One of the most daunting parts about being a new yoga teacher is figuring out how to memorize the sequence you want to teach and deliver it smoothly during class. Whether your class is 45 minutes or 90 minutes long, there are a lot of yoga poses to keep in your mind!
Here are the strategies I’ve found most helpful when memorizing yoga sequences:
Write it out and use shorthand. Though writing out your entire yoga class can seem time-consuming, if you develop the right strategy when mapping out your flow, it can actually be an important piece of the class-planning process and make memorizing the class even easier! Find a small notebook that you can use to write your flows in and then develop a system of shorthand that you can use to write down pose names so that you don’t have to spend too much time writing. For example, instead of “Extended Side Angle” you might choose to write “ESA.” By writing down your class, you’re giving yourself a great tool to study the class with and solidify it into your memory. Plus, you have a record of the classes you’ve taught that you can reflect back on down the line if you need inspiration or just a diary of your yoga teaching journey!
Break the class up into mini-flows. You might be thinking to yourself: How am I ever going to memorize 60 minutes worth of poses? Well, the good news is that it seems harder than it is and it gets easier with time! One of the easiest ways to memorize a long class is to break the class up into mini-sequences. (You can check out some of our mini-flows here!) For example, you’ll have a mini-flow for the warm-up, and then for Sun As and Sun Bs, followed by a mini-flow for your standing sequence and onward through class. It’s much easier to memorize a string of 10 poses, as opposed to feeling like you have to memorize 50! Experiment with our mini-flows and play with memorizing one to start, then add on from there.
Feel it in your body. While it might seem time-consuming or unrealistic to practice your full class each time you teach, there’s a lot of benefit. Firstly, if you have the time to practice the poses you’d like the class to work on, you’re able to understand how the poses feel in your body, which will allow you to give even better alignment cues and suggestions for modifications. Plus, you’re doing more yoga, which is always a good thing! Secondly, by feeling the flow in your body it’s a lot easier to memorize the movements. Even if you don’t have time to do the full flow, practice doing it more quickly than you would in class at 20-30% of your full effort. Whether on a break from work, or waiting for something to cook in the oven, move around a little bit and feel the rhythm of the movements!
Don’t worry if you miss something. As you’re teaching, you might miss a pose that you had originally planned on. In fact, it’s almost inevitable that you do at some point! But don’t let that get you frazzled. Keep flowing! Your students will never notice because they don’t know your original plan, only you do! Just notice what’s changed in your sequence and be sure to duplicate it on the other side so that there’s balance. If it’s something you love, try to integrate it back in somewhere else.
Don’t be afraid to freestyle! Being able to plan for your classes is important, it makes a class feel clean, put together and balanced. But being able to observe how your students are doing and make changes in the moment is equally, if not even more, important. Make sure you understand how different poses feel in your body, and during class don’t be afraid to make changes and tweaks to your original plan! Some of the best teaching moments involve surprises!
Ultimately, each yoga teacher will figure out their unique approach to sequencing and teaching. Maybe for you that’s memorizing each movement, or maybe it’s going into a class with a great intention in mind and seeing where the movements take you. As long as the postures are safe and the students are happy then all approaches are the right approaches!