The day before our lesson on language we were asked to read the seven page section on Dynamic Language in our manuals. The following morning, Danny talked to us about Language. He instructed us using an interactive approach where he would explain and demo, engage us in brief discussion, and then have us pair up to try each method to experience speaking it, as well as hearing it. So just what is this “it”?
The “it” is the language we use to lead our students in their practice of yoga. The overriding guideline is that our language should be direct. With that said, there are a number of principles to follow when guiding a class of one or many.
The basic approach to teaching yoga is to use action words. Simply put:
verb + body part + direction = clear instruction
You may be thinking that more explicit directions may be needed on occasion, and you would be correct. However, when first teaching a pose, the point is to be as specific as possible while using the least amount of language so as to not confuse your students. An example of direct action language, as provided by Danny, is: Move your knee in line with the ankle below.
As students begin to get a sense of the poses, incorporate language that helps them think about their personal inquiry of yoga, in other words, words that guide them in deepening their experience.
reflective & investigative = experiential
One of the best ways to accomplish this is to suggest comparisons, for instance, after doing a pose, asking students to feel how one side of their body may feel different from the other side. This is not about a right way or a wrong way, but rather about sensing how the body responds.
DIVERSITY of language
Being able to guide your students using a variety of words will help you reach all kinds of learners by providing more than one way into a pose.
The ability to say the same exact thing in several different ways is a valuable
skill. (page 3.17 in the Kripalu teacher manual)
Danny has provided an excellent reference about dynamic language on his site, including in-depth explanations, examples of words to use and to avoid, and seven or eight pages of word banks.
creative and functional IMAGERY
During my practice teach session, using functional imagery was my favorite part of language use. I was delighted to (re)discover my ability to use language to tell stories and create an imaginary scene. However, use care when making use of functional imagery, lest your language become like over-stirred pancake batter that produces rubbery pancakes!
power of VOICE
How loud can you speak? How soft can you talk? How fast? How slow? Do you talk in a monotone or do you vary your tone? Try reading aloud a paragraph and listen – really listen – to how your voice sounds. What kind of attention do you pay to someone whose voice drones on? To someone whose voice has some variety?
When teaching yoga, you want students to be able to process directions. There are times when a soothing voice would be best, and times when a more direct voice would be helpful.
WHAT ELSE IS THERE TO SAY?
Danny also noted several other styles of language use, including:
- guiding and breaking down instruction
- economy of language and habits of speech
- and the importance of ongoing practice
The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.
Quote from Mark Twain (1835-1910) U.S. humorist, writer, and lecturer: http://en.proverbia.net/citastema.asp?tematica=1315