Yoga is such a calming, rejuvenating experience; it is often nice to practice in silence. You can focus on breathing, hearing the air enter and leave your body. You can quiet your mind, allowing your thoughts to come in, then go out with the breath. When you are practicing Yoga by yourself, it is feasible to do it in silence. When you are teaching a group, however, the verbal cues you give are an integral part of a Yoga class. Experienced students may not need any prompting or advice on flowing through a series of poses, but others need those cues in order to practice the postures correctly and safely. To some Yoga students, your words create a picture within their minds.
To demonstrate the importance of verbal guidance in Yoga, picture Mountain pose. To most novices, it looks as though you are standing there, arms at your sides, looking straight ahead. Yet, any Yoga instructor knows there is so much more going on within the body than simply standing there. The shoulders are pressed down, with the shoulder blades pressing back, the feet are planted firmly, weight is distributed evenly, the spine is as straight as possible, and your gaze rests in one spot. In order to correctly perform Mountain pose, there is a lot that needs to be said. The same is true for the other postures.
Yoga instructors should try to be concise when giving verbal cues. This comes with practice, and by imitating what more experienced instructors say. Try not to falter with your words; give short, clear explanations that lead your students into each pose. When you demonstrate a pose, students can learn a lot by looking at your body. However, some things are hard to see, such as the act of straightening your spine, lowering your shoulders, and expanding or contracting your abdomen.
Remember to speak in terms that the entire group of students will understand. It’s fine to use the Sanskrit names, but teach the students as you go, by giving reminders. There is no need to speak elaborately. Students, who are taking Yoga sessions, in order to relax and unwind at the end of a long day, will appreciate few words that are spoken concisely.
The words you speak, as well as the way you say them, will set the tone for the class. Speak softly, and use “soft” phrases when reminding students to breathe, or go deeper into an asana. For example, “Take a deep breath.” or “Reach a little farther.” sound a bit like commands. However, “Breathing deeply,” or “Reaching farther,” have a softer delivery. Like so many other aspects of becoming a great Yoga teacher, your verbal guidance will improve as you do.