Article by Melanie A. Bell
Remember taking your driver’s test and listening for the commands of the examiner sitting in your passenger seat? Chances are, he or she used phrases like “Turn right at the next intersection”, and “Make a three-point turn on this street”. His or her instructions were clear, concise, and well-communicated.
Now imagine taking your test with an examiner who mumbled directions like “Ummm, maybe you can just make a left? No, ummmm, maybe a right turn somewhere soon.” You would likely feel confused, frustrated, and even more anxious, trying to figure out exactly what your examiner wanted you to do.
In your yoga class, participants are listening for your directions. They need clear, easy-to-follow instructions regarding where to place their body parts, and in which direction you would like them to move. Verbal cueing is a critical component to your teaching. It can make the difference between participants feeling confident, secure and successful, or feeling frustrated, baffled and discouraged.
Tips for Effective Cueing:
Turn up the volume. Some participants may have hearing difficulties. Others’ view of you may be blocked by participants in front of them. Sometimes, everyone will be bent over in a Forward Fold or lying down on their backs. Make sure that everyone can hear you; check in with the people in the back row to make sure your voice is carrying far enough.
Speak slowly. Cueing in a class is different than conversational speech. Participants need time to process and digest your instructions. You can practice this at home by recording yourself giving cues and then playing back and assessing whether you were easy to hear and understand.
Remember the driving examiner. “Turn to your right” is more clear than saying “Let’s turn”. When participants have to come out of their quiet centre to decipher instructions, it disrupts their flow and causes feelings of annoyance. People also feel more confident when they are “following along” with others in the class and moving together in the same direction; it reduces embarrassment and frustration.
Avoid the word “just”. This word implies that a pose is easy, which may not be the case for every participant. Instead of saying, “Just lift your hips”, replace with “Lift your hips”.
SSSSHHHHHH!!! Sometimes we instructors need to talk less and allow participants to experience more. When you’ve cued a pose and it seems everyone has understood your direction, allow for silence and a chance for them to go inward and experience the pose fully.
Always remember that your voice is a tool – practice projecting it across the room, pronunciating clearly, and using simple, understandable words and phrases.
Your participants will love you for it! (And most likely pass their driver’s tests, too)
Melanie A. Bell is a triumphant cancer survivor, passionately sharing her love of life and well-being with others through the practices of Yoga, Reiki, and Aromatherapy. She would love to hear from you and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org