Best Cues For Yoga Teachers

Finding your teaching voice is a challenge no matter how long you have been practicing yoga. One way to improve your teaching skills is by using different verbal yoga cues.

For example, if students are holding a pose for a long time you can encourage them to close their eyes to focus on how the pose feels in their body. This will help them feel more grounded in the posture.

1. Anatomical Cues

Some Best cues for yoga teachers get too caught up in alignment cues that can limit a student's ability to find their own way into a pose. For example, a teacher might say to students to "tuck the tailbone" in a backbend. But if the student already has a tucked pelvis, this could create confusion and lead to an injury.

It's also important to remember that students are all on different journeys and not all bodies are the same. For example, some students may be able to reach deeper into a posture because they are more flexible. Others may struggle to move into a posture because they are less flexible.

Personalizing yoga instructions helps students feel more comfortable. For instance, instead of saying "close your eyes," a teacher might say to a student, "Jeff, close your right eye." This gives more direction and makes the instruction more specific.

2. Functional Cues

If you’re teaching yoga to students who have different physical limitations, incorporating functional cues can help your students connect with poses more effectively. Cues like “Hold your core tight” or “Bring your breath to your legs and feet to create stability” provide the necessary support for safe movement and a more focused experience in class.

Sharing your cues as statements can get a little monotonous, but by framing them as questions you’ll find that they become more effective and engaging for your students. For instance, when asking students to close their eyes in a restorative pose this cue helps them disconnect from visual stimulation and focus on the way their body feels, making it more meditative for them.

Clear communication is vital for creating harmony, safety and belonging in a yoga class. These five verbal cues will help you do just that!

3. Visual Cues

Aesthetic cues are useful for giving students a clear idea of what they should be doing. For example, if you notice that many of your students tend to hike their shoulders up towards their ears or lose integrity in the lumbar spine during a yin pose, it’s a good idea to add in a cue for them to relax the shoulders and keep the spine long.

Using visual cues is also a great way for students to see the results of their efforts and recognise their progress. This is especially important for beginners as it can help them build a sense of confidence and self-esteem.

Another great yoga teacher cue is to encourage your students to rest if they are feeling tired or uncomfortable in class. This shows that you are empowering them to make their own decisions during the session and it teaches them to respect the unique needs of their body.

4. Theme Cues

Cues are a great way to guide students through a class and give them clear instructions on what to do next. However, some cues aren’t necessary or can even be counterproductive.

For example, “tuck your tailbone” is a common alignment cue that may encourage students to overtuck and flatten the natural curve in their low backs. This can be destabilizing for the sacroiliac joints and is not ideal for more flexible students or those with tight hamstrings.

A better option is to tell students to close their eyes during balance poses or ask them to focus on a different attentional focus, such as keeping their breath flowing through the body or focusing on how the feet ground into the floor. This will help them to focus inwardly, building confidence and a positive mental attitude in the process.

5. Intentional Cues

Libby shares how using intentional cues can help students maintain their form throughout longer holds, and prevent them from losing alignment and integrity. For instance, she suggests that instead of cuing “tuck your tailbone,” teachers can use "lift your sit bones."

Rather than focusing on perfecting the outer shape and aesthetics of a pose, inviting students to explore how poses feel allows them to check in with their bodies and determine what works best for them. It also helps to remind them that yoga is not a competition and that the differences they observe between themselves and other students is nothing to be alarmed by.

Having clear and effective descriptive yoga cues in class brings structure, energy, and momentum to the session and allows teachers to guide their students efficiently. Learn how to improve your cueing skills with our Level 4 Yoga Teacher Training Course!