Four common yoga cues and what they mean
Have you ever had a yoga teacher give a cue or verbal adjustment that left you puzzled? As yoga teachers we try to be as clear as we can, but there are some common things that took me a while to get – so I’ve given you a head start!
Ground down through all four corners of your feet
Wait, do feet even have corners? Not really! This cue simply means to spread your weight evenly through your feet. The ‘four corners’ can really be considered three points of contact with the ground:
1. Big toe mound.
2. Little toe mound.
Two of the ‘four corners’ are the left and right sides of your heel, but it can help to visualize it as two points to ensure your weight is not skewed to either the outside or inside of your foot.
Why? This creates a stable foundation for your practice, helping to ensure your poses are more or less even on both sides and helping you to balance.
Scissor your legs together
This means to draw your legs towards each other energetically (i.e. without moving them). This is not, as I used to think, drawing your legs from the sides to the middle and ending up knock-kneed. It is about creating