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Yoga Teaching Tips: Improving Verbal Cues

Updated: Jun 2, 2023


Yoga instructor teaching

I remember how I felt when I first started teaching yoga.


'Wow it's easier to do Warrior 2 than to tell someone how to get into Warrior 2'


And if you're new to teaching, you'll likely be teaching beginners who have little to no experience in yoga so they don't have an idea of what most poses look like.


I don't think there's one best way to cue every pose and transition perfectly, but there are definitely ways to make verbal cueing a little more effective. Here are a few yoga teaching tips on improving verbal cues that have helped me through my journey, and I hope they'll help you too.



1) Use 'action', 'body part' and 'direction'


Keep it simple. An example would be getting into Lizard Lunge:


'Step (action) your right foot (body part) outside of your right hand (direction)'


For more complicated poses like twists and binds, we'll all end up forgetting where our left foot and right hand is. In those situations, providing landmarks can help with directions.


'Turn your chest towards the windows'

'Point your right shoulder towards the mirror'



2) Reduce the use of technical terms


I love anatomy, I get excited about it, and sometimes I just want to share what I've learnt, but take a look at these options below:


'Flex your spine and protract your scapula'

vs

'Round your back towards the ceiling'


The second option is probably more effective in getting students into the position that you want. At the end of the day, teaching isn't really about showing what we know but finding the best way to convey things that can help students. I still sometimes introduce technical terms (e.g. for workshops) but there's always an explanation of what they are beforehand.



3) Give space between instructions


We all need time to absorb and process information. Giving students space between instructions will allow them to actually do what you want them to do, and figure out how it feels in their body as well.


'Hmm I thought I've already asked everyone to lift their body away from the front thigh for Extended Side Angle earlier? No one's doing it'


Chances are that instruction got buried along with 'keep your front knee pointing forward and right above the ankle, press through the outer edge of your back foot, sweep your top arm overhead, keep the chest open and lean the head back'. A short pause between instructions can be really helpful. Also, you don't need to describe everything about the pose at a go. Sometimes less is more.



4) Record yourself / practice cueing


This was one of the things that I did a lot when I first started teaching. It also became particularly useful when teaching online classes because students weren't able to constantly look towards the screen so giving clear verbal cues became exceptionally important. There were definitely moments where I raised an eyebrow or two trying to do something according to my own instructions so record yourself and edit your instructions.


It's also helpful to practice cueing with people that don't usually do yoga. This doesn't need to be a full on 60mins class but perhaps just a couple of moves every now and then with your friends and family. Doing this will also help you speak naturally in class so that it doesn't sound like you've memorized your instructions.



Alright you've done all you can but there are still moments where students stare blankly at you, or raise the wrong arm. Occasionally you might also say something that doesn't make sense, or scramble to find the right way to describe something. These moments can still happen, even after many years of teaching, and I hope you'll enjoy all the little bumps along the way.



💡Visit this link for additional cues that you can provide while students are holding the pose.


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