Blog

11 Effective Yoga Cues For Teachers

Effective Yoga Cues For Teachers

An important part of being a great yoga teacher is knowing the best yoga cues to encourage and empower your students. We’ve put together a list of yoga cues to ensure you and your students reach their full potential during class.

But before we get started, you’ll need more than yoga cues to make you an effective instructor. Advance your career with our Level 4 Yoga Teacher Training Course to become the perfect yoga teacher!

To find out more, download our course prospectus here.

Why You Should Be Using Yoga Teacher Cues

Verbal yoga cues are great for those wondering how to instruct the best yoga class. Below, we’ll explain why they’re effective and what they can bring to a class.

#1 - Yoga Teacher Cues Make You Appear More Knowledgeable

list of yoga cues

As a yoga teacher, you know your stuff. However, using descriptive yoga cues can help you stand out further as someone more knowledgeable about the practice.

Using more up-to-date yoga alignment cues tells your students you’re keeping up with developments in the yoga community, making them more likely to trust your classes over others in the area.

Effective yoga cues also allow you to give students meaningful and useful advice they can use during their practice. This helps them progress and shows them you know how to teach and are finding the best ways for them to improve.

#2 - Yoga Sequences With Cues Flow Better & More Efficiently

list of yoga cues

Effective yoga cues are hugely important for the flow of your classes, especially as you want students to be able to follow along if you need to demonstrate a pose at the front of the class.

Teaching yoga with verbal cues also means you can indirectly guide students through a vinyasa as you walk around the class. 

This gives you the chance to see how your students are faring during a sequence and can offer personalised advice if they need it.

Yoga cues themselves also bring more structure to sessions. Having instructions helps guide your students efficiently through a sequence and your cues provide a sense of rhythm within the class.

#3 - Yoga Cues Can Empower Your Students

list of yoga cues

The best yoga cues are those that can help your students think introspectively as these will help grow their confidence and self-esteem.

You should always encourage your students to listen to how they feel at any given time and to explore their reactions to particular poses.

Yoga can be mentally empowering and there are many benefits of doing yoga everyday. This means you should be looking to use the right yoga cues to promote a positive mental attitude during your sessions.

 

Advance your career as a yoga teacher with Origym!

Continue expanding your skills and make your classes more effective with our Level 4 Yoga Teacher Training Course.

11 Yoga Cues to Help Revolutionise Your Classes

While this list of yoga cues isn’t exhaustive, we’ve covered several important areas so you and your students can dial into the practice and get the most from each session.

#1 - Use ‘I Invite You to Try This’ As A Yoga Cue For More Advanced Postures

list of yoga cues

We’re starting our list with one of the most important yoga cues for teachers. It encourages students to take part in the class as much as they’re able to, free of judgement and pressure.

All types of yoga styles are incredibly personal practices that involve listening to and honouring your body each day. Sometimes, this means sticking to the basics rather than attempting new poses when you feel more fatigued than normal.

By inviting students to try each posture, you’re allowing them to take charge of their own learning in a safe space, and placing the control solely in their hands.

Moving forward, this confidence in their own learning can empower your students to attempt more advanced poses in the future. 

list of yoga cues

On the other hand, if your students decline the invitation and wish to stick with a simpler version of the posture, it shows they’re listening to their bodies. 

Either way, your students decide to respond to your invitation. By framing these verbal yoga cues as a choice, you’re subtly helping to improve their self-esteem and personal confidence.

#2 - Tell Your Yoga Students: ‘Remember to Smile’

spiritual yoga cues

Smiling during a yoga sequence may be the last thing your students want to do, making this one of the lesser used yoga teacher cues.

However, it’s actually a great mood booster and can go a long way in improving the mindset of the entire class.

A recent study suggests just the action of smiling can make you happier. It tricks the brain and triggers the release of dopamine and serotonin - neurotransmitters that make you happy and less stressed.

spiritual yoga cues

As you’re aware, yoga as a discipline is a balance between a spiritual and physical pursuit of health and wellbeing. It’s often been seen as a way to connect the mind with the body and link to the energies that flow through the body and the wider world.

Smiling is an important restorative yoga cue that encourages your students to find their joy - definitely worth including in the way you teach your classes!

