You know how there are some days when the idea of coming up with a new yoga class plan feels impossible? The subtle sense of panic at the idea of showing up to class with nothing to say? If you keep your class plans from the past, you might find yourself frantically flipping through journals hoping for inspiration. Ok, I’ll admit that was me more times than I can count. Then one day I had the inspiration to record my class plans in a spreadsheet and my (yoga teaching) life was changed forever.
When you keep a spreadsheet of all your class plans, you create an archive of your past classes. This allows you to quickly scan previous plans to re-use and adapt. It also gives an overview of what topics you have taught about the most and where you might want to fill in gaps. In this article I will share some different ways to create yoga class plans and how to keep them organized in a spreadsheet in programs such as Excel, Open Office Calc, or Google Sheets.
Yoga Class Plans VS Yoga Class Sequences (hint – they’re not the same!)
The plans I’m discussing here are about the content of the class (rather than the sequence of events). Class plans are designed to create classes that you can use over and over again with different sequences. The techniques shared below can be paired with any approach to sequencing from detailed and precise to organic and intuitive.
Creating a detailed sequence is a wonderful practice, but it’s also important to be prepared to modify it based on what you observe from your students. Be present to who actually shows up in the class, how they feel, and what they appear to need. If you don’t like detailed plans, but also don’t want to walk into the room unprepared, you can create a general broad strokes plan and fill in the details as you go. Some teachers prefer to create the sequence in the moment, but it’s helpful to have a LOT of years of teaching under your belt to do this in a way that is safe and effective.
Planning is an invaluable tool for organizing your thoughts and bringing clarity to your message, however the temptation to focus on your plan rather than your students is the main downside to creating a detailed plan and/or sequence. Being present with your students is more important than rigidly following a plan. Observe your students keenly and you will learn more from them than any training.
Creating a Yoga Class Plan Spreadsheet
With an open spreadsheet (excel, google sheets, Open Office Calc, etc), write the categories in the first row across the top, then fill in the central topic for your class in the first column. That way you will be able to quickly scan down each column to read different approaches to each category. If you like, you can keep track of the dates that you teach each topic and have a space for notes. The notes can be used for miscellaneous reminders, or you can go back after the class and reflect on what was successful and what you would do differently next time.
Below, I cover some of the most common ways to structure a yoga class plan. These include themes, anatomy, and the poses themselves. However there are many other ways to plan a class and often people use a hybrid of different methods. The tips in this article are easily adapted to other approaches, so please feel confident to experiment if you feel inspired.
Theme Focused Yoga Class
In a theme-based yoga class, you choose a central idea to organize your class around and then adapt poses and practices that support that idea. A theme-based yoga class plan is helpful when you want to leave yourself open to adapting a class for different students or creating your sequence on the fly based on requests. Have you seen the free pdf of 100 yoga class themes? You can find it here.
Your theme could be a poem, quote, philosophical concept, mental/emotional quality, or anything that inspires you. Unless your theme is a poem or quote already written, try to keep it to one word or phrase – then expand on it by selecting a story and/or creating a core message. A story would be an example of how and why this theme is helpful and relevant. A core message is an assertion that is clear, accessible, and thought-provoking.
Column A: Theme (Succinct and broadly descriptive – one or two words is best)
Column B: Story or Core Message
Column C: Physical focus (optional)
Column D: Specific Poses and Pranayamas (optional)
Anatomy Focused Yoga Class
If you’re passionate about anatomy and helping your students get to know their bodies, an anatomy-based yoga class plan will help you narrow your focus so that you don’t overwhelm your students with more information than they can take in. Choose one idea that you want them to experience deeply enough to remember, and base the rest of your class around that main idea. Consider how this body part is relevant in their daily lives including other forms of exercise, work, family, and leisure. Know your audience: when you tie your teaching points back to the things that your students care about, they will be motivated to listen and come back for more.
Column A: Main Idea (could be a body part, biomechanical concept, relationship, etc)
Column B: Why?
Column C: Muscles
Column D: Key Actions
Column E: Key Poses
Column F: Supporting Theme
Asana Focused Yoga Class
Since most people think of asana when thinking of yoga, teaching your classes based on helping your students learn about the poses is a great way to meet them where they are. This approach is best when YOU are passionate about the poses too. You can either pick a specific pose to work up to or a category of similar poses. Either way you will want to balance the type of pose that you focus on with neutralizing and opposite poses (think forward bends and twists when you focus on backbends).
Column A: Peak Pose
Column B: Key Actions
Column C: Warm up poses (similar to peak pose)
Column D: Cool down poses (different from peak pose)
Column E: Supporting Theme (optional)
Now, go make your own! You could start with one of my formulas, combine elements from a few, or make a custom spreadsheet based on how you teach. If you’d like more inspiration, keep an eye out for my upcoming e-book on yoga class planning. It will include more detail about each of these categories, how to use in them in classes, and examples from my personal class-planning spreadsheets.