Best Yoga Cues

Hi there, wellness entrepreneur. Welcome back!

Today’s blog is more geared for the yoga teacher, personal trainer, the practitioner, who does work with physical body and movement. So any movement based type classes or private sessions, therapy, that type of work, physical therapy, combining physical therapy and yoga, what we really get into is with all this movement. The question that we will answer is, does alignment really matter? Following this blog you will be able to implement the best cues in yoga to keep your students safe. 

And yes, it does. There are times where you can pick apart anatomy or alignment and focus on anatomy and biomechanics so much that the movement does become more mechanical, where your yoga cueing can take away the art of the movement or the 3D nature of the human body, the grace, the ease, the flow that the body naturally has.

That being said, as a yoga teacher, especially when you’re teaching a group of a yoga students, a group of students in front of you where you’re not able to cater the cues to each individual in front of you, you do want to be particularly mindful in how you cue and how you lead them so the student can make yoga fit their body, not try to make their body fit yoga or insert here, personal training exercise, Alexander technique. There are all kinds of movement-based techniques that are very therapeutic, healing, strengthening and helping with mobility that are so beneficial.

And that being said, the yoga student does want to discern what they’re feeling in their body because each movement, whether it is down dog or a squat, for example, each student’s range of motion is going to be slightly different based upon how, for example, how their phones are formed. This is how you will keep your yoga students safe. 

If you want to learn how to cue in a yoga class to assist your students with Sciatica, be sure to read this blog: https://igniteurwellness.com/yoga-therapy-for-sciatica/

In this blog you will read the transcript of anatomy for a yoga teacher training I’ve lead. Now I’ve led a lot of anatomy for Yoga Teacher Trainings 200 and each time I teach it is a little bit different and hopefully, I like to think, I evolve each time as I learn more because I’m always continuously learning. 

So I might sprinkle in clips throughout my decade or so of teaching anatomy here and there throughout the blog so you can see different flavors, different perspectives of how we can bring anatomy into yoga and that it doesn’t have to be a mechanical thing. A lot of anatomy actually can be applied to a lot of the philosophy of yoga, the eight limbs of yoga, and can help the student bring yoga off the mat and into their own lives.

 Guide Your Yoga Students To Better Discern What They’re Feeling In Their Body Through Mindful Cueing

So the purpose of this episode is to help you in your own practice, in your own movement based -approach of exercise or what you might do day-to-day, as well as to help you cue and guide your students so they can better discern what they’re feeling in their body because not everything that they feel is either muscle or fascia, right?

Sometimes, the limitation is due to bones, like you’ll see the example of how my limitation in yoga, even though I’m hyper mobile, I do have limitations in my hip mobility just based upon how either my hip socket, the acetabulum is angled or formed and how shallow it is, or even how the angle of the femoral neck and how it fits into the socket, how the ball fits into the socket. Because some necks of the femur are more horizontal, some are angled more vertically or angled in or angled out, and then that meets the acetabulum in the pelvis that might be angled a little bit more forward or back.

So in this clip of the yoga teacher training 200, you will see me demoing the fire log pose where you sit upright and you stack your shins parallel to the front of the neck, one in front of the other. So you can Google fire log pose where first you would place your right shin on the mat so it’s as parallel as possible to the top of the mat. And then you’ll stack your left ankle on the right knee. So essentially, the shins stack up like pieces of fire logs. My shins don’t go that way because of how my hip is formed. So you can Google that pose.

What also might be helpful is Googling different representations of the acetabular angle of the pelvis. Look at different shapes of pelvises, male versus female, and just all the variances of male pelvises and female pelvises. And now we know in western medicine and many individuals have known their whole life that it isn’t so straight cut, male versus female. And so there’s many different types of shapes of pelvises dependent upon what their chemical makeup is and what their soul really classifies themselves to be. And it’s important to be aware of that for your students. It’s also important to be mindful of their edges and know that some of the limitations of their hip might not be due to flexibility of muscles only. It could be the bone.

This is the same with downward dogs. Some people’s heels may just never reach the ground because it’s how their ankle bones are formed.

And you can also Google femoral necks, the angles of femoral necks, and look at how some are more horizontal or more vertically. And that work will really compliment this blog as you read to why alignment does matter, how you can take the alignment into some of the yoga philosophy and then live this philosophy off the mat and help your students live this philosophy off the mat.

And you’ll also learn how to practice yoga. We get into the start of the conversation of how to practice yoga with hypermobility. And so for myself included, less is more. I don’t always go into the stretching yoga unless my nervous system has been triggered a lot because there is a balance for the hyper mobile individual. And we didn’t get into this part in this particular training, but often I also teach about how for the hyper mobile person, some of their muscles are very tight in effort to try to provide stability to certain joints.

