Sequencing to the individual is, expectedly, deeply personal.
It’s personal on a practitioner level. Each yoga teacher has their own signature sequencing philosophy that is rooted in their foundational training and informed by their own observations, practices, and studies.
And it’s personal on a client level. Each client has their own makeup, intention, and anatomy.
At its core we know it’s different than teaching or instructing in a group-led offering and a one-to-many environment. But we rarely talk about said differences.
1. Sequencing To The Individual
Sequencing to the individual is our first priority as private yoga teachers. Often, private yoga isn’t highlighted as a customized and unique practice – but it absolutely is. Taking our sequencing education and distilling it down to one-on-one work is what sequencing to the individual is all about.
Information gathering is the start of understanding your client on an individual and continuous level. Knowing your client is the key to being able to sequence to them individually. We begin to get to know our client before they even pay us through their correspondence and their application. This info helps us determine if we are the right fit for them as a private yoga teacher and then we continue building our relationship.
The client assessment (the physical assessment done to test the range of motion) and initial intake (the conversation held that discusses who your client is, their health history, and their objectives with working with you 1×1) is your process of gathering information and having dialog with your clients.
This information will begin to inform how you begin to sequence your sessions and you may have a set sequence that you follow or a set outline that you weave through. Next, you’ll begin to plug in different postures in a certain flow, in a certain foundation, like many of us do, but you really want to get back to what this individual person and body in front of you needs and begin to sequence to them specifically. The intake and the assessment need to be spot on so you can begin to assess and use your critiquing eye to figure out where the imbalances are in the body and how you are going to begin to prescribe certain poses for certain outcomes and you’re going to begin to use certain variations of poses and postures in order to address things that you’re seeing showing up in the body or things that are manifesting over time and over your relationship with your client.
You also want to focus on:
2. Multi-dimensional Sequencing
A multi-dimensional lesson caters to the individual client and moves the body in all possible dimensions and ranges of motion.
Multi-dimensional sequencing requires you to make sure that you’re hitting all the range of motions with your clients. You’re probably thinking to yourself, “But, there’s 36 different ranges of motion!”. What we fail to realize is that so many postures are doing numerous of these movements at once, so it doesn’t mean you need to sequence 36 separate postures. As you begin to become more aware and keen on the movements of range of motion, that gives you a lot of information to work with while observing and deconstructing poses and then plugging them together with a handful of others to make a sequence for your clients.
This presents an environment where a candid conversation between you and your client can take place and include what they’re experiencing in their body. With this feedback, you can continue down the path that you have anticipated you’re going to move down or modify it based on the feedback. Feedback can be physical or verbal – and you can use it as a tool to navigate away from what you had intended towards something that’s more appropriate for them.
Multi-dimensional sequencing also means that you are diving into the different components of posture (not just range of motion), let’s take a closer look at those pieces –
The 3 S’s are a helpful reminder of the elements that need to be present to have multi-dimensional sequence (aside from moving the body it it’s complete range of motion). They include –
Space refers to the plane that a posture falls in – the actual space that it takes up and what category specifically it falls into as a result.
Generally, the following elements are what they will fall in
The next S is shape. Begin to look at the different shapes the body is making within these poses. Different poses fit into different postural families and postural families would be backbends, forward bends, core postures, core-strengthening postures, inversions, hand and foot balances, on standing postures and prostrations and twists.
Notice: A pose has a spacial direction (like supine) and a shape (like backbend) – together this creates an equation: Space + Shape = a pose (bridge pose).
Category of shapes
hand and foot balances
Remember: You can absolutely categorize these in some different ways if these are not the ones you use in your teaching, but I encourage you to compare and contrast how you normally define these and how you’re making sure that you’re hitting each of these elements as you’re designing multidimensional classes for your clients.
Most importantly, get curious about WHY you’re sequencing as you are. If you don’t have a reason, go back to the basics.
And the last S is strategic counter-posing. What postures are you using to compensate and how does that tie into making sure that the session and the lesson that you’re teaching them is really multidimensional?
Counterposing takes into account some general mechanical rules about the body and also requires you to be in the know about the intention behind postures in which you are sequencing (and knowing the WHY!). A counter pose is based in compensation one part of the body for another, resting a part of the body, or seeking symmetry in the body.
Example #1 – Counter pose yin postures with yang postures.
Example #2 – Counter pose an asymmetrical pose with completing the opposite side (left and right).
Example #3 – Counter pose a backbend with a neutralizing posture and/or a core strengthener.
Speaking of compensation…
3. The Art Of Compensation
Compensation or counter-posing is finding less intense variations of postures and using them to lengthen, strengthen, neutralize, or to allow the opposite muscle groups to engage so those muscles can relax.
We seek counter-posing often as an extreme – counterpose a backbend with an equally deep forward fold (for example) – but more modern counterposing and sequencing rules allows us the freedom to invite some fluidity (and even some non-classical yoga poses as – gasp! – productive counter poses). It’s essential to begin to build the counter-postures into your sequences and educate your clients on the purpose of these, especially if your dream client is an experienced Yogi (with strong opinions of the practice), counterposing might be some of the non-physical, non-postural work that you need to work on is beginning to find some compensation in the body so it’s not extreme, extreme, extreme and it’s more fluid.
You’re seeking a Ha and Tha balance, the Yin and Yang, instead of it just being mostly go, go, go, you’re able to build in some of that neutralization and you’re also able to use this as a point for your client to pause, to come back to the breath and to take that rest and that break that’s needed in our physical practice.
4. Including… Inclusions
Inclusions tie everything together.
Inclusions are based on your unique experience and can be your acts of bringing in elements of your teaching such as mudra, meditation, Thai yoga, dance, or calisthenics – whatever makes sense for your teaching style, your mission, and your perfect-fit partner.
It’s important that we’re channeling the concept of including a variety of accessible Yogic elements into our sequencing plus making sure that we’re using the different postural families, make sure we’re moving all parts of the body to create freedom in the joints and using different spaces in order to plug in different poses and really making it a fluid sequence and a fluid lesson.
Inclusion are a way to open the door toward other types of inclusions – they’re the gateway sequencing element to owning your own signature sequence style and are influenced by your training, passions, interests, and uniqueness.
As private yoga teachers we know that working 1:1 with clients in deeply impactful and meaningful. But the power of change lies in part in the sequencing. A lot of this work, after all, is the yoga itself.
Kate Connell is the private yoga teacher's best friend. Her work at You & the yoga mat provides mentorship, trainings, and tools for yoga teachers interested in mastering the art of teaching individualized yoga and the business behind a sustainable private teaching practice.
More information on Kate can be found at www.youandtheyogamat.com