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.