My heart got broken the first time I was professionally edited. I had been teaching for years and no one told me when an instruction didn’t make sense or when a concept I presented was unclear (thank god, right?). So, when that first draft came back with its red lines and capitalized questions, I was completely unprepared for anything other than glowing feedback.
Of course, writing an article is less forgiving than teaching a class. Since everything you say in the classroom is live, you’re bound to make various errors—and no amount of verbal errors should keep you awake at night or make you think that you’re a lousy teacher. At the same time, we owe it to our students to continually refine our language and make changes when our language is muddled, ineffective or unclear.
While some people are more verbal than others, everyone can become more skillful communicators with a plan and practice. Part 1 of this 2-part post focuses on common cueing pitfalls. Trust me, I have fallen into all four of these traps at one point or another. And, honestly, I regress into a couple of them now and then. So, remember to be patient with yourself—speaking clearly, honestly, and comfortably in the yoga room takes practice.
Common Cueing Pitfalls
Adding filler words
I do it. You do it. We all add filler words—often unconsciously. I was teaching a 200-hr training in Japan and, despite my inability to speak Japanese, I heard the phrase “et to” so many times during peer teaching sessions that I asked the interpreter what it means. She said, “it doesn’t mean anything,” it’s similar to saying “like” or “uh” in English. Filler words and phrases such as “like,” “good,” “yes” and “uh” are omnipresent in the classroom. Notice what your filler words are and, uh, like, practice not using them!
“Ing-Ing” your students to death
Listen to this set of instructions: “Inhaling, stretching your arms overhead; exhaling, forward bending; inhaling lifting half-way up; exhaling stepping back to downward-facing dog.” I could go on and on and there would be nowhere to put a period because there is no specific call to action. Using “ing” is fine, but constant usage creates a run-on sentence. Be mindful of your phrasing and don’t be afraid to come to a conclusion and add a period. Instead, try “Inhaling, stretch your arms overhead. Exhaling, forward bend.”
Crowding your students ears with too many instructions
When you give an instruction you also need to give your students enough time and space to complete the instruction. When there is a constant stream of instructions your students don’t have time to do what you’re asking them to do. Remember to take a breath or two after each cue and allow your students to integrate the information.
Using a passive voice
This is a big one that requires some teachers to alter their entire style of delivery. Describing passive voice is difficult, so here’s an example: “The action of the iliotibial band (ITB) is to assist in knee extension and provide some external rotation force.” Notice the phrases, “the action of the …” and “…is to assist.” These are passive, unnecessary phrases that don’t help our students. Instead, the sentiment should be expressed like this: “The iliotibial band helps extend and externally rotate the knee.” This phrase is more simple, clear and direct.
*Originally published on YogaGlo.com
About the author:
Jason Crandell, is a natural teacher and author with more than 15 years of experience. His accessible, grounded classes integrate the best elements of power yoga, anatomical precision and mindfulness teachings. With a “knack for teaching subtle body movements in a way that everyone can understand” (Yoga Journal), Jason’s articulate, down-to-earth teaching will educate and empower you. He is teaching a 40 Hour Training: “Power + Precision + Mindfulness June 30 – July 4, 2014 at Yoga Tree Mission.
Jason was named “one of the teachers shaping the future of yoga,” by Yoga Journal, Jason has been one of the most in-demand teachers at conferences around the world for over a decade. He is considered a “teachers-teacher,” and has taught on countless teacher-training faculties, leads trainings globally, and regularly presents teacher-training content at esteemed conferences. He also provides online training on Yogaglo.com.
Jason is a contributing editor for Yoga Journal where he has published over 25 articles and created their original series of practice podcasts. Jason produced 4 full-length DVD’s with Yoga Journal and has partnered with Yogaglo to provide online classes. His critical-thinking skills will support you on your path of practicing and teaching.
Jason’s primary teacher is Rodney Yee—who was kind enough to say, “Jason is taking the art of teaching yoga to its next level.”