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10 Simple Words & Phrases To Create Action In Yoga

Teaching Yoga | Yoga

When we teach yoga, we’re communicating desired action. We know what the pose should look like, and in order to help our students, we use words to describe it.

Some people are better visual learners, some absorb more when they’re one-on-one, and others learn best when assisted. But in large classes, when you don’t have space for a mat or when you’d prefer to teach without demonstrating (which is much harder to do), you need to depend on essential, simple language. Here’s why:

In yoga teaching, the more you say, the less your students will hear.~Karen Fabian

Their concentration will trail off after the first few words and they’ll get lost in your directions. So the goal is to cut through the noise and the distractions so you can help your students connect to the practice.

Here are 10 simple phrases that can be used with many different postures to create action in yoga. Note: These words and phrases all speak to physical action, not actions of the mind or spirit.


Press your feet

Press your toes

Press your palms

Press your feet into your hands


Drop your head

Drop your right hip

Drop your tailbone


Wrap your outer arms in

Wrap your shoulder blades


Root your feet

Root into your palms


Roll your shoulders open

Roll your outer arms in


Squeeze your thighs

Squeeze your shoulder blades together


Open your chest


Engage your core

Engage your thighs

Engage the long muscles of your thighs


Lengthen your spine

Lengthen your thighs

Lengthen your sides

Lengthen your triceps


Spiral your inner thighs down

Spiral your outer arms in towards your head

These words all speak to physical actions. They can help your students become present, less distracted and will help them quickly understand what you want them to do.

Remember: everyone’s expression will be unique, their level of understanding will vary, and as long as they’re not injuring themselves, allow them the space to be unique and experience all the benefits of the practice.

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