Yoga teachers - is repetition boring or...?

Dear yoga teachers,

Do you ever ask yourself these questions:

  • How do I keep my yoga class sequences fresh and inspiring?
  • Is it ok to teach the same class twice in a row?
  • If I teach the same thing, will I sound repetitive and will my students get bored?

Yoga teachers regularly ask me how often they should change their yoga class sequences, and whether it’s ok to teach the same sequence more than once.    Most teachers are fearful of sounding repetitive. It’s a valid fear. Who wants to sound like a broken record?  As teachers we’re always wanting to be fresh and inspiring for our students, and it might feel like repeating the same class will give your students the idea that your range as a teacher is limited, or you’ve run out of juicy inspiration. 

It’s a scientific fact that in order become good at any skill, we need to repeat the same actions over and over again. The process of repeating certain actions (either mentally or physically) strengthens the connections, or neural pathways in our brain.  This is how we learn.   Our brain makes comparisons between new information brought in through the senses, and existing information stored in our brain’s long-term memory.  Think about when you were very young and learning to write for the first time.  Do you remember writing “Aa” in your exercise book over and over again until it became second nature?  How about learning a musical instrument? It’s all about doing the same things again and again, refining the skills as you go.  Repetition is key!

Our yoga students will appreciate having some repetition in the classes so that they can practice the actions of doing asana, cultivate somatic awareness, and be able to determine how they are progressing by noticing similarities or differences in their bodies compared to their previous practices. 

Most yoga students are not thinking their way through the details of a yoga sequence. They’re generally not analysing your sequence and saying “Hey, this is the same as last week’s class.”

More likely they are feeling their way through, and are probably more absorbed in what’s happening on a physical level, how they’re feeling in their body, and are likely to be thinking more in the moment about the asana that they’re currently doing rather than what happened last week. 

When you teach yoga, you’re educating people, and helping them to refine their skills. The skills of doing, being and noticing are continually being honed. If you embrace a certain amount of repetition in your sequencing and teaching, you’re giving your students valuable opportunities to deepen their learning.  It’s also giving you as the teacher an opportunity to refine your own teaching skills, your language cues and your capacity to notice how your students are embodying their practice. 

Even if you teach the same sequence more than once, you’ll probably find that each class will vary purely due to the fact that you may have different people in your classes with varying needs.  You might language something differently or alternate your focus for each class, so that the flavour and learning outcomes for the students change.  

Here are a few ideas to help you keep some consistency in your classes, while still keeping it fresh:

Have a class sequence that you work with for a week or two:

  • Change the opening sequence of your class, so that it relates directly to the actions needed to reach a “peak pose”, but keep the main body and the ending of your class the same as yesterday.
  • Change the ending part of the class, while keeping the beginning and the middle the same.  
  • Change the focus or “peak pose” to another related pose, i.e. choose to “break down” or highlight a different main asana, show how the asanas relate to one another.
  • Focus on different qualities in the (same) asanas that you’re teaching.
  • Give students different variations of a main or peak asana, so they can try something new using the skills they’ve already learned in your previous classes.
  • Think about offering a ‘series’ of classes that build on one another in a designated period of time.
  • Keep your sequences and teaching plans in a notebook, file or spreadsheet so you’ve got a ready library of past sequences that have worked.  Make a note of what worked and why, and tweak anything that needs refining.
  • Don’t be afraid to re-purpose, rotate and recycle your class sequences over a period of time!

If you have beginners coming to your classes regularly, repetition is essential to their development. Today’s beginning yoga student is tomorrow’s dedicated regular student, and next year’s long-time practitioner. Remember, you’re taking your students on an educational journey, so think about what they need to learn so that they feel supported and inspired on their yogic path!

If you want to learn the nuances of yoga class sequencing, some easy ways to repurpose and recycle your class sequences, and how to adapt and modify your class sequences on the fly to meet the needs of a wide range of yoga students, join us for our next course: The Art of Sequencing!