Choose your teaching words with care
As a yoga student (especially beginner yoga student) the toughest part of asana practice is listening; actually being able to hear the sentence the teacher spoke, and without looking all over the room, take those words and translate them into a movement with one’s body. When your students are mid-practice, intensely focused on a challenging shape or transition –or just keeping their minds on the practice and their breathing!– clear language is key to insuring students can process what you say.
Here’s an example of what I’ve been hearing in typical yoga classes:
“Inhaling bring your right arm over your ear and really reach toward the front of the room, GOOD, on your next inhale really feel your ribs expanding, GOOD, just breathe. Listen to your body, surrender yourself … GOOD, GOOD, GOOD… Just do whatever feels good.”
You may be accustomed to this kind of instruction, in which case it may sound normal and fine. Maybe you were taught with cueing that sounded like this so it’s how you sound when you teach. If it isn’t obvious how the language above could be tightened up and made clearer, don’t worry, we’re going to look at two things in detail.
And now’s a good time to say that there are many kinds of yoga class that all need slightly different communication styles. We’ve got a typical vinyasa class in mind here, but we hope that our tips can help you at least become more aware of how you’re phrasing your instructions now and whether or not it’s the best style for you and your students!
Teachers, we have a responsibility to clean up our language to suit the practice!
Let’s make it as neat as possible, by leaving out extraneous words and confusing jargon. Let’s make it as simple as possible for our students to listen to our words so they can translate our guidance into action!
Try these 2 tips to clean up your cueing!
# 1: Eliminate your “filler” words.
Take the example above. The word “GOOD” is used as a period / full stop. Since when do we need to add a word to make it clear we’ve reached the end of a sentence? Filler word alert!
Complimenting students when they do well is important. Instead of saying good after every cue, practice being specific in your compliments: “good job holding that plank, great focus” etc.
Not only will this show your students you’re attending to them, but it will help you to avoid the dreaded blanket “good” that loses its power after the 5th time you say it!
# 2: Use direct instructions that ask for immediate action
You are the teacher, students came to your class to do what you say, not to “try” or “just”… They came to DO.
Instruct actions through direct “commands,” not because you’re a drill sargent, but because in a vinyasa class, commands are easier to grasp. The clear instruction makes it easier for your students to follow your flow or not as they choose.
This means your cues need to have a verb! Grammar alert, there’s no word in the phrase “inhaling your arm overhead” that’s acting as a verb. “Stepping your right foot between your hands” isn’t as direct (nor as grammatically sound) as “Step your right foot between your hands”.
Keep this easy to remember and avoid using verbs in their -ING form: inhal-ING, exhal-ING, bring-ING, step-ING, mov-ING….
Just like I did in that last sentence (bold words) 😉
You can take this one step further by losing other needless words/phrases that muddy up your instructions. Some words that often get in the way include “try, next we’re going to, really feel, just…, on your next inhale”.
Listening while doing is hard.
As teachers we can maximize what our students hear by using effective, commanding language, and by eliminating unnecessary words and phrases. Not only will this improve your teaching, students will feel more confident in you and themselves as they flow through class.
Teach clear, yogis!
Sign up for weekly asana INfrastructure sent straight to your inbox.