Alrighty, so if you’ve already tuned into my limited mini series podcast on all things YOGA, then you’ll know that I feel pretttttyyyy strongly when it comes to cueing.
And if you haven’t, then make sure to go check it out. It’s quick, bite-size episodes that still pack of punch of knowledge for all of my yoga teachers out there. Plus, it’s totally FREE, of course 🙂
What Are Cues For Yoga Poses?
I know to us yoga teachers, the idea of “cues” is second nature. However, I know a bunch of people (and maybe even our own yoga students) who have no idea what the heck I’m talking about- so let’s break it down, shall we?
Cues are instructions that your yoga teacher offers to call the breath and physical movements needed for the class. These instructions will guide you, the yoga student, from one movement to another.
Cues will also help you to better understand what different body parts need to do in static shapes, as well. Hopefully, the cues you’re receiving are also for the breath, as this is the basis of the yoga practice. And movements without breath awareness isn’t really a yoga class at all.
Cues can also be used to encourage your students, to remind them to listen to their bodies, or to provide different options (like modifications with child’s pose, yoga blocks, or other variations).
In case you can’t tell already, I’ll just spell it out frankly here: verbal cues are REALLY important in yoga classes. The way a yoga teacher cues will dramatically dictate the way the students feel.
How to Cue Yoga Poses:
So, cues. What’s the best way to cue in a yoga class?
There’s one method that I use pretty dang devoutly (although, OF COURSE I’m nowhere near perfect, and still mess up the structure from time to time).
And that method is…….(drum roll)
Breath, Posture, Cue, Refinement Cues
Ok, so why does this method work?
Put the breath FIRST:
When you’re teaching yoga, it’s important to ensure that you are prioritizing the breath in the asana practice, which is an area that can often be overlooked in modern yoga classes especially.
Create a steady cadence to the class:
Creating a steady cadence to the class can really help your students drop into a flow state. Think about some of the best classes you’ve taken when you feel almost hypnotized, because you’re so clearly and confidently guided. That’s what this method can provide.
Give direction right away:
As I already mentioned, this style puts the breath first- which is ideal. Right after the breath is the posture name, which gives students immediate direction of where to go.
Sometimes we get so caught up in describing what we want people to do that if we just spit it out and call the pose by name, then they can get there faster, and save us time!
Provide education beyond movement:
I know what you’re thinking in regards to the last point, “what if they don’t know the name of the yoga poses?” And you’re right, this will inevitably happen!
However, how will they ever LEARN if you don’t ever TELL them what they are? The repetition of saying the names of poses over and over will help people to learn the names, so that if they’re on their own at home and want to remember how to go something, then can quick Google Downward facing dog, rather than trying to describe it.
Expand your knowledge beyond physical movement by joining a Yoga Teacher Training Abroad.
Let’s break down the components of this cueing method with an example:
“Inhale, Tadasana, Mountain Pose, rise to standing, plug into your big toes, lift your kneecaps up towards your hip bones to engage your thighs, scoop the pelvis underneath you just like Cat in order to turn on the low belly, slide the shoulders down your back, gentle hug the shoulder blades on your back, palms face forwards, spread the webbing between all 10 fingers.”
Whew- that’s a mouthful. But I want to make a point. Let’s break it down piece by piece.
Breath = inhale
Posture = Tadasana & Mountain Pose
Cue = rise to standing
Refinement Cues = everything following
What’s the difference between a cue and refinement cue, and how do you know which one to use first?
Cues are a general BIG movement that will more or less get the person into the shape you want them to be.
Think of the example of “rise to standing.”
Refinement cues do as the name suggests, they REFINE the shape from the generalized movement.
Think of the example with all those nitty gritty activations and adjustments. These tend to be more specific alignment cues, rather than one big motion.
As a yoga teacher it’s important to prioritize the breath, repeat names of postures to help your yoga students actually remember posture names (whether it’s English or Sanskrit is really up to you), and then guide the movement through clear, safe descriptions.
5 Best Yoga Cues:
“Listen to your own body”
Hopefully you’ve heard this many times in your yoga class. This will ensure people are listening to their own body, rather than only following your instructions.
“Saturate your hips with breath”
This is a refinement cue, as it’s getting someone to experience the shape in a deeper way. I love to offer this cue with deep hip openers like Pigeon Pose, because deep hip opening shapes can be intense for people. This can help them to breathe through the intensity with a bit more ease, and possibly even pleasure.
“Create space in the right/left ribs”
I love to use this one in side body stretches like Side Angle, Triangle Pose, and Modified Side Plank. This helps the yoga students to exacerbate the opening in the side of the body they’re spreading, and to cinch in the waistline of the opposite side.
“Hug the front knee to midline”
Most students can use this reminder in all lunges (Low Lunge, High Lunge, and Warrior Two), as the tendency is for the knee to hang out to the side.
“Spill the weight to the outer edge of the foot”
This cue works well in Low Lizard to encourage a deeper external rotation of the hip.
Yoga Cues List
My encouragement for you is to try this out with your own teaching, as well as put on your observation hat as a student when you’re taking other people’s classes to notice how you feel when people use this method or not.
If you try it, and you don’t like it- my suggestion to you is to come up with your own method then, and BE CONSISTENT with using it. So you can at least cultivate that steady cadence and flow state energy for your classes.
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