The Most Cliche Yoga Teaching Cue

A few weeks ago, I brainstormed a list of 24 different ways to cue postures; from controlling the tone of one’s voice to the art of remaining silent. As part of this process, I also mapped out common expressions, including the most cliche yoga teaching cue.

I frequently hear it across gyms and studios, and is recognizable. I’m sure there are lots of people that would disagree with me but “if it is in your practice, then _______.” is by far the most cliche yoga teach cue. Perhaps it comes from something the put in the water at the majority of yoga teacher trainings?

Teachers use this instruction to tell students they can do the pose in one of a few ways. Sometimes these “modifications” vary greatly from the standard posture, transitioning from Prasarita-padottanasana (wide foot forward fold) to Sirsanasana (headstand) for example.

Designing a class is little like baking, in which each ingredient lends itself to the other ones. “If it is in your practice” unnecessarily invites a wildcard into the equation, particularly when it becomes a free for all. If the recipe calls for flour and people reach for the salt instead, it becomes problematic.

If the recipe calls for flour and people reach for the salt instead,
it becomes problematic.

Left to fend for themselves, students may look around the room for guidance.  When the class atmosphere is competative, students are tempted to emulate the most advanced varian of the posture, one that is well outside of their sensible range of ability. At this point, the risk of injury goes up and the deeper spirit of yoga is lost.

Finally, this cue removes the onus of teaching from the teacher and onto the student.  In my own classes, I want to impart a tangible skill or experience to the students, rather than leave them to figure out and risk injuring themselves. The teacher has a responsibility to be knowledgeable enough to safely guide students.

Fortunately, we can easily offset the pitfalls of the most cliche yoga teaching cue. We can restore the balance between student and teacher.  The solution is simple, explain “why”.  Rather than giving an open-ended invitation, put some parameters around it. Under what circumstances does a student choose option A over B? And under what circumstances shouldn’t they go with option B?  This is your moment to steer shy of pat expressions, shine as a teacher, and keep your students safe.

Hidden Powers and Approaches to Meditation

Boy pouring water over meditation singing bowl

Finding your groove in meditation can be a bit like searching for a treasure in a darkened room.  The treasure holds the promise of greater inner-freedom however, and you’ll sift through less idyllic objects as you blindly sweep the floor with outstretched hands.

Fortunately, your search for the optimal meditation method can be distilled down to one of three primary categories. These categories range from the most passive to the most elaborate:

  1. Mindfulness.  In simple terms, mindfulness is the act of being fully present to whatever task, experience, or thought you happen to be having. This is one of the most recognized techniques because of its obvious universal application and ‘non-metaphysical’ demure.
  1. Self Reflection. Other techniques ask you to focus on a particular construct such as the fabled utterance “Aham-Brahmasmi” or “I am divinity itself.”  While the mantra itself possesses some potency, the real power of this method comes from the necessary self-reflection and the conviction that life is composed of more than ego-perspective.
  1. Kriya.  Kriya means a ‘method’ or ‘procedure’.  These procedures systematically blend various forms of imagery, colors, sounds, and associations to curate a particularly energetic and psychological reality in the practitioner.

    Unlike the universal approach of mindfulness, kriyas invoke a specific experience to suit the exact needs of the aspirant based on their current life circumstances and how they wish to evolve.  These practices, derived from tantra, are much more dynamic.

    One may presume that kriyas entail an element of “imagination” or “pretending” to tap into an alternate reality.  The more that I’ve studied and practiced yoga, the more I’ve come to see and appreciate it’s metaphysical perspective.

    The Universe has more dimensions than length, height, and width and the vast, vast, vast majority of it exists outside of the limited field of our senses. We only see .03 percent of that available light spectrum that emanates from the sun, as an example.  I’ve come to recognize kriya as a porthole into a pre-existing plane of existence, outside of conditioned existence.

Meditation to Increase Shakti is a simple example of this kind of kriya. It also is the consummate practice for our May Meditation Series. Shakti means power or force, she is the inherent and presiding force of manifestation itself.  Without Shakti, there would be no life.

Kriya then is the systematic method by which one can enter into the awareness of this presiding force. It invokes the living presence and power of Shakti and most sublime attributes.  With continued practice, the meditator gradually assumes these qualities.  

Just as every seed contains a unique kind of plant in it – be it an oak tree or a rose bush – different forms of meditation will breed and awaken a different visceral reality inside of you.  Despite their aura of universal spirituality, different meditations will awaken a unique attribute of your soul and psyche.

When choosing an optimal meditation method, the most important thing is to get started.  Reflect on which of these three is most appeals, seek guidance, and most importantly just get started. Any of these approaches will help you to see yourself more clearly and help you discern its unique value and attributes.