#3 - Tell Yoga Students To ‘Welcome a Little Heat’ For A Harder Workout

spiritual yoga cues

Encouraging students to welcome the heat may seem in contrast to the restorative yoga cue above. However, both of these ideas actually use the natural responses of the body to create sensations during a session. 

Bringing the heat is a more gentle way of expressing the burn your students may feel during some yoga poses as their muscles work hard to support them.

For example, changing the ‘table top’ pose to ‘reverse table top’ makes a simple pose much more intense and brings attention to the core for stability and balance. 

spiritual yoga cues

This intensity is the key part of this yoga cue and you should encourage your students to move towards the feeling, rather than away from it.

If you’re wondering how to teach a vinyasa yoga class, keep in mind cues like welcoming the heat are a great way to connect the body with the concept of pranayama.

Prana is believed to flow through the chakras, controlling our movements and regulating our bodily functions - our overall health and well-being is connected to the circulation of prana in the body and the wider world.

#4 - Encourage Students To ‘Explore What Feels Best Today’

spiritual yoga cues

When you’re teaching yoga with verbal cues you need to be mindful of how your students feel from day to day. Their bodies will feel different each session and you’ll need to remind them to explore these feelings and work with the sensation rather than against it.

Yoga isn’t about achieving the perfect form, it’s about functionality and how the pose can work for your body.

That’s why encouraging your students to explore what feels good for them each day is one of the best restorative yoga cues you could use as they’re actively checking in with how they feel in each pose.

For example, during a marjaryasana-bitilasana or cat-cow combination, students may want to include some lateral movements to create more of a stretch in the side of the body. 

yoga alignment cues

Or they could move from cow pose into child’s pose for more of a stretch along the spine and neck. This freedom of movement teaches your students to listen to their bodies and how they can adapt a particular pose to give them more or less of a stretch.

As a yoga teacher using cues, you should always be aware of how you word your instructions. Inviting students to explore how different poses feel negates any pressure to have the perfect form - in fact, you’re actively asking them not to!

This will make a huge difference in their mindset and your students will put their focus where it should be, developing a deeper understanding of their bodies and their personal needs.

 

Advance your career as a yoga teacher with Origym!

Continue expanding your skills and make your classes more effective with our Level 4 Yoga Teacher Training Course.

#5 - Remind Students To Focus On Their Breath

yoga alignment cues

Breath control is absolutely a core element of yoga practice and you should definitely make sure to include breathing yoga cues when you’re teaching a class.

Yoga uses the breath as a way to control the flow of a vinyasa, allowing the mind to slip away into a more meditative state. This has a calming influence and is largely why yoga is recommended as part of a self-care routine.

In their simplest form, breathing yoga cues tell your students to move with their inhale or exhale. Maintaining this integrity stops your students holding their breath during a vinyasa, compromising their ability to hold a pose.

Aside from a simple inhale and exhale system, there are several specific ways to control your breathing with yoga cues that will provoke new ways of thinking or feeling.

yoga alignment cues

For example, nadi shodhana or alternate nostril breathing is best used during the beginning of a practice to relax your students by reducing anxiety and stress. Here you inhale deeply through the left nostril while plugging the right with your thumb, then switch.

By doing this technique for 3-5 minutes, you’re forcing students to concentrate solely on the sound and depth of their breath, slowing their minds and letting go of stress.

Another example is the ujjayi or ocean breath, which helps if they’re feeling frustrated or angry. With ujjayi, your students should breathe deeply in through the nose and out again while mildly constricting the back of the throat.

This helps them release anger and frustration, beginning their practice in a better state of mind.

#6 - Tell Your Students: ‘Trust In Yourself and Your Journey’

yoga alignment cues

This is one of the most important yoga teacher cues you can use to empower and motivate your students during class.

Yoga is not just a physical skill, it’s also a mental and emotional exercise that helps build self-esteem and a positive mental attitude.

Encouraging your students to trust themselves is hugely important for their overall health and well-being. By doing this, you’re setting your students up for future success in their yogic and everyday life.

It’s also essential to remind your students yoga is not a competition, especially in mixed level classes where beginners may struggle with feelings of inadequacy or self-doubt.

yoga alignment cues

Using this yoga cue shows how another person’s progress isn’t a reflection of their own inability but merely how each student is on their own journey.

