For years now, I have described my teaching style as including creative asana sequences. When I first began using that description, it was because I loved creating novel transitions and pose variations so classes always felt fresh and different. I wanted to be different, and memorable. I wanted to challenge people and challenge myself. And I guess there really isn’t anything inherently wrong with that, except that in end, my creativity was for myself. It was novelty for the sake of novelty. It was sequencing acrobatics for the sake of keeping myself interested in my own classes, and for the sake of trying to make sure students had enough fun in my class to like me and come back. This isn’t to say they were bad classes. But I’ve learned some things about teaching and about creativity since then.
I still describe my teaching style as creative, but the word has taken on new meaning over the years. As Parker Palmer says in his book, Courage to Teach, “Good teachers possess a capacity for connectedness. They are able to weave a complex web of connections among themselves, their subjects, and their students so that students can learn to weave a world for themselves.”
Creativity that is born of a desire to serve my students and their learning, or to facilitate self-awareness and self-revelation, is subtly yet entirely different than novelty for the sake of novelty. I believe this kind of creativity includes critical thinking, overlaying a grounded foundation of skill and knowledge, with a spark made of heart, innovation, and experience. This is novelty with a purpose, a fitting phrase I heard recently on a Freakonomics Radio podcast episode.
When applied to sequencing a yoga practice, novelty with a purpose can be employed in a lot of ways:
Finding pose variations that fit in with the flow of the practice AND fit different bodies and types of ability
Using props as tools, not crutches
Create progressive sequences so brain and body can sync up as pose options become more challenging AND so that people have options from prior iterations of the progression to choose from if they want to opt out of a new iteration.
Make poses more accessible or less accessible (which is not good or bad in itself, just something to be aware of!)
Help practitioners embody and explore a theme
Help practitioners gain more awareness around a part of their anatomy or a biomechanical principle
Challenge assumptions and expectations about the practice
…and probably several others.
The great thing about applying purpose and critical thinking to the creation of a sequence is that it opens up a whole new world of starting points and focal points, making it unnecessary to come up with a completely different class filled with novel transitions and poses every time you teach. Not only does this decrease the pressure to perform as a teacher, it allows allows students to learn through repetition, clarification, and refinement of concepts through teaching that feels dynamic, inspiring, and fresh.
Ask yourself, who are you serving with your sequencing, and for what purpose? Once you answer these questions, your creativity can be in service of that purpose.
If you want to develop this skill further, my sequencing webinar begins Sunday, Oct 28. Click below to learn more and register.