The 5 Best Yoga Cues To Take Off The Mat And Into Your Daily Life
“How you do yoga is how you do everything.” One of my first yoga teachers passed this wisdom onto me, and I try to pass it onto my students with the language I choose to convey in class. As a yoga teacher, I understand that the cues I offer can have a profound effect on how students will experience their time on the mat as well as how they go about their day beyond class. So I’ve compiled my favorite yoga cues that don’t just stop with a 75-minute vinyasa flow but can continue to guide students for the rest of their lives.
1) Root to Rise
In any given yoga posture, the student must have a strong foundational base before she can begin lifting into position. In downward dog, it’s strong palms and extended fingers; in warrior poses, it’s grounded feet and aligned hips. In daily life, it’s taking things one step at a time, and having a purpose in our actions. We must be grounded in our intentions before we can act upon them. Like a tree, we can’t expect to grow and expand towards the sky until we’re firmly established in our roots.
2) Where Your Gaze Goes, Your Energy Flows
In yoga, we maintain our drishti (“focused gaze”) to strengthen our poses and find balance. If you look down between our hands in an arm balance like crow pose, you might fall flat on your face. If you look up at your hand in a posture like triangle pose, you’ll feel your chest opening and releasing. The same applies off the mat. If we focus our attention on negativity and perceived weaknesses or obstacles, our energy becomes negative and weak, and we manifest our own self-fulfilling prophecies. And if we gaze towards our blessings and strengths, our energy becomes transformative and imbued with gratitude.
3) Listen to Your Body’s Wisdom
No one else can know what your body feels and needs but you. So in reality, your yoga practice has little to do with what the student next to you is doing or even what the teacher is demonstrating. It has more to do with your ability to connect with your inner wisdom—how your body is communicating with you—and allowing that to guide your movement.
Similarly, no one else can know what your soul feels and needs but you. Our life’s adventure has little to do with what our friends and people around us are doing, or what our parents or family are instructing us to do. Instead, it has everything to do with our willingness to connect with the self-awareness that only we individually have the power to access, and allowing that awareness to drive our actions and choices.
4) Welcome Your Inner Fire
I like to throw this cue in when I see my students getting their hearts pumping and their sweat dripping. “Lean into it,” I say. “This is your tapas.”
Tapas—one of the main yogic observances—roughly translates to “inner fire.” We can feel this heat physically building as we get our blood pumping on the mat, and it also refers to the more poetic “inner fire” that represents the discipline and passion that motivates us. With this fire, we can burn through our perceived obstacles or challenges that stand between us and our goals. As we flow through heat-building sequences, we’re also exercising the mental muscle that empowers us to face challenges with strength and discipline. So it’s important that we don’t get frustrated when we’re struggling through a posture or tiring out in class. Instead, we can welcome the alchemy that’s happening inside our body, knowing that the fire we’re building inside our bodies is the same fire that will carry us through life’s many challenges.
5) Open Your Heart
Backbends are some of the most vulnerable positions we can be in. Pressing the chest forward exposes the heart—and evolutionarily, that’s a frightening feeling to us. It makes sense: our anatomical hearts being exposed puts us at risk to potential attacks to the most lethal part of the body. The same thing goes for our proverbial hearts. When we expose our truest and most profound ideas, concerns, and desires to other people, we’re at risk of being deeply shamed for who we really are. An open heart compels us to face what’s scary, vulnerable, and perhaps not-so-pretty.
Maybe it’s a conversation you’ve been terrified to have, like telling your best friend how she offended you or telling a new flame “I love you” for the first time. Maybe it’s what we’re afraid to receive from the “outside” world—like the U.S. employing cruel family separation tactics out of fear of the immigrants who seek asylum on American soil. When we open our hearts, yes, we might get hurt. On the other hand, we might forge more profound relationships and connections. No matter what, we win—because we get to walk away with a heart that’s even more expansive than it was before.
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