So for example, as I mentioned, my acetabulum most likely is shallower than most people. I only say that because I’ve had fit all the classic hypermobility signs if you go to the doctor that they might administer to test and see if there’s hypermobility. And also I’ve had a shoulder surgery because I’ve dislocated my shoulder and then it used to sub locks all the time and the surgeon told me how shallow my glenoid fossa were. So it’s just the nature part of the hypermobility issue is how the bones are formed, but it’s also nervous system and fascial differences as well. And there’s different facets of hypermobility. Some people’s cardiovascular systems are even impacted.

I know for me, I have something called this where my hypermobility, I feel that my stress threshold at a time in my life, in my twenties, was a lot lower than most. Now I’ve done a lot of work here to improve my capacity to handle more stress and more negative emotions before I become anxious or worried.

As you’ve read in previous blogs, for me, anxiety and worrying and being hypervigilant was just part of my natural state. And some of that I think has to do with hypermobility. I also used to faint a lot in my late teens and early twenties. So it’s more than just being able to place your hands flat on the ground when you bend forward or cut your thumb to your forearm quite easily, which is what I also demoed in the anatomy training, which you will see there are many multiple systems involved.

And so for the student practicing yoga with hypermobility, this is also important for you to be aware because many hyper people are attracted to yoga. Because for me, what I feel personally is it helps to release all that stress intention of not just the mental and emotional stress the body goes through as a hyper mobile person, but also the physical tension of the muscles just having to overwork to try to provide stability throughout the day.

So yoga can be such a beautiful, holistic and comprehensive way for an individual to learn how to live their life fully with less pain and feel strong and calmer and grounded. However, a hyper mobile person does need to be aware that less is more. And not always do you want to go into the stretch. Sometimes you might, to release those tense muscles. But, it’s always having that stability first.

So, I’ll drop the clip of the anatomy training. It’s about 15 minutes where you get a sneak peek into the inside of a yoga teacher training 200. And I hope you enjoyed this intro to compliment the teachings to that work, so you can be safe and practice and strength train and whatever movement therapy lights you up for your life. I hope to practice yoga for my life. And you can help your students, patients and clients practice yoga and keep moving for their life as well. Enjoy!

– Clip Of The Yoga Anatomy Training – 


Well welcome, welcome, welcome. I’m very excited to get to know the three of you. I love intimate groups like this because we can have really wonderful conversations. So how I cue and how much I might go into anatomy and alignment if I’m teaching a healthy back class or a yoga therapeutic class will differ compared to if I’m teaching a restorative class where students are really coming in with the intention of relaxing and letting go. And they’re relatively safe because it’s not so dynamic and they are supported by bolsters and props and such. So how IQ will change and vary depending on the class.

Why Yoga Alignment Is Important

Alignment is important, but there might be times, might be classes, where it’s not the full focus and that’s okay too because it’s yoga in the <inaudible>. So as we hinted, alignment is going to stress either positively or negatively the physical body. And you heard me correctly, I did associate stress with positive and negative because when you build strength, when you challenge the body, such as in a balancing posture like tree pose or a strength building posture like where your tube, it is a stressor to the body.

The only way to strengthen is literally breaking down. You have to break down muscle tissue to rebuild it stronger. And that process can be done in a way that does make the body stronger or it can challenge the system too much. It can overwhelm the system in a way that the body’s not prepared or doesn’t have the capacity to handle that load. So in which that case, if the body is not able to handle the load, meaning the alignment is not efficient for that particular student body, that’s when the student – and it’s done over and over and over again in a repetitive way – that’s when the student might be at risk for injury.

Yoga Anatomy & Cueing  Is Not Black And White

This comes back to that saying of anatomy sometimes isn’t so black and white and sometimes it’s in relation to a particular student. So I’m going to give an example. So in that slide, it said that there’s compressive forces in yoga. We’re going to see that for ourselves. So in the hip, we’re going to get into the hip joint specifically in a little bit, but there’s something called an acetabulum which is literally the socket for your hip bone. So here, here’s my hip joint for each of us, this socket varies person to person, meaning the angle of how it lines up with your femur bone or thigh bone can change, it can be angled more forward, angled more back. The actual depth of the socket can vary person to person. And that’s important to know cause you’ll see it on the yoga mat for yourself and for your students.

