There are aspects of teaching yoga that are challenging. One of them is figuring out your teaching style, and the type of verbal cues you will use. How would you verbally instruct a class to do standing split, for example? You want to be clear, not take too long to say it, make sure the students remember to breathe, and most importantly, ensure that they're staying safe. It's not easy. So yoga teachers get a bit creative with how they say things.
The 20 Ludicrous Things Said by Yoga Teachers Buzzfeed list was going around a few weeks ago and it made me think about flowery language in yoga class. The Buzzfeed list was mostly over the top (though I have had a teacher tell us to "melt from the heart"), but I wondered what people thought of flowery language in yoga class in general.
Over dinner, I asked my husband Greg. He shrugged and said, "It doesn't really bother me. If it's over the top, I just figure that's how that particular person teaches, and try not to get distracted by it." I thought that last part was interesting. I think the reason some teachers get all flowery with their expressions is because they're trying to make it easier for students to visualize what they want them to do. It had never occurred to me that it might be distracting for people.
I don't think I use much flowery language in class, but there are certain expressions I use consistently. In pigeon pose, I always say, "Bring your heart forward." It's not high on the flowery scale, but it's not something you'd hear in a fitness class, right? Anyway, the reason I say that is because what I actually want the students to do is bring their chest forward, but roll their shoulders back, drawing the shoulder blades down and slightly toward each other. That's a lot to say when everyone knows where their heart is, and a simple "bring your heart forward" automatically has the students isolate and bring just their chest forward while doing all the other stuff with their shoulders that I had wanted. As a student, I personally like having clear, concise instructions. If that means getting a little flowery, no big deal.
But after hearing Greg tell me he tries not to get distracted by it, I remembered being in the class where the instructor said, "Puff your kidneys out." People looked around the room, not exactly sure where their kidneys were, never mind trying to figure out how to "puff" them. That's kind of a problem.
A few months ago I attended a workshop given by an instructor I adore. We were in warrior two and she told us to "brighten your fingers". I absolutely loved that. I often tell students to "energize" the fingers, but "brighten" really made me smile. So I said to Greg, "Put your arms out to your side."
He put his arms out. His fingers drooped slightly.
"Now brighten your fingers."
He looked at me. "What?!"
"Brighten your fingers."
"Brighten my fingers?!"
Clearly, not everything works for everyone. According to a quick facebook survey, it seemed some people really love it and appreciate it, and some absolutely cannot stand it. More importantly, some people can visualize using these types of metaphors and some people just don't function that way. Noted.
Tell me, how do you feel about flowery language in yoga class?