A Note on Demonstrating Asanas

By Mark Stephens on Wed, 02/26/2014 - 13:42

Hands-on cues and assistance are only one of several methods of giving clear instructional guidance to students. To the extent that you give clear verbal cues combined with effective demonstrations, most students will not need tactile cues. To make your verbal cues most effective, speak slowly while simultaneously moving slowly into the asana you are teaching, giving slightly dramatic emphasis to whatever you most want to highlight while transitioning in from a position in which you mirror your class with maximum visual contact between you and all of your students. Try not to say what not to do; instead, emphasize what to do. (Saying what not to do often confuses students, especially if they miss the “not” part of your instruction.) Try to order your verbal cues as discussed in detail in chapter 4 of Yoga Sequencing. Try to verbally cue to what you are seeing students doing or not doing as they transition into the asana, and give them a chance to physically express the cue before rushing to their aid.

When demonstrating, mirror your students in a way that maximizes their view of you and your view of them. In doing so, further observe your students to determine what further or clearer guidance is most needed. Appreciate that even the most adept yoga student may sense that they have positioned their body in accordance with what you’ve instructed and demonstrated, yet in reality they might be far from it. Other less experienced or adept students as well as more purely tactile learners may reveal that they can benefit from tactile guidance from the beginning of your instruction. Otherwise, once you’ve completed your demonstration, it’s time to get off your mat and out into the room to better observe your students and perhaps offer the more refined guidance that appears to be needed. Put differently, when teaching, teach; do your personal practice another time.

(Excerpted from Yoga Adjustments: Philosophy, Principles, and Techniques [forthcoming, June 2014].)