Want to invite a more strategic approach to your yoga teaching? Build a curriculum. Designing a yoga curriculum considers the learning objectives of the class and demands clarity in your approach. Working from a curriculum is equivalent to playing the long game—instead of trying to unpack a big idea with a single sequence, a curriculum connects the dots from class to class. This gives your students a chance to practice and apply what they learn.
Here’s an example: Say you want to design a yoga curriculum around balance—a broad focus. It’s a good idea to narrow the scope and break down big ideas into essential concepts that you can explore over a few sequences. Each sequence in your curriculum serves to demonstrate a specific concept and should progressively build in complexity and intensity.
A sample outline for designing sequences
FOCUS: What is the main focus of your curriculum?
CONCEPT: What are the specific concepts you want to teach related to your focus?
POSE: What pose, or postures, embody the concept and therefore bring your main focus to life?
ACTIONS: What are the actions of your chosen pose? What other postures share these actions? This will help you not only build your sequence but also consider how the sequence contributes to a cohesive curriculum.
Designing a sequence around balance
For our sample curriculum on balance, one concept that you could explore is ground and rebound.
Ground and rebound is a useful concept for understanding balance because it asks us to establish a stable foundation and to root down with purpose. This concept can be brought to life with a balancing posture like Vrksasana (Tree Pose). We’ll need to build a smart sequence that prepares students for Vrksasana while also considering how the main actions of Tree Pose support the curriculum as a whole.
CONCEPT: Ground and Rebound
ACTIONS: Ground and Rebound; Compact the Outer Hip; Lengthen the Side Body; Firm the Outer Upper Arms
Building a sequence leading to Vrkasana (Tree Pose)
Here are five postures you can use to build a sequence leading to Tree Pose. While each posture targets a specific action, they also integrate all of the actions of Tree Pose.
Photo: Patricia PenaVariation: Foam block balanced on the top of the head
Action: Ground down into the foundation and rebound up through the body
Tadasana is the perfect place to introduce the concept of ground and rebound. Adding a block on top of the head wakes up our understanding of the concept by giving students something into which they can rebound! You could also work with a block between the feet to clarify the organization and effort of the foundation, or between the upper thighs to encourage the legs to engage and lift.
Variation: Strap looped around the wrists
Action: Firm the outer upper arms
The reach of the arms in Urdvha Hastasana helps to reinforce the concept of ground and rebound. The arms of Urdhva Hastasana also share the same shape and action of Vrksasana. Optionally asking students to press out into a looped strap around the wrists (shoulder-distance or wider) further targets the action of firming the outer upper arms in. It also offers tactile feedback they can access later in Tree Pose.
Variation: Feet pressing into a wall with a strap looped (hip-width) around the ankles
Action: Compact the outer hip
The action of compacting the standing outer hip in Vrksasana stabilizes the pose and supports balance. Anantasana with the feet separated hip-width distance apart highlights the action. The variation of the feet pressing against a wall spotlights the concept of ground and rebound, while the variation of pressing the ankles out into a strap works abduction and therefore targets the action of compacting the outer hip.
Variation: Hip against a wall, bent knee, block under the hand
Action: Lengthen the side body
Parighasana is an excellent pose for finding length in the side body, which is an action of Vrksasana. The added variation of pressing the outer hip into the wall further highlights not only the length of the waist but also the compacting of the outer hip. The top arm of Parighasana applies the work of Urdhva Hastasana.
Vrksasana brings all of the actions together! Pro tip: Repeat Vrksasana more than once. This gives your students a chance to focus on different actions. It also gives you the opportunity to translate how the actions relate to the concept and how the concept serves the overall focus of your curriculum.
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