Skip to content
How to break free from ineffective cueing translations

Before we dive into how to break free from ineffective cueing translations, let me first explain what cueing is and what you need to know about it!

During our live sessions and in all our courses you here me speak quite a bit about your style of voice. Your style of voice links to how you express yourself authentically. In your first language you have your natural way of expressing yourself, so in English you will have too.

Some teachers have a more anatomical or alignment focussed approach. Others focus more on sensations feelings and emotions. Again others like a personal development type of approach and speak about thought and mental attitudes. But it’s also possible that you offer combinations or slightly change your approach. All of this depends on the type of yoga, intention of your class or students you teach.

For that reason, I’d never ask you to label yourself saying ‘I’m a spiritual awakener’ or ‘I’m a technical master’. The styles of voices I teach you about in our programmes help you to be more focussed in your vocabulary learning. To give you a base or foundation to start with. And later explore more new vocabulary categories to expressing yourself in different ways, depending on your teaching goals. If you want to know which vocabulary categories are best to start learning English for yogic purposes for you, take the QUIZ: What’s your style of teaching voice.

To take it a step further, according to the styles of voices, I also teach you about cueing styles.


What is cueing and what are cueing styles?

First of all, cues go further than instructions. They help you guide movement, but also offer options for exploration. Cues should be given with intention to help you communicate effectively and compassionately.

Cueing styles just as the voices can have a specific focus. 

For example: Anatomical cues, that explain the body mechanics. Alignment cues to guide your students’ form, such as ‘lift your arms into a T-shape’. Energetic cues, which tap into several elements to do with energy or energetic pathways such as the meridians, chakras or koshas. Philosophical cues, which help you teach or include yoga philosophy such as the eight limbs or Ayurveda. Or support cues, providing encouragement, assistance, prompts and reminders.

In our Cue with Confidence module, I teach you how to break free from ineffective cueing translations by teaching you about 8 different types of cues. There I give examples of how to create and use each type of cue. And you get the opportunity to practice using them to make them your own and include them in your classes or practices. For now, I want to help you build awareness of the different types of elements and intentions you can bring to your class through your cues. In the end, I believe that to create a well rounded class experience, you’ll eventually learn to include a little bit of everything.

How direct translations result in ineffective cueing

Today I want to help you break free from directly translating the cues you use in your first language to english. The reason it’s useful to know about styles of voices and styles of cueing is that it helps you to build language awareness. It helps you understand which types of cues are used with which intention. But also focus your vocabulary learning on what you truly need. By all that, learn to express yourself authentically!

So, let’s unpack the challenges of direct translation and what you can do instead.

Direction translations are problematic for several reasons:

As a first resource, it’s logical you use a dictionary or Google Translate to find out what you want to say, but when it comes to translating your yoga cues, we need to remember 5 things:

1. Lost in translation:

Some words only exist in one language or it’s direct translation doesn’t carry the same meaning. That means words, phrases or cues can get lost in translation. Which means they to lead to confusion or misinterpretation by students. You know what they mean, because your brain makes sense to them, translating them back to your first language. But English natives and learners that don’t know your language don’t have this comparison, which means they get lost or misunderstand you.

2. Grammar, word sorts and sentence structures vary:

Grammar, word sorts and sentence structures vary from one language to another. Direct translations can cause incomplete sentences or incorrect word order. But also misuse of pronouns and prepositions, making your cues ineffective or unclear.
For example, languages such as Japanese, Russian and Arabic don’t use articles or use them in different ways. Articles are the words a, an, the. English does use these to speak about something specific or already known to the listener (the yoga class). Or referring to something non-specific or for the first time (a yoga class).
If your native language doesn’t use articles or uses them differently, a direct translation could become: stand mat, step foot back, lift arms – see how that sounds a little robotic and unnatural? In these types of cues articles, but also pronouns apply. What you want to say is: stand on the top of your mat, step your/the foot back, lift your/the arms.
To form complete and effective cues you therefor can’t rely on direct translations and need to learn a bit about cueing grammar, which I teach in the TYIE Essentials and CWC module.

3. Sentence/cue length: 

Translating your cues directly might result in overly long or complicated sentences. This can overwhelm students and hinder their understanding.

4. Yoga language is sensitive: 

Students are very receptive to everything you say, language is sensitive. Words have associations or connotations that right now, to you personally don’t have a negative meaning, but by others with different experiences of speaking other language can be received negatively or misunderstood. What seems neutral in your language might have negative meaning or can be misunderstood in English, potentially offending or activating your students.

