The trouble with being so regimented though, is when the people in the room don't match the people who were in your head while you wrote the sequence: maybe somebody has a broken toe and can't do standing balances. Maybe an advanced student has wandered in who's looking for more than the standard warrior sequences.
When I started teaching at Namaste in Williamsburg, I still had my trusty notebook at my side...but a rule at Namaste was that you asked the class if there were any requests before you started...which could easily throw your pre-written sequence out the window if, you know, you actually fulfilled those requests.
That Fall, I decided my New Year's Resolution would be to be teaching notebook-free by the end of 2011.
The thing about free styling though, is that it feels good. I didn't make it December before the notebook was left at home for good, and I needed a new New Year's Resolution. Just as I had feared, every now and then, there was a moment of feeling lost at sea: unable to see clearly where we should go next. But that wasn't nearly as big a problem as I thought it would be. I knew what to do.
"Come back to down dog...take five deep breaths..."
And by the fifth exhale, I had a new heading, and we were off.
Of course, plenty of teachers do write and follow sequences, and doing so has its perks: the class tends to all fit together and build toward a singular goal, which makes it more likely that at least one part of your body will feel different, probably in a positive way, by the end of class.
These days, I like to have a general theme in mind. Often it's not a yoga pose, but more of a feeling or thought I want to explore on the mat, which will lend itself to certain types of poses. It's easy to combine something that open-ended with requests, or the particular needs of my students, and as I take them through the spinal warm-up and Sun Salutations, which are very similar every time, I lay out a loose plan in my mind...usually. Sometimes I just go for it, and sometimes...
"Exhale back to downdog, and take five deep breaths..."
Do you like yoga classes that are more freestyle, or open-ended, or do you feel more supported by a teacher who's checking in with notes and who obviously has a plan for your class? Has a teacher ever used the 'five deep breaths' trick (or a similar one) so many times that you caught on to what he or she was really doing?