I’ll show you specifically what I mean. I was born pigeon toed, meaning my feet were like this when I came out of my mom’s womb. They were internally rotated and that’s just how my hip sockets were formed. The angle of the socket was angled in such a way that I was very pigeon toed. And so I was put in braces as a baby for the first, I think three or six months of my life. So my toes would point forward so the bones grew around them and that got me more external rotation in my hips. But when I became in my twenties or so when I stopped growing in my teens, my bones solidified. So I, to this day, still do not have a lot of external rotation. And it’s not because my musculature is tight because ‘m actually very hyper mobile. You guys know the term hypermobile? So from a yoga sense, it just means you have a lot of range of motion or a lot of mobility and there’s certain tests that you can actually do. There’s different degrees of severity. When it’s in its more severe form, it’s called <inaudible> which can put you at risks for dislocation. And I’m on the moderate side of hypermobility so my patella, my kneecap, actually dislocates quite frequently, fully pops out. I can do weird things like this where my thumb just comes. You can even try it for yourself. Can any of you get that close?

So my tissue is actually very, very elastic and my joints like that acetabulum, it doesn’t have a lot of depth. So with a lot of mobility like I do, we’ll learn, there’s not a lot of stability and that’s what leads me to have dislocations. Here’s the thing, a lot of hyper mobile people are attracted to yoga because it’s something we naturally excel at, right? Like I can go very deep in the poses without warming up, with very little effort and it might feel great. However, it’s not necessarily what my body needs because what my body really needs is stability.

And so this is where yoga, when I was first graduated physical therapy school, back when science didn’t support yoga as much, a lot of my physical therapy mentors told me, “Don’t do yoga. Stop doing yoga. You’re too hyper mobile and you’re going to injure yourself.” And at that time, yoga was my life force. It was the guiding light of my day. I tend to be a worrier and on the anxious side. So yoga calmed me down. And now my new love has been the nervous system. And now I understand why that is. Like yoga is such a great reset for the nervous system. But I valued the advice of my mentors and I stopped yoga because I didn’t want to injure my physical body more. I stopped yoga completely for maybe like three months. And I’ve never felt worse in my body and worse in my brain.

So I was like, no, I had to trust my intuition and be like, they’re wrong. There’s a way that I can learn how to practice yoga safely and do it because it’s needed for my body and soul and heart. And so I was a physical therapist in the traditional physical therapy clinic. I became a yogi in a closet, meaning I didn’t really talk about when I was going to yoga classes and whatnot because I didn’t want to get yelled at from my mentors. But I silently and quietly brought yoga back into my life. But what I’ll show you here, relating it back to the internal rotation, my lack of external rotation in the hips, the way that I personally keep myself safe practicing as a yogi, because even though I’m hypermobile, I still have areas and restrictions that my body just does not go because it’s how my bones are actually made.

So you ladies, know the fire log pose, and you can try this for yourself, right? You line up one shin perpendicular to the neck, you want to make sure your foot is engaged and then you bring the leg on top <inaudible. Overlapping conversation> Exactly. And a lot of yoga teachers, if students, if their legs are like this, it’s cause their hips are tight. And when we say that, it usually refers to the muscle.

Now for me, because it’s the morning and I haven’t quite warmed up, my muscles are a little tight, so my warm-up state <inaudible> come a little bit down, this is as far as I will ever get in this pose, ever. And the reason why is because of how my bones are formed, coming back to I was born internally rotated, I just don’t have a lot of external rotation in my hip. So coming back to what that slide said, and I’ll pull it up again in just a moment here, is understanding for your own practice and for your students what their limitations are, what’s bone because we don’t want to push into bone as that’s very compressive and that can lead to injury, and what’s a muscle stretch because there are students that are on the opposite spectrum of me where they’re hypomobile, they’re tight. And then those students that come to yoga that are hyper mobile like me need more stability and less stretching. There’s all these different ranges and all these different bodies and that’s what you work with as a teacher. So any questions on that before I pull the slides back up?

You can experience how I cue yoga therapy for the Psoas & Low Back  in this workshop: https://igniteurwellness.com/psoas-releasing/


Have you ever thought about that before? How the bones can actually be the limiting factor for yoga postures?

Speaker 2:

I know that I had to argue with one of my coaches about the fact that my <inaudible> are shaped this way and I’m not going deeper on my squat. And then I was deemed uncoachable until I found a coach that was like, “Yeah, makes sense.”


Exactly. Yeah. So that is true for anything, right? There’s a yoga teacher for everyone, there’s a coach for everyone. There’s western medicine practitioners for everyone. And you just got to seek out that person until you find someone who resonates. And still knowing that there’s growth edges, too. But part of your work as both the lifelong student of yoga and as a teacher is being able to discern your growth edge.

Is someone pushing you into a growth edge that can lead to physical injury? Or is it a growth edge, meaning a stressor for your body that can lead to positive changes and adaptations like strength or awareness and moving in a new pattern, that sort of thing.

So that’s really the philosophical application of some of this anatomy knowledge. So that’s essentially what that second bullet is saying.

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Alison McLean

"I help the Entrepreneur reduce stress and live a more fulfilled and balanced life."