The Thing about Cues
Updated: Jun 7, 2019
Even though cues are a central feature of yoga classes, what you do with them requires some thought.
Teachers offer “cues” to help students understand the details of the asana. Cues provide information about where to place your body and its various parts, when to breath and how, where your weight settles at points of contact and how your body aligns from there, and suggestions about how the lines of energy may feel in the pose.
Sometimes a cue works
Every student with even a little exposure to yoga will have experienced a cue that is perfect. You do what your teacher suggests, and your body aligns and feels just as the cue describes. You align your body as described and it feels wonderful in every way. Enjoy cues that work.
Sometimes how we understand the cue changes
If you have been doing yoga for a while, you will have had this experience. You have heard a cue a hundred times. It does not resonate with you, but you think you get the idea in a general way. Then, one day, something changes. The words of the cue are the same, but how your mind and body respond is completely different from the hundreds of times before today. It is a new interpretation of the cue. You have a physical or energetic experience in the pose that is unlike anything that you felt before. Today it is a perfect cue.
Sometimes the cue doesn’t seem to work at all
It doesn’t take much experience with yoga before you encounter a cue that doesn’t work for you. This may be a language problem. “Keep your shoulders down” is confusing because there are so many different ways to interpret what is being said. However, even if the language is clear, our bodies are different. What the teacher is describing may not be how your body works or how it feels. There is no universal cue that works for everyone. Some of us are super flexible and some very stiff. Some have long legs and others long torsos.
Just because a cue is not connecting you to the asana doesn’t mean you cannot learn from it. Do not follow the cue if it takes you to a place of pain. Do no harm. Remember: yoga is about balancing effort and ease. If a cue takes you to a place of discomfort and you cannot find a way to ease it, do not follow the cue. Find a comfortable position and wait for the next cue. The next one may clarify what preceded it.
While you are waiting in a comfortable position waiting for that next cue, use your imagination. Visualize the asana. Imagine your body moving, or holding, or aligning in a way that is the shape of the asana. See if you can be in that position without effort. If not, stay in the comfortable position you have found and rest there while you wait for the next cue.
Ask questions about the cue after class. Such conversations help the teacher as well as the student.
The “to do list” for cues:
· listen to cues with an open mind;
· you may find a new way to understand the cue;
· if the cue works, enjoy the asana;
· if the cue doesn’t work for you, find a comfortable position and rest there;
· visualize the asana and imagine how you might find that shape for yourself;
· breath and relax, while you wait for the next cue.