Yoga Teaching Skills

Developing Your Own Cuing Style

I had an email from a teacher trainee this week with a concern that comes up quite regularly and is, I think, worthy of some further discussion.

The concern was about how often, particularly as teachers in training, we find ourselves using the cues we hear our teachers saying. This might feel like ‘copying’ or ‘stealing’, and for some might feel like it’s not authentic, as though they are not using their own voice.

While it’s important to me that each teacher is supported in finding their own voice as a teacher and developing teaching skills that reflect their uniqueness, this tends to be a longer-term project.

Likely, during a teacher training program, you are going to be using a lot of the cues that you are hearing on course, based on what you are discussing in workshops, what you are reading or hearing in study materials and what you are hearing repeated in led or guided practices. To me, this is a beneficial stage of learning, and it is the reason that, as a teacher trainer, I use a lot of repetition in my cuing, so that those foundational or ‘essential’ cues can sink in.

As a student-teacher or new teacher, by using cues that are familiar, you can work on developing all the myriad skills of teaching, without having to devote a lot of energy to crafting cues on the spot. For most teachers in training, this is a stage of development that gives you a solid foundation for your own cuing, and over time you’ll begin to either make those cues your own, and/or start to adapt those cues to your own voice – using your own instructive, corrective, imagery, kinaesthetic, inquiry, safety, and refining cues.

Over time, you might find your style favours technical cuing, or that you use a lot of imagery and visualization, or you like to support students in inquiring into how a pose feels, or you speak a lot to the poetry or the energy of movement.  It takes time to experiment, find what’s authentic to you, and, of course, observe how your cues are landing for your students.

Having said all that, if you are wishing to work on cue development, one thing you can do is play a little game of ‘say it 5 ways’.

Take a cue that is familiar and try to say it 5 different ways. An example I gave recently looked at one of the core containment/stabilizing cues that we often use before back bending in poses like Cobra or Locust. Here are some ideas. Can you think of a few more different ways of cuing this action?

My cue: Zip your belly like there is an ice block under your belly button

Say it 5 different ways:

  1. Compress your core, drawing navel to spine
  2. Draw the belly in to create some stability in your core
  3. Abdominals activated, but keep the breath flowing
  4. Notice if you are ‘ballooning’ your belly into the ground
  5. Imagine drawing the belly away from the ground

I’ll do another example of a cue to guide students into a forward fold like Uttanasana.

My cue: hinge at the hips

Say it 5 different ways

  1. Tip the body forward to bring belly to thighs
  2. Fold forward from the hips
  3. Create a deep crease in the front of your hips
  4. Bend at the hips, without bending the spine
  5. Fold at the hips like you are folding in the cheese (that one’s for the Schitt’s Creek fans)

I hope that you find this helpful, and maybe you want to share one of your own  ‘say it 5 ways’ examples with us on our social media discussion  – we’d love to keep learning with you!

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