I remember the days of my first yoga teacher training, studying and memorizing the right words to say to get a group of people to experience a certain yoga pose: “cues” as they’re called in movement teaching. There was a part of me that so enjoyed hearing them, just as I enjoyed reciting them. Maybe it was the to-do list part of me that enjoyed feeling the success of each small feat… “place your feet at 30 degrees.” Done. “Bend your knee on top of your ankle.” Done! Even if I couldn’t completely perform a yoga pose, I could at least turn my feet in…and that always felt like success. It’s a beautiful system of instructing a group and it does offer the feeling of fulfillment in a way that relaxes that thinking part of the brain. By having a teacher instruct the recipe for the yoga pose, you are just being guided in every step of the way. What a wonderful experience!
However, in my first few years teaching, I realized that one cue does not fit all, as we’re luckily realizing in our yoga world where now-finally-adaptive-options-exist. I also started to realize that once you teach groups of people twice a week for many years, there comes quickly a need to replenish and rejuvenate cueing/instruction. I sought out other yoga trainings and learned new words and new ways to tell people how to build their asanas and that helped for a while.
Honestly, I miss those days. I miss the feeling of just saying “turn your feet like this,” or “reach your arms like that.” It was so much easier to learn words than to seek for meaning behind them.
With the searching and deepening of my studies came entrance into the Franklin Method, which has given me not only a deeper understanding of functional anatomy, but the ability to see it in my body and in others. It has given me not only words, but ways to truly teach in a student centered way so that rather approaching teaching a class from a cueing perspective, I can lead with my eyes open. I can see what’s really happening in the room, what needs to be addressed and where the flow of the class is going. I now have an open environment so people can ask questions and when there is an interest in learning more about one thing, the class can then move in that direction. My goal is now to offer the intention and experience of each pose as the wording, so it will apply to everyone and then my students can search for the pose from the inside out.
It also allows variation inside of asana. For example, think of the top arm in trikonasana/triangle pose. There are lots of areas of focus for that arm that will completely vary the experience. Highlight the fan shape of the pec minor and slide your hand along its path (from the 3rd to the 5th ribs/upper outer chest to the coracoid process/the front of the scapula that you will feel as a poky spot below your clavicle and to the inside of your arm bone) and then with the reach of the top arm, picture this space elongating and lengthening. You might also be able to sense the precise location of the head of the arm bone, resting onto the very shallow cup of the glenoid/shoulder socket. Possibly you think in terms of flow and imagine that there is a general current flowing along with the shortening/lengthening of muscles in front and back: a flow up the front of the arm and down the back of the arm. Notice those three approaches offer a completely different experience of the top arm.
I want more yoga teachers to have these tools from Franklin Method to apply to their yoga classes. It will change your cueing life completely and you will never teach in absolutes again, and some teachers are resistant to that…but it will truly help you empower your students to find their own asana. And on an even more important scale, it will allow them space to uncover certain patterns in their bodies and even in their approach that may just change their lives. And why not? Why shouldn’t each yoga practice change your life? This is what the Franklin Method teaches: how to use imagery (what you are focusing on) to improve what you’re doing…and often, that imagery is functional anatomy. Change that happens, then, comes from the changing of perception: the way we “see” what’s happening in our minds/bodies rather than from an approach of “fixing” what’s happening in our minds/bodies.
Yoga is about YOU finding YOU. It is inherently an adaptive, personal and subjective practice. So yoga teachers, come learn how to help others find themselves whether it is through the lens of the pelvic anatomy or the lens of the entire skeletal/muscular/internal systems. We, as yoga teachers, can learn to hold the space, offer ideas and then get out of the way (in the most supportive way possible) to allow our students the possibility of being rather than doing.
It’s a big paradigm shift, and like I said before, I miss the days of having my handful of cues for each pose. It is far harder to teach people to see in a different way… to focus on their humero-scapular rhythm or to imagine their arms are light as balloons…rather than to instruct how to simply achieve a certain position. And furthermore, teachers who instruct with absolutes might be far more popular…I’ve had many students freak out when I demonstrate that there is actually three-dimensional movement within the pelvis which would prevent it from ever being square, because they’ve heard it as an absolute to square their hips from so many others for so many years. It possibly feels more trustworthy to hear a teacher who KNOWS exactly where each body part should go. And whether it feels pleasurable or not to square the hips, it doesn’t matter if you trust the person telling you to do it. If it feels wrong, it must mean there’s something wrong with you.
You see the issue.
Teaching others to seek for an improved experience will change their lives and it will change the world. That may seem exaggerated, but teaching a student to trust YOU to know how they should move doesn’t actually teach them anything. Offering information and space for people to experience union and awe for the way the body is designed, THEIR body: that will teach them the world.