Whip Smart Sequencing
Yoga is my love, sequencing is my passion.

Last week I sat down with the crew from Yoga Cucina to talk about the incredible passion I have for creative and intelligent sequencing, how I stay inspired and my up and coming advanced training Super Sequencing, which breaks down the hows and whys behind creating classes that wake up body, mind and soul.

Read all about it: 

Leader, mentor, champion of new teachers, Noelle Connolly's whip-sharp sequencing and dry-as-bones humour has informed a new wave of yoga practitioners who show up religiously to defy the laws of gravity and worship at the altar of breath. We caught up with Noelle in the midst of preparations for her upcoming Super Sequencing training at Sydney’s BodyMindLife, to find out how she stays sharp, inspired and continues to create such incredible classes.

What were you like as a baby teacher?
“Crazy! I was way too excited and wanted to put everything in one class. Now I try to pick a concept that works with the asana and layer it through the sequence in a way that is digestible for the students.”

How do you plan your classes?
“My favourite way to sequence is by family of asana – backbends, twists, arm balances – or by picking a shape like bow or triangle and threading it through the whole class.”

What makes a really great sequence?
Good planning. You can see when a teacher has really thought about the krama of the poses, how they fit together and how they progress. It doesn’t have to be fancy but it has to make sense.”

When we started teaching we really struggled to remember our class plans. You gave us an effective technique to help them stick. Can you tell us about that?
“Think, write, practice, visualise – this really works for me. I picture the class moving through the flow. I never bring a book in with me. I make a plan but once I walk through the doors I’m 100% there with the students, and adapt my plan to what they need in the moment.”

How do you stay fresh and inspired?
“I go to a lot of classes and I pay attention. I see what is being taught and what isn’t, and try to address that so it feeds back into the community. Lately I’ve been focused on the foundational movements, going back to basic poses and making people hold them so they understand how to go deeper.”

What makes a smart teacher?
“The best teachers are always the best students. When a teacher makes the shift from being self-focused to focusing on their students – that’s when their intelligence grows.”

Who are some of the teachers who inspire your practice?
"Simon Park. When I first started with him he had the strength of Dharma Mittra and the fluidity of Shiva Rea. Now Maty Ezraty, because she’s reignited my love of the foundational movements."

Three top tips for new teachers?
1. Keep it simple
2. Keep practising
3. Try not to take yourself too seriously

Note: Catch Super Sequencing training at Sydney’s BodyMindLife Surry Hills from August  5, 2017.

Backbends + Inversions: 90 Minute Progressive Sequence

Eat your Wheaties, roll out your mat and get ready for a deep, juicy 90 minute progressive sequence focused on backbends and inversions.

OPENING

  • Active Child’s Pose w/ block under forehead ~ Downdog w/ block in thighs ~ Plank w/ pulsations (3x) ~ Uttanasana at back of mat ~ Tadasana~ AUM’s
  • Forward fold to downdog ~ plank ~ lower to earth ~ cobra (3x) ~ downdog ~ step to top of mat ~ Tadasana w/ block in hands ~ overhead ~ fold

Namaskars

  • Surya A 2x w/ lunge step back ~ 3x on own
  • Anahatasana ~ dolphin with block in hands ~ forearm plank with pulsations ~ sphinx ~ shalabasana w/ arms extended and block in hands ~ vinyasa to downdog
  • Jump through to Navasana ~ Tailbone lift flow (5x) ~ chair ~ shoulder opener ~ handstand press to vinyasa
  • Surya B w/ hooked thumbs & side plank ~ vinyasa (rhythmically 3x)
  • Anahatasana ~ dolphin ~ pincha mayurasana ~ dolphin ~ forearm plank ~ side forearm plank ~ forearm plank with funky peacock arms ~ both sides ~ sphinx ~ dhanurasana ~ vinyasa to downdog 

Flow

  • Malasana at back of mat ~ pike jumps to wrist touch ~ standing side stretch ~ standing backbend ~ padas ~ stand ~ open ~ front w/ hold ~ W3 ~ skater pose ~ standing split ~ handstand ~ lunge ~ twisted skandasana ~ skandasana w/ bind ~ skandasana w/ side stretch ~ prasarita w/ press up to inversions ~ lunge ~ flipdog ~ fallen triangle ~ vinyasa ~ repeat from malasana w/ pike jumps
  • Camel Pose ~ toe stand w/ reverse prayer
  • Full Vasisthasana to Urdhva Dhanurasana ~ Funky Visvamitrasana ~ pigeon w/ raja kapotasana ~ Funky Peacock ~ Updog ~ Downdog ~ Repeat 

