As my YogaLondon training wisely taught me, teaching yoga requires linguistic and physical flexibility. As a keen poet and writer, this is one of the things I love most about yoga, and when words flow seamlessly around the physicality of poses, it’s a kick like no other.
However, some days vinyasas can feel like the Tin Man’s attempt at ballet, and there are some days when cues just won’t come out smoothly. Let me help you avoid eight of my own personal clangers…
- “LENGTHEN YOUR TAIL LIKE IT’S SLIPPING DOWN, NICE AND FLUID, OUT OF THE BOTTOM OF YOUR PELVIS” in Warrior 2
Actually, I think this isn’t a bad way to describe the subtle articular response of the tailbone to gravity in a healthy, open Warrior 2 pelvis. BUT no one wants to hear that things may be slipping out of their pelvis, do they? However you frame it, it just doesn’t sound very nice.
- “FEEL THE BREATH COME UP, THROUGH THE ANUS AND OUT OF THE TOP OF YOUR HEAD” pranayama in Mulabandha
My beginners thought I was insane. And I’m sure one person was scarred for life.
- “SQUEEZE THE THIGHS TOGETHER LIKE THEY WILL NEVER OPEN AGAIN…” whilst adjusting in Utkatasana
Ah, accidental allusions to sex. Aren’t they greeeeeat? Most people managed, quite spontaneously, to relax the muscles in their faces. Luckily for me, so did the man whose thighs I was holding.
- “LET YOUR BOOBS LEAD THE WAY” in Warrior 1 to Humble Warrior
Even in an all-female environment, this wasn’t ideal. Let’s just say drishti was totally lost to the anahata area.
- “THINK MORE MADONNA, LESS QUASIMODO” in Paschimottanasana.
The quest for anti-hunching imagery went perhaps a little too iconic in an attempt to make a joke. Luckily no-one had scoliosis in my small group, but the realisation how utterly horrendous that could have been gave me a mind-blank for a good 20 breaths’ worth of forward folding.
- “SEND THE GAZE RIGHT UP UNDER THE BUTTOCK” in Side Angle Pose
Biceps and buttocks are pretty similar, right? You have two of them, they both begin with ‘b’, both have two syllables…This phrase is probably my most common offence against anatomy. A classic case of the citta vritti repeating ‘don’t say buttock, don’t say buttock, don’t say buttock…’ and then hearing “and now, send the gaze right up under the buttock”.
- “ROCK SIDE TO SIDE AND SMILE AT THE THOUGHT OF ALL THESE LOVELY HAPPY BABIES” in Happy Baby Pose
It only occurred to me afterwards that I didn’t mention the name of the pose.
- “LOVE YOUR SPINE, BE A TRILOBITE” in Cat Cow
I’m all for using physical movement to embody self-care and self-love. I’m also fascinated by the prehistoric architecture of our skeletons. But there is an implication here that you either need to be a trilobite in order to appreciate your spine, or that if you do love your spine, you might just turn into one.
With creativity comes chaos. However, in spite of the inevitable embarrassment involved in saying all of these things out loud, in public, I can honestly say that my faux pas and malapropisms have actually build my confidence. Why? People like laughing, and it also helps relax the class if you can demonstrate the ability to laugh at yourself. Yoga is not supposed to be a deadly serious pursuit. Smiling, laughing, and finding the funny side of practice is half the joy, and nine times out of ten, students seem to resonate with this. And maybe the best chance we have at mastering anything is by giving up the need to control it. So, be in the moment, feel your way through, and say what you feel, feel what you say, and you’ll never stop learning.