Another advantage of teaching yoga with this verbal cue is it encourages students to reflect on their progress and see how far they’ve come since their first session - great motivation to keep them going!

Rather than striving for perfection, this yoga cue tells your students by simply showing up for themselves everyday they can achieve a little more each session. This is much better for their mental health in the long run.

#7 - Remind Your Students They Are Free To Rest Or Back Out Of Any Pose They Need

yoga alignment cues

The vast majority on this list of yoga cues is about teaching students to listen to and honour their bodies, giving them the confidence to know when something is right for them.

Although descriptive yoga cues are excellent for finding the right alignment within a posture, you need something more to encourage students to take a break or rest if they need it.

Taking a break or backing out of more advanced poses isn’t shameful or a sign of weakness. You should remind your students of this when teaching yoga, as verbal cues will make all the difference to their mindset.

Having the awareness to know your limits each day is an incredibly important skill for yoga practitioners as you don’t want to overwork the body and risk injury.

yoga alignment cues

Using yoga cues in this way also encourages students to trust their own decision making abilities. Although you’ve offered the permission to stop or rest, they’re still the ones who choose whether they will or not.

Of course, you could follow this yoga cue by mentioning how rest doesn’t mean your students aren’t still involved in the session. Here they could choose to sit in child’s pose or savasana until they feel ready to rejoin the routine.

Mentally, you need to remind your students about the importance of rest days and how taking a break is much better than giving up entirely. Remind them how they’re still involved and valued in the session, regardless of if they complete the yoga sequence with or without the cues.

- - - - 

Alongside your yoga cues, here are some resources to help you become the best yoga teacher: 

#8 - Try Using The Expression ‘Create Space And Length’ As A Yoga Alignment Cue

restorative yoga cues

Yoga is a way to improve flexibility in all areas by opening up the mind and body. When teaching yoga, your verbal cues should correspond with these ideas.

In the past there has been a lot of discussion about how to frame yoga alignment cues, especially since some were found to be counterproductive as they caused students to overcompensate with alignment over natural body positioning.

Instead of telling students to stack their body or tuck in different joints or body parts, this simple yoga cue encourages them to create space and length in a more natural or comfortable way.

restorative yoga cues

This is a much more versatile yoga alignment cue because you can make it as general or as specific as you need. For example, in mountain pose you can be more specific about creating length down the back and opening space from the front body outwards. 

Similarly, you could instruct your students to create space laterally during side stretches, i.e. shanti virabhadrasana, or peaceful warrior.

In both of these situations, you’re using the same root for your vinyasa yoga cues you’ve customised for your needs.

 

Advance your career as a yoga teacher with Origym!

Continue expanding your skills and make your classes more effective with our Level 4 Yoga Teacher Training Course.

#9 - Invite Students To Close Their Eyes If They Feel Comfortable

restorative yoga cues

Visual stimulation can be a lot to deal with so using yoga cues to encourage students to close their eyes will help them connect more with a pose.

One way this happens is because closing your eyes makes poses more restful and your students will be able to relax into the posture. This also helps them experience the benefits of meditation when using less intense poses.

For example, closing your eyes during a child's pose or savasana turns the focus inwards and is more meditative than with the eyes open.

restorative yoga cues

On the other hand, closing your eyes during balance postures makes them more difficult and they’ll need to concentrate to reach stillness. This forces students to pay special attention to how they’re grounding through their bodies and staying upright.

If stillness isn’t the aim, students who close their eyes in a standing posture can use a gentle sway to stretch more through their feet and feel the prana moving from the ground through their bodies.

Overall, removing visual stimulation via a yoga cue forces your students to concentrate on the way their body feels, allowing for a deeper and more introspective practice.

However, it’s important your yoga studio stays to be a safe space and you should remain entirely judgement free if students choose to keep their eyes open.

#10 - Help Students ‘Find Comfort In Stillness’

restorative yoga cues

Although it’s important in yoga to learn how to move properly and effectively through a vinyasa, you should always encourage students to find comfort and value in stillness.

Many students wonder about the point of ending a routine with savasana (corpse pose), especially in the beginning. Students may feel they’re just having a lie down on their yoga mats but using this cue will teach the value of stillness for the mind.

These types of resting poses can be difficult for students to fully relax into as their minds will tend to jump to the next job on the to-do list.

