5 Abstract Cues Yoga Teacher’s Often Say:
Breaking down a few somatic cues you may hear in a class or session
Square your hips:
Find your pelvis and find the protruding bones located at the top of the pelvis aka the hip bones.
Now, imagine headlights of a car driving in darkness. These lights symmetrically project straight forward on the car’s pathway.
Now, Visualize those two bright lights on each hip point. The intention of this cue is to keep those two hip points facing in the same directional plane trying not to let one hip point veer off to the side. A time you often hear this cue is in poses like Warrior I, Parsvottanasana (Pyramid pose), revolved chair pose, lunges, etc.
A good way to keep the hips ‘squared’ is to bring the hands on the hip points and stabilize the pelvis before deepening into a pose.
In a session I may say a cue like: “press your hands down into the mat and energetically pull them back towards your feet” or “Energetically squeeze your outer heels together”
To translate that cue into the body, think about that Floating Arm trick you probably did as a kid. The one where you would press the back of your hands into a doorframe for 60 seconds and mysteriously find that your arms would levitate when you stepped away.
Rather than think about the cool sensation your arms levitating, go back and think about the muscular energy you put into pushing into that doorframe. That same sensation is a way to interpret this cue.
When I say “energetically push/pull/squeeze/lift”, I don’t want you to move the whole bone structure, but rather just use the muscles around the bones to interpret the action.
Knit the lower rib cage together:
When a teacher says this alignment cue, it often means that the lower part of the rib cage is jutting forward, causing the back of the body to go into unstable flexion. This cue is often said when the arms are extending over head or when one is about to go into a back bend. When the rib cage pops forward and up the abdominals destabilize which can cause unwanted pressure in the mid to low back.
For this cue I like to think about a corset tightening or a needle and thread. The idea is to stabilize the rib cage so that spine is elongated and both the front side of the body and back side are equally engaged (especially the muscles of the abdominals).
Find the lowest part of your rib cage in the front of the body. Now imagine there was a little thread between the two sides and you wanted to pull this thread taut. When done correctly the rib cage moves back and down activating the abdominals and engaging the front and back side of the body.
Ground down into the [fill in body part]:
When I interpret the word ‘ground’, I think weighted, supportive, earthy, pliant. And naturally I see ground as synonymous with down.
A tree is a common yoga-esque metaphor that is often used to convey this cue of grounding down. I have heard teachers say, ‘imagine there are tree roots extending from your feet as you lift up into [insert any standing balance posture]’ Whichever body part is stabilizing on the mat, use a forceful downward energy to push into the mat. Than use that stabilizing energy to lift or expand upward. Think of the phrase, there’s ‘strength in opposition’. The more you ground down, the more you can ascend up.