Words shape our world. What we say and the manner in which we say it invokes a quality of attention and actionable instruction. This is true of not only teaching yoga but also pertains to all moments of exchange. Teaching yoga with subjective language, opens a unique view for students.
Subjective Language is the yin counterpart of Directive Language’s yang. This manner of speech is qualitative in nature, it asks the student to self reflect. Directive Language emphasizes the outer parameters of the posture, Subjective Language invites the student to observe their interior experience.
In many ways, the deeper intent of yoga is to develop self-awareness, to recognize one’s bright strengths and shadowy impulses with equanimous attention. While much of the deeper work of self-awareness happens in meditation, Subjective Language can begin to build that bridge and generally constitute about 20% of class instruction.
Teaching yoga with Subjective Language is best suited for quiet moments of composure versus more dynamic or demanding sequences. However there are exceptions to this guideline.
Two common arenas in which to apply subjective self reflection:
- During more intense postures (such as Warrior One) invite students to soften mental effort or cultivate a more neutral perspective. While the physical pose may be quite active, the mental pose is relaxed.
- During more relaxing postures ( such as Child’s Pose) invite them to soften effort, reflect on their felt-self, or breath smoothly. Become aware of how you are feeling and breath into it.
Examples of how to cue subjective experience:
- Invite rest
- Ask students to observe the interior posture
- Surrender more fully to the posture
- Soften the mental edges of resistance in the pose
- Give the students assignments such as “ease your way into the posture one breath at a time”
- Reflect on the effect of the previous posture
- Refine the quality of your breath
- Keep the physical posture strong and stable as you relax mentally
- Teach meditation
As yoga teachers we create a container for people to experience greater joy and become more embodied. The words that we use help shape that experience. We can accomplish this by teaching yoga with Subjective Language.