally and then use more detailed cues to center your students' experience around the physical target for the class.
I did this recently with one of the on-demand yoga classes that I filmed for OMOLOGY ONLINE. The sequence was one that I had taught before, however for the more recent class, I changed the focus to be entirely about the hips: mobilising them, stabilising them, and strengthening the muscles around them. So, even when it came time for a little bit of core work in the sequence (boat pose) rather than focusing all of my cues on the abdominals, I directed our focus to the hip flexors. In this case, because you are targeting specific areas of the body, you may need to *tweak* your sequence minimally to keep it coherent.
3. USE A DIFFERENT THEME/INTENTION.
There are infinite ways to theme your class which is great news because it means that you have an unlimited number of ways that you can make a small (but hugely impactful) change to your class-plan without ever touching your sequence. The class theme is the underpinning of your teachings. It is the meaning behind the movement. The theme influences how your students will experience the essence of your class. The physical practice of yoga (including breath-work and meditation) is a vehicle for us to experience "yuj" or "union" wherein the body, mind, and soul attain a state of equanimity connecting us with our "higher self". Over the years I've use my class themes to inspire a sense of solidarity, purpose, selflessness, badass-ness, femininity, etc. and although the sequences may have been similar in some cases, the classes felt entirely different because of the intention behind the movement.
4. ADD YOGA PROPS.
Recycle an old sequence that you've already planned by incorporating a yoga prop into all of the postures throughout the sequence. Props get a bad rep for being "for beginners" but I ADORE a good props-based yoga sequence where each and every posture that is taught uses a yoga prop or a piece of yoga equipment of some kind (yoga block, yoga strap, yoga wheel, pilates/yoga ball, etc.). Props-based flows are fun, challenging, and the best part is, they almost always feel "creative" because of the unique nature of using the prop for every posture and not just the ones where you "need" it. Beyond that, the sensations that your students experience will be different because props enhance and elevate postures in all kinds of different ways. So your original sequence will be unrecognisable, AND you even might inspire your students to appreciate props in a way that they hadn't before. Win, win.
*Pro tip: make sure to iterate your intention (to use the prop for every posture) to your students at the beginning of class as some may be resistant to using props in the class, or they might think it's unnecessary/optional if they haven't experienced a class like this before. Speaking from experience there's always one person halfway through the class that's like "ohhhhh we actually need to use these for the class today". Yes Chad, we do.
5. LET YOUR MUSIC SET THE VIBE FOR THE CLASS.
If you are an instructor who likes to incorporate music in your classes, simply using a different playlist can make the experience of a sequence that you've taught before feel totally different. You can use music to enhance the tempo of certain parts of the class, or the rhythm of a Sun Salutation. Even using a different genre of music and centering the theme of the class around that style can be really powerful. I once taught an entire FLOW class to classical music and it was a really beautiful and moving experience. I then reused this same sequence and taught it to a playlist that featured top 40 artists like Coldplay and the tempo and overall vibe of the class was totally different. Both were great Yoga classes in their own right.
6. TURN UP THE PACE.
Because your students are already familiar with the sequence that you are teaching, something that is fun to do with a recycled class is to teach the movements at a slightly faster, more "flowy" pace (think like, "one-breath-per-movement"). With this method you will have to tell your class that the sequence is one that they've seen before, but I think that this transparency and communication gives deeper purpose and meaning to revisiting an old sequence and because of that, the new challenge (of moving more quickly) feels totally fresh and exciting.
7. DON'T CHANGE A THING.
A bit anti-climactic for the final tip but here's the thing: most students WILL NOT notice if you teach the exact same class over again. Seriously. Think of yourself and your experience as a student. You didn't go to yoga classes recording down every single flow, every peak posture, every quote the teacher recited. No. You spent your time on the mat focusing on your breath and your body and your INTERNAL experience because that is The Yoga: the union and communication with the higher self or "consciousness", right?
And so, the important thing to remember about the mat experience is that it is less about whether the sequence is a repeat and more about how it makes your students feel. Deliver a quality class that inspires self-reflection and self-inquiry and I am telling you, you cannot go wrong.