For example, words like “grab,” “spread,” and “open” have nuanced connotation, so using them in cues requires awareness of the context. While these words may appear similar, they provoke different feelings and thoughts among your students.

5. The context of yoga is specific:

It has its unique language and terminology. Some words we hear in daily English, in films or in specific fields aren’t used the same way. For example: weak, strong, easy, or hard may sound normal words to you. But these words label and assume experiences or characteristics that may be sensitive topics to others. Instead you want to learn synonyms with a more neutral association or learn to completely avoid using these terms in class. Certain words that are commonly used in general English might not be suitable for yoga cues. Recognising these differences is essential to keep your cues and communication open, positive and full of possibilities.

To conclude the 5 reasons why direct translations are problematic is that they can be inaccurate, non-inclusive and inauthentic. So to break free from direct translations and what you can do instead is.

How to break free from ineffective cueing translations 

1. Immerse yourself to be exposed to the language you need 

The more you hear, see and speak it, the more naturally new words, cues and expressions come to you. Which leads to the development of your authentic expression. When I say immerse yourself, I don’t mean watch and listen to English as much as possible, immerse yourself in yogic contexts. Watch yoga or personal development types of documentaries, read yogic books and articles, speak with people that share your passions and interests in the field of yoga. Go to yoga classes in English. Or find English YTTs or continuing education programmes. Practice teaching yourself, friends, family or yoga teacher friends. Surround and immerse yourself in the language you actually need


2. Focussed vocabulary learning

The language we need for yoga classes is focussed on certain word groups to give cues and instructions, guide breathing techniques, or lead mindfulness practices. Think of vocabulary to do with the mind, emotions, states of being, and yogic philosophy. Or phrases that inspire, motivate, and stimulate personal growth.

In the beginning of this training i already mentioned styles of voices and different types of cues. Depending on who you are, what you teach and who you teach, your vocabulary learning will look slightly different, because you want to learn what matches your personal style. But almost every yoga teachers need to learn at least the following:

The nouns that describe body parts and anatomy.

Verbs that initiate the right movements and actions.

Adjectives that describe a way in which an action is performed.

And prepositions to effectively and accurately indicate direction.

To not overwhelm yourself learning everything at once, my suggestion for you is to take the QUIZ: What’s your style of teaching voice and based on that focus your vocabulary learning on the categories that best suit your style and students now. Then after, little by little, take it a step further and intentionally expand your vocabulary knowledge for your specific purposes. YOu can of course make use of our yoga vocabulary builder to do this! This is our interactive dictionary to help you learn, and practice using yoga vocabulary for asana cues and other practices in context.


3. Practice and listen OR teach and observe

I already said that as part of your immersion you can practice teaching yourself, friends, family or yoga teacher friends. But take it a step further. One way to do that is by recording a class where you teach yourself and practice that class to hear if your cues actually make sense. When you’re demonstrating and speaking at the same time, most of your cues will make sense, but when you’re practising with yourself only, you’ll find words and cues for improvement.

Another way to do this is to stop demonstrating and be more observant. The next time you teach, observe your students and closely look at their movement and facial expressions. What do your students do when you say ‘xyz’, what’s their facial expression like? Do they follow with ease or look at other students in the room to understand what to do? Do they look at you, wondering what to do? IT can help to also record these classes and listen back to what you said when a student didn’t understand you. From there you can track back your cues and change or optimise them more easily.

In conclusion, to break free from ineffective cueing translations:

Direct translations are problematic because they can be inaccurate, non-inclusive and inauthentic which means they can get lost in translation.

Grammar, word sorts and sentence structures vary and sentence and cue length isn’t the same in every language meaning you need to learn the formulas we need for cues.

More over, the context of yoga is very specific and sensitive which requires you learn about associations, connotations and learn yoga vocabulary in context.

So to break free from ineffective cueing translations and what you can do instead is:

  1. Immerse yourself to be exposed to the language you need.
  2. Focus your vocabulary learning on what you truly need
  3. Practice and listen OR teach and observe

Are you ready to learn more? 

Find out what else you can do to break free from ineffective cueing translations. Check out our courses and continuing education programmes to optimise your cueing language and communication.

Take the Quiz: What’s Your Style of Teaching Voice?

Check out the Teach Yoga in English Essentials

Or take it a step further and enrol in the Teach Yoga in English Starters Bundle 

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on linkedin
Share on email