More tips from the front of the class for new Yoga teachers. When cueing changes from one pose to the next, think about first saying the name of the pose, then giving the movement cues, then giving the refinements. Cueing step by step, but not telling the class where you’re headed, can put unnatural pauses in the flow that can interrupt the movement into the pose. I actually got hurt in a situation like this one time.
If you have a teaching partner/mentor, try this exercise on each other and see how it feels (or just play along as a thought game). From down dog, have your partner pick a standing pose, but don’t say what it is, then cue you, “step your right foot between your hands” towards the pose, and then pause before the next cue. Now name every pose you can come into from that position. Right? I count 9 just sitting here as I type this (not all standing poses, either). Probably more, eh? How did it feel? Did you stop moving once your foot was in place, waiting for the next cue? Yeah, I thought so.
I was in a class the other night with about 15 other yogis where this kept happening. Every time the teacher cued to step the right foot forward, everyone did so and then paused, waiting for the next cue. What if the next cue was, “turn your back heel to the ground”? There’s still about 4, 5 poses you can get into from there. Yep, another pause in the flow.
What this does, and what I felt during the class, were all these unnatural pauses, with the whole class waiting to find out where we’re going. I could see the other yogis pausing too. Add in the “turn your back heel to the ground” and now there’s two pauses coming from DD to ??? pose. It’s awkward.
Now, from down dog, have your partner say the name of the pose he picked, then “Step your right foot forward.” I can almost guarantee that by the time he’s done saying this, you will be in the pose he picked. I did this exercise with that teacher after class the other night, and she was in Warrior II before I even cued “turn your back heel to the mat.” What I saw was one long movement from DD to W-II. I told her where we were going, got her started, and she was there. As a teacher, I can now focus on helping the students refine the pose through detailed cues, rather than trying to talk them step-by-step into the pose.
Of course, with beginners you’ll need more cues to get them into the initial shape, but all the same, saying the name of the pose beforehand teaches them the names of the poses. Win!
Last thought, this is not of course an absolute rule by any means. You’ll get the hang of when you should do it, and when you can just talk the yogis around the mat. You don’t need to say the name of every pose beforehand. Saying, “urdhva hastasana – raise your hands toward the ceiling,” seems like too much talking, or “fold forward at the waist”, they’ll be there before you can say Uttanasana, and there’s likely no confusion where you’re going. Same with the second side of a Sun Sal. B. Also, when doing the second side of a sequence, most experienced students will remember where you’re going, so you can vary your cues. Another example, if you’re in a high lunge, R foot forward, and want to come into a low twist, you can probably safely say, “place your left hand on the mat under your shoulder and reach your right hand to the ceiling” instead of first saying, “high lunge low twist” inasmuch as there’s only two movements to get into the pose, and there probably won’t be confusion where you’re going with the cues.
So teachers, tell me where we’re going so we can get there!