With this in mind, if using yoga sequence builders it’s important to incorporate cues for mental stillness. Your students need to learn how to slowly quiet their minds and look inwards during resting postures.

restorative yoga cues

Finding comfort in stillness is an important part of recovery both during and after a routine as the body adapts to more exercise and needs rest in between poses and sessions.

Yin yoga relies on holding one pose for long periods of time for a deeper stretch. Your students will need to be comfortable staying still for up to 20 minutes at a time. This will help them get the most from their practice as they can work on their mental strength at the same time.

Overall, this yin yoga cue helps remind people that savasana is one of the most important poses in yoga, meaning they need to be comfortable finding a place of stillness.

While this will look and feel different for everyone, by encouraging students to find what works for them they’ll be able to rest properly in their postures for the full benefit of the practice.

#11 - Remind Students To ‘Release Into the Pose’

restorative yoga cues

Our final entry on this list of yoga cues may be a simple one but learning to release into a posture can make a big difference to how your students approach their practice. 

While it seems counterintuitive, sometimes when we’re trying so hard to relax we actually forget how to. 

This means your students may be focusing so hard on how to perform a pose in the best way, they forget the function and end up more tense than they were beforehand.

For example, think of a simple tadasana or mountain pose. This is a great all round posture that grounds your students through their feet, down the back, and up the front.

descriptive yoga cues

Depending on how you feel that day, you also have the option to raise the arms:

  • Outwards
  • Up over the head
  • Bring the palms to the sternum 

However, during this pose many students forget to relax their faces and may even carry more tension around the jaw and forehead. Students need to release their faces into the posture to fully relax while breathing smoothly and deeply.

Something similar may happen in balasana or child’s pose, where students forget to release into the stretch as they’re waiting for the next yoga cue for new poses.

Relaxing into a child's pose creates a stronger sensation along the back and provides a deeper stretch overall, making the pose more effective in the long run.

Although this is definitely one of the simplest descriptive yoga cues, it’s well worth including into your regular teaching script.

 

Advance your career as a yoga teacher with Origym!

Continue expanding your skills and make your classes more effective with our Level 4 Yoga Teacher Training Course.

Before You Go!

Overall, teaching yoga with verbal cues is a great way to mentally and physically empower your students.

Continue to grow and build upon these skills with our Level 4 Yoga Teacher Training Course! Doing so will help with understanding your students better, knowing when exactly to use these yoga cues.

Download our complete course prospectus.

References

  • Your Face and Moves Seem Happier When I Smile. Fernando Marmolejo-Ramos, Aiko Murata, Kyoshiro Sasaki, Yuki Yamada, Ayumi Ikeda, José A. Hinojosa, Katsumi Watanabe, Michal Parzuchowski, Carlos Tirado, and Raydonal Ospina. Experimental Psychology (2020), 67:1, 14-22

Written by Rachel Stevens

Content Writer & Fitness Enthusiast

Rachel is a freelance content writer and fitness enthusiast based in Liverpool. She completed her BA (Hons) in Egyptology and Ancient History, followed by a MA in Ancient History, at the University of Liverpool. She has a keen interest in many water-based sports, like kayaking, in which she holds a 1-star qualification with the intention of progressing further. She is an avid reader, runner and yoga enthusiast.

Recommended Posts

5 Yoga Sequence Builders (Plus Tips For Planning Classes)

5 Yoga Sequence Builders (Plus Tips For Planning Classes) 

A yoga sequence works as the blueprint on which you build your yoga classes. If you’re not using them already, you certainly should be …
How to Become a Successful Yoga Teacher: 11 Top Tips

How to Become a Successful Yoga Teacher: 11 Top Tips 

If you’re interested in, or already are working as a yoga instructor, it makes sense that you want to know how to become a successful …
What Makes A Good Yoga Teacher? Ultimate Guide (2024)

What Makes A Good Yoga Teacher? Ultimate Guide (2024) 

Wondering what makes a good yoga teacher and how you can become one? Well, in this article we will cover this topic in greater depth, breaki …

Get Expert Tips For Elevating Your Yoga Teaching Career!

Yoga Instructor performing scorpion pose

Get Expert Tips For Elevating Your Yoga Teaching Career!

Yoga Instructor performing scorpion pose