Q: How do we give students space between instructions? I’m finding this really hard, and feeling like I’m talking through the whole class.
A: I am answering this as a chronic over-cuer, but I do hope to continue to improve my cueing skills to create more time and space for students to feel and inquire into their body/experience.
The idea behind this practice is that we want to make some space for silence and inquiry, for students to be able to experience the pose without new information or new instruction constantly coming in through our cues. It can be a tricky balance in Vinyasa Flow due to the more dynamic pace, particularly in Sun Salutations, as students do need enough cues to safely move into and out of the pose, with breath, and with some ideas on safe practice, pose options, and props.
Having said that, I offer below a few tips that may help you begin to find some quiet spaces in your teaching:
- Slow it down. For instance, for your first round of Sun Salutations, take a few breaths for each pose so students have time to hear the cues, find their body in the pose, and make some choices about regressions, progressions, or props. Then, in subsequent rounds you can add more pace and reduce your cues.
- Name your poses. Be consistent in naming each pose so as students develop their practice, knowing the names of poses will help you reduce some cuing.
- 3 Essential Cues. This is something we do in teacher training to dig down to find a clear and efficient base for our cuing. If you only had 3 cues to help students safely move into a pose with breath, what would those cues be?
- Reduce filler. Practice reducing the filler phrases like, ‘now we are going to’, ‘I want you to’, to create more space between cues.
- Repeat poses and reduce some of the cues in the second round. You can even give students space to choose their own transitions or try it again with a different prop or version.
- Cue to ‘what’s happening now’. Use the cues that students need in the moment, rather than going through a checklist of all the cues you know for a pose. Begin with instructive cues, then add safety, imagery, refining, or corrective cues as you need them.
- Be invitational in your cuing, offer options, and create a space for inquiry. Offer time to notice, feel, and explore. A simple cue like ‘take a few breaths to feel yourself in this shape and come back to (Mountain, Staff etc) when you are ready’ can give students the chance to take their own time. If you feel like you’ve lost the rhythm of the class, help students return together with an ‘on our next breath’ or ‘when you are ready’ cue.
- In my own teaching, one thing I’ve been working on is letting go of controlling the pace throughout the entire class. Reducing the quantity of poses in my sequence and focussing on quality, pausing my one-breath-one cue-one-movement rhythm occasionally to workshop a pose or transition creates some space for offering options and providing some space to play.
- It’s an ongoing process, but one that I think allows for more exploration, more agency, and empowers students to get curious about their own practice.
How have you created some space for silence and inquiry in your cuing?