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Essential Yoga Cues to Get More from Your Mat Time


Do you ever hear your yoga instructor give you a cue in class but have no idea what it means? Here is a little cheat sheet for the most transformative cues for your practice.

Try each of these, think about them, and if they work for you, incorporate them into your daily practice to infinitely improve your class!

RELATED: Step-by-Step Breakdown: Crow Pose


Cue: Internal Rotation of Thigh
Helpful in warrior I and III (shown), inversions, and many other poses.

Spiraling your thighs inward helps find your center, as you are drawing everything into the center with inward rotation. You can think of it as reaching your big toes in the direction of one another.


Cue: Keep Your Knee in Line with Your Ankle
Helpful in warrior I, II (shown), and III; extended side angle; chair pose; and many other poses.

Keep your knee in line with your ankle so it doesn't move beyond your ankle. This protects your joints from hyperextension, thus preventing injury. Also make sure your knee isn’t winging in or out but rather is in line with the ankle to protect the entire knee.


Cue: Press into Your Fingertips
Helpful in arm balances (like crow, shown), inversions, plank, down dog, and many other poses.

Pressing into your fingertips allows hands to act as "breaks" so you don’t fall over. In poses like plank or down dog, pressing into your fingertips takes pressure off your wrists.


Cue: Drop Your Shoulders Away from Your Ears
Helpful in just about every pose.

If I could only give two cues in an entire class, this would be one of them. We all hold so much tension in our shoulders all day long that we become unaware of it. Taking the time to shrug your shoulders up to your ears and then drop them back down as far as possible is a great practice any time of day. Shown here in chair pose, along with my other favorite cue: “Turn the corners of your mouth up!”


Cue: Tuck Your Tailbone
Helpful in warrior II, extended side angle (shown), and many other poses.

When I first started yoga, I had no idea what this meant, but lengthening your tailbone prevents your bum from sticking out and your back from arching, which engages your core and protects your spine.


Cue: Press into All Four Corners of Your Feet
Helpful in wheel (shown) and balancing poses like tree and dancer. 

Oftentimes when balancing on one leg, this is an extremely helpful reminder not to put all of the pressure on one part of your foot. This cue leads to more stability in your knee and ankle joints, and makes balancing easier. It's sometimes given as “press into the big toe mound of your foot,” as when you have the weight in the outer edges of your feet, you are not internally rotating your thighs, protecting your sacrum and spine. Pressing into all four corners of your feet allows the body to align more naturally and protect itself.


Cue: Kiss Your Shoulder Blades Down and Together on Your Back
Helpful in triangle (shown), mountain, warrior II, and many other poses.

"Kiss your shoulder blades together" is another way to say "reach your shoulder blades toward one another," which engages your arms and also takes those shoulders away from your ears again. 


Cue: Reach Through Your Toes
Helpful in inversions.

When going upside-down, people often forget to connect all of the dots of the body and forget their legs entirely. Remembering to reach through your toes reminds you that every body part is connected and required to participate.


Cue: Round Your Navel to Your Spine
Helpful in coming up to stand (shown) and rolling down onto your back from a seated position.

This cue is given to protect the spine. If you forget and fling up from a forward fold without engaging the core (as this cue suggests), you can potentially cause injury. 



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