Wall work

  • Hollowbacks at wall both Handstand & Pincha ~ Shoulderstand at wall ~ Legs up the wall ~ supta badha w/ feet on wall 

Closing

Seated meditation w/ Nadi Shodana

 

The Power of Intention

As we dive, joyous and sweaty, into the waves of a new season, yoga teacher Noelle Connolly takes a moment to adjust her metaphorical bathing suit and ask – “What is your intention?” 

The practice of setting an intention at the beginning of yoga class comes from the tradition of sankalpa, a heartfelt statement that we make to support our dharma – our purpose here on earth. It’s a vow that we can call upon to guide the choices we make, which supports our physical, emotional and spiritual growth, and the knowledge of our essential self. 

Three years ago I felt stuck and restless. A deep need for knowledge and growth lit a fire in me, to seek out a new teacher and see the world. My friend Simon Park was back in Philly after a summer teaching around the planet and I thought, “That’s what I want.” I had such a deep longing to go and strike out on my own that the universe had no choice but to support me. 

Shortly afterwards I moved to Australia to head up the yoga and teacher training programs at BodyMindLife in Sydney. I found my current teacher, the incredible Maty Ezraty, who was trained by Dona Holleman, Gabriella Giubilaro and Pattabhi Jois himself. 

Yoga has since taken me to eight different countries, and my eyes have been opened to the many different ways that people live and love. I’ve been humbled, guiding a sea of exhilarated yogis at Wanderlust, flanked by Shiva Rea, Ana Forrest and Elena Brower. I’ve been inspired by so many teachers, Joan Hyman, Brock and Krista Cahill, Dice lida-Klein, Carling Harps, Patrick Beach, Dylan Werner, and had the pleasure of hosting many of them here in Sydney. 

Sankalpa is not a champagne-sparkled midnight resolution. In his book, The Four Desires, Rod Stryker explains that kalpa means vow, and san a connection with the highest truth. Richard Miller, PhD, clinical psychologist and teacher in the Advaita Vedānta and Kashmir non dual traditions, says that sankalpa arrives with everything needed to fully realise it – with iccha (tremendous will and energy), kriya (action) and jnana (the wisdom of how to deliver that action). It comes not from the intellectual mind but from deep within us, informing us where we need to direct our energy. 

Something I didn’t expect when opening my palms to the universe was the velocity of opportunity, humour and support that I would receive in return. The community here, the teachers and students, lift me up, their energy and hunger for information drives me to be totally present, embracing every moment. My practice has changed too. It’s more honest. Expectation and attachment fall away as I refine my focus, and trust in the freedom that comes from riding the waves of grace. 

"Teaching for me has always felt like coming home. The system of yoga, the eight limbs, invites us to gently wash the grit from our eyes."

In Light on Yoga, Iyengar explains that the yamas and niyamas teach us how to control our passions and emotions. Asana builds strength and harmony in the body. Pranayama and pratyahara, explain how we can regulate the breath to control the mind. Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi, show us how we can turn inwards on a quest of the soul. 

Have you heard the story of the sage Bharavja and the three clumps of dirt? After three lifetimes studying the Vedas, Shiva arrives at Bharavja’s bedside and chides him for refusing to share all that he’s learned. He scoops three handfuls of earth at the sages feet and says, “Compared to the mountain of information, what you’ve learned amounts to three handfuls of dirt. It is only through your dharma of teaching and sharing that this wisdom will truly come alive inside you.” 

When I guide yoga teacher training at BodyMindLife my intention, always, is to create a safe place for whoever shows up. I honestly think our 200 hour program is one of the best in the world right now. The team is diverse, and there’s an abundance of knowledge and experience, but also a unified vision and message. Our primary focus is to prepare our trainees to teach yoga in all capacities. We don’t use a set sequence, we provide the tools needed to create and confidently deliver safe and intelligent classes. 

In the lead up, students often quietly ask me, “How will I know when I’m ready?”. My answer is always the same. If you’re thinking about it, and you’re prepared to make it happen no matter what, you’re ready. Listen to your internal voice and know that if you move towards your true path with courage, compassion and determination the universe will conspire to support you.