After my last post about Down Dog, I got a number of comments from teachers who liked my instruction to line the wrist crease up with the mat to keep the arms aligned. This got me to thinking about other instructions I use, that I've found particularly useful. Some are ones I've borrowed from other teachers because they resonated with me, others I just discovered along the way. I love when a certain set up or phrase helps students discover a pose or gets them aligned, without any adjustment, just the words.
So, I thought, how about sharing. I'll post a couple of my favorite verbal cues and you send me yours. We can all benefit from everyone's experience and maybe we'll get a few more lovely Trikonasana out of our students just from the sounds of our voices!
My trick for getting an aligned Trikonasana
One instruction I borrowed from a Yoga Journal article is to do seated twists in three parts over three breaths. During the first exhale you focus on twisting the lower back ("twist the belly button toward the right knee"), which is a small twist but gets the student to think about the base. The second breath moves up to the rib cage ("twist the breast bone to face the right knee"). The third breath is for twisting the shoulders. You can add a twist to the neck, at that point, if you like. This approach keeps the focus moving up the spine from the least flexible part of the spine--the lumbar--to the most flexible--the cervical. It makes for a much deeper twist, and a more thorough one.
Actually,it is good in any pose that includes a twist, not just seated poses, because it keeps the student's awareness in the spine and that extra length allows them to really lift the side ribs and work the muscles of the back. It also prevents them from just twisting at the neck and shoulders, so the whole back benefits from the pose. If you are doing a forward bend, it helps deepen the bend because the spine stays long and opens up space at the hip joint.
When you apply it to Trikonasana (Triangle), not only does it help the student think about lengthening the spine and opening the chest, but it also seems to stabilize the pelvis, so the hips open, too. Very rarely do I need to remind people to roll the back thigh out or keep the back hip lifted to prevent the pelvis from tipping forward, which is so common. It seems like a really cool trick, since I'm not even mentioning the legs. It is especially effective towards the end of class if we've been focusing on doing twists this way.
So, now it's your turn. What reminders or suggestions to find to be most effective? I'm all for some new ideas for spring (it's almost spring, right?)!