Best Cues for Yoga Teachers Explained

By: Steph Ball-Mitchell, E-RYT-500, RPYT, RCYT, YACEP

Best Cues for Yoga Teachers Explained

best cues for yoga teachers explained

What are the best cues for yoga teachers? 

I'm asked this question so often that I developed an online yoga teacher cues course; however, I wanted to write this blog and share some basic information on what I've learned about the best cues for yoga teachers.

After working with hundreds of yoga teachers, I can safely say that it's common for yoga teachers to want to improve their yoga cues.  Improving your cues for teaching yoga is much easier than it may seem.  It really all begins with a level of self-awareness that most yoga teachers already strive to embody.  

Mindfulness Practice is Step #1 for Improving Your Yoga Teacher Cues

At the root of this sacred practice of yoga is a mindfulness practice.  We want to be present in the moment so that we have an increased sense of awareness.  As yoga teachers, we want to be plugged into the here and now so that we can experience the joys of what I like to call "presencing".... the art of being present.  Nothing is more fulfilling than experiencing each moment while in the moment.  This is better than fretting about it after it's passed or worrying about the moment before it comes.  Mindfulness enables this here and now presence that opens the door for us to become aware of our words and actions.

Becoming Aware of Your Language is Step #2 for Improving Your Yoga Teacher Cues

With that mindfulness practice, your next step is to tune into the language you're already using.  As you tune into the language that you're already using in your yoga classes while you're teaching yoga, there are two things that you want to be aware of:

  1. What yoga teaching cues are working for you now? 
  2. What words do you find yourself repeating in your yoga teaching cues?

Notice What Yoga Teaching Cues Are Working For You Now

What yoga teaching cues are working for you now?  This is a great place to start as you try to create your personal best yoga teacher cues.  There are probably some things that you say regularly when you are teaching your yoga classes that work well for you.  You know if they work well for you if the yoga cues you're using while teaching yoga seem to resonate with your students.  When your students respond to your yoga teaching cues the way that you intend, you know that's a good yoga cue and it works for you.

For example, if you ask your students to "step the right foot between the hands" from downward facing dog and you notice that everyone in the class has stepped their right foot between their hands as you'd asked, then you know this yoga teacher cue works well for you.  Alternatively, you will also know when you are teaching with yoga teacher cues that don't work for you.

As yoga teachers, we've all had that awkward pose that we aren't sure how to cue.  For me, that pose was firelog pose.  I can remember stumbling around with my yoga cues to help my students find firelog.  In one class, I'd tried the cue, "bring your right leg on top of your left," and I got many confused looks.  Some of the students were moving into Sukhasana, Easy Pose.  Other students were moving into Gomukhasana, Cow Face Pose legs.  Next, I tried the yoga cue, "stack your shins," and I got slightly better results.  About 50% of the students in the yoga class I was teaching came into firelog while the other 50% chose some other shape with their legs because they misunderstood my cues.

Finally, I decided this was one of those postures that should be announced by name first.  There are times that I cue students into the posture first, and announce the posture name once we are already settled into the yoga pose.  Firelog Pose was not one of those instances.  The cues that ended up working best for me for Firelog Pose were, "Firelog Pose, Agnistambhasana, slide your left shin to line up with the short edge of the mat and stack the right shin on top of it, right knee over left ankle, left knee under right ankle."  From there, I offer modifications and introduce potential props.  

Notice What Words or Cues You Repeat In Your Yoga Classes While Teaching Yoga

Most of us have words that we say often to fill space, both when we are teaching yoga and when we are not.  Common words that people overuse when teaching yoga are, "now," "next," "great," "good," "so" and "ok."  My word was "now."  Now, send your arms up to the, bring the hands to the mat... now, step back for plank.  

Tapping into your mindfulness practice will help you to become more aware of the words that you use when teaching yoga that aren't necessary.  These are the words that get in the way of the best cues for yoga teachers.  They take up time and serve no real purpose.  These are the words that you want to eliminate from your yoga teaching cues. 

Find a Yoga Cueing Formula is Step #3 for Improving Your Yoga Teacher Cues

Once you have identified the cues that are already working for you as a yoga teacher and you've identified the extra words that you're overusing while teaching yoga, the next step is to find a yoga cueing formula that works for you.  There are several formulas that yoga teachers use to develop yoga cues and you can usually learn the yoga cueing formula in a yoga teacher training course or a yoga teacher course designed for yoga teacher continuing education.  Finding the yoga cueing formula that works for you is an important step in finding the best yoga teacher cues for you.