Something I’ve noticed since teacher training is that I’ve gained a whole host of knowledge that I now take into every class with me. Things that help me adapt a practice to be both safe and beneficial to me, no matter the level or style. Since it’s impossible for a teacher to give every single alignment or deepening cue in every posture in a yoga class, (in training we spent an hour just on Downward Dog!) it’s really helpful to have some ‘inside info’. So today, I bring you the first in a new series called Yoga Tips. This series is intended to share some of the tools I have learned in my years of practice as well as from teacher training that will help you make the most of your practice, adapt to your own capabilities, and ensure you are safely honoring your intention.
Tip #1: Listen Closely To Alignment Cues
Depending on the classes you attend you may hear a ton of alignment cues or hardly any at all. If it’s the latter, I encourage you to speak up and ask questions about how to best align your body to avoid injury. If it’s the former, please, please listen. Your teacher isn’t talking just for the sake of talking (hopefully!); rather, they want you to practice as safely as you can. If you’re unsure of what your instructor means by a certain cue, then always ask them or submit your question to me and I’ll address it in my next Q&A post. Chances are you aren’t the only one with the question.
Alignment cues are the detailed instructions that your yoga teacher gives you as she or he guides you through practice. They could be things like ‘spiral the inner thighs up’, ‘root into all 4 corners of the palm/foot’, ‘level out the hips’ or ‘keep the neck in line with the spine’. They could even be breath cues like ‘breathe into your low back’ ‘inhale space’ or ‘exhale to release tension’. Each instructor has their own way of describing the alignment that is supposed to be happening in the body. You’ll notice that while some are more common across classes, most teachers have at least a few unique phrases. With everything going on in a yoga class, sometimes as students we just gloss past these, thinking they’re just fluff. Try your best to think more critically – it’s not just fluff! Even if you don’t connect with the phrasing or metaphors you may hear right off the bat, keep pondering them. Someday it might click and really transform your practice.
Once you start to understand these cues, try to include them in your practice and keep them in your back pocket for any other classes you attend. It’s all really about creating your own personal tool belt, something to help you get the most of any class. So if you come across a cue that you don’t quite understand or that doesn’t feel right, never, ever hesitate to ask the question. Often times, if you’re struggling to understand a cue, the teacher can rephrase in a way that makes more sense to you. Or maybe you’re having a hard time understanding because your not ready for the full expression of a pose and your body is really asking for a modification. Either way – speak up. The last thing we want is for you to be confused, lost or uncomfortable in our classes.