Cueing Effectively When Teaching Pilates & Yoga

by | Jul 21, 2021 | Blog

If you have ever struggled with students in your classes that don’t seem to do anything like what you are demonstrating, then this could be the ideal book for you.

It sounds like you will have had a student like me…..if you need some guidance on different ways to get your message across then the ‘Art & Science of Cueing’ book could be just what you’ve been looking for. This book covers Yoga, Pilates and dance.

An image of someone rolling up a yoga/pilates mat to demonstrate being demotivated and leaving the class

Have You Ever Unintentionally Demotivated A Student?

I remember in one step aerobics class the instructor came over part way through. I was yet again going the opposite direction and performing entirely the wrong move anyway.  (I understand what I am seeing, just my body doesn’t seem to follow suit).  She came over to me and quietly said that it would be better if I just stepped up and down and kept my heart rate up as that was more of a priority than trying to follow the routine.  I dutifully  did this without causing a fuss.  However I felt embarrassed and demoralised and never returned to that class or any other step class for that matter.  I’m sure as an instructor that was never the intention and would never be yours either.

We all have different learning styles when we’re at school so the same will also apply to any movement based class. By being armed with multiple ways and techniques of describing the same thing you can help your students to improve and maintain motivation.  Then they will progress more quickly, want to come back to your class time and time again, and recommend you as they can feel the improvements they are making.

Communicating Effectively In A Class

I remember going regularly to a Yoga classes many years ago. One Yoga instructor stands out above the others.  She was able to communicate to all of us, give her cues in a subtle way and help us all to achieve the best version of our poses in the class.  How?

Pilates instructor holds resistance bands whilst demonstrating to her class doing the same thing. Demonstrating effective cueing

One day she shared with us that during her first few months as an instructor in the early ’80’s she fell down the stairs and broke her back.  It was a stable fracture so she was able to walk around, however she lived on her own and was 100% reliant on bringing in money to be able to live.  She had to carry on teaching to survive.   During those months when she couldn’t demonstrate a single yoga pose, she learnt how to get her message across in multiple ways so that everyone could participate fully in the class.  She stated that incident as although awful at the time, one of the biggest gifts in being able to communicate so effectively.

She is in fine health and continues to teach.  Thankfully you don’t need to go through a situation like that in order to be able to learn the different methods of communication for your teaching.

What is Covered In ‘The Art and Science Of Cueing” Book?

Cover of the eric frnklin method book the art and scrience of cueing This book describes the different types of cueing, gives practical examples of how these would apply to certain poses.  Plus gives you food for thought on how you would apply them to your classes.

It provides a few examples of the different styles of teaching/learning so that you can decide within a class situation (and knowing your pupils) which would be better for you, these include:

  • Demonstrating.
  • Guiding your student with a more hands on approach.
  • Using metaphors – and the different types that exist.
  • Slightly change the way you describe a pose e.g imagine a balloon under your belly lifting your spine or a heavy weight pulling your coccyx down to enable a better cat/cow transition.
  • Student centered cueing.
  • Negative cueing and when it’s appropriate.
  • Imagery and the different types.

When Enforcing The Negative Is Beneficial

I like the way that a few common problems are covered.  Because you come from knowledge some things can Art and science of cueing an example page from the book be lost in translation.  As an example, the phrase ‘lifting the spine’. Whilst you understand the concept, using it for some can mean they become rigid.  Or where do they think they need to lift from, are they lifting from the front or back of their spine?  These can create very different postures.  So by covering these things and coming from Eric Franklin’s experience over the years you may spot these mis-interpretations more quickly and be aware of a better way to communication with that student more directly.

One area that I thought could be particularly useful was discussing the situations where enhancing the unwanted behaviour can in fact help to highlight the impact that is having.  As an example, in a balance exercise if several people are clenching their jaws due to the effort to trying and stay upright.  If you encourage them to tighten further and draw the attention to notice what that does to their balance,   this is when the a-ha moments can happen as the knowledge is realised internally.  The understanding will become far more embedded and your students will begin to self-correct.

Yes there are plenty of examples in this book, but it won’t cover everything you need for every posture/move in your class.  Importantly what it does do is cover the principles so that you can reflect on them, come up with your own and get creative.  The more you have in the memory banks the better.

Is There Anything Missing?

An image of several question marks with someone with a pen in their hand to depict the question is there something missing in th is book?

There are other areas of communication that aren’t covered and are perhaps beyond the scope of what was intended e.g. how you say things, active listening, speed and tone of voice, your posture as you speak.

I did think that there could have been more examples of alternative words you could use to act as a trigger to help you formulate sentences going forwards.  Maybe a list at the back of the book of helpful words for the different styles discussed as a handy reference?

Overall though I thought this book provided great food for thought and there are some skills that I have learned and will apply when helping patients to understand the impact their posture may have on their recurrent symptoms, or help them to understand the message I am trying to get across for an exercise I would like them to do safely.  All in all it is always good to have as many ways to communicate to your students as possible. Not only so that they can do everything in your class but also to understand how to carry that forwards into their every day life.

Pilates instructor holds resistance bands whilst demonstrating to her class doing the same thing. Demonstrating effective cueing

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