In a recent article, I shared ideas for keeping our sequences newer and more interesting for our students – such as playing with tempos and levels in space. You might be thinking it's difficult to remember complex sequences to teach. And/or you might think it's better to not have things set in stone, so that the diverse students you have in your classes can guide them. Both are certainly true, in their own right.
The debate over the respective values of pre-planning classes and improvising is a large one, one that I won't get into in this article. I'll say just these two points. First, if you do plan on coming into your classes with sequences already set, take time each week to move through the sequence yourself, and then write it down. I've found that this helps me keep to that sequence when I teach - or to have a firm base from which to offer a sequence that might work better for a certain student or group of students. It’s in my body, and therefore more in my mind.
It's also quite helpful, I've found, to regularly take classes from other well-qualified teachers. Try taking some that really mesh with how you practice, and maybe some that are a bit outside your comfort zone. Staying mainly with one teacher will allow him or her to really get to know you, and vice-versa. Taking many different teachers' classes, however, can offer a wide variety of perspectives - from which you can choose what you think best guides your own teaching.
To help you to remember things you see fellow instructors doing that you’d like to use in your own teaching, try keeping a notebook in your bag and jotting ideas down after class. You could also write random inspirations that you get every so often (in dreams, in the shower, while washing dishes – you get the idea). Creativity often hits us at unexpected times! Balancing all of that well will offer you a continuous source of inspiration, some that feels familiar you and some that exposes you to different perspectives.
At the very least, you’ll come to see variations, flows, prop uses, physical cues that your students might benefit from. All of that will help to keep your sequences interesting, informed, and your students wanting more. That helps ensure that we offer something slightly new and different each week, often corresponding with a particular theme. On the other hand, students do appreciate having some consistent things week to week. That can feel very grounding and comforting, particularly when I other things you may have cued in any given class were difficult.
To introduce another idea for consistently keeping your sequences “fresh” and interesting, I’ll share a piece of wisdom - something beautifully articulated - from another instructor whose class I recently enjoyed. She told us students that "Every posture has a close cousin. If a particular posture isn't working well for you, it has a close relative that might." If you've made a particular sequence and something in it just isn't working for your students, there's a "cousin" that might - a posture that most likely works towards the same goals. Or you've carefully prepared a sequence, and you "blank out" mid-class, maybe even mid-sequence. Perhaps you can remember another posture with similar benefits.
That idea can also help you keep "mixing" things up each week; offer your students balanced practices, yet those that stay fresh and interesting to them over time, by switching up, week to week, postures with similar benefits and energies. That will keep them gaining everything that asana practice can offer, but the first things on their minds could actually be how much they enjoyed our classes and want to return. By getting creative with sequencing in the ways I've suggested (and in countless others I haven't), we instructors can encourage that kind of enjoyable growth. Class by class, asana by asana, through that we can make the world at least a bit more peaceful, a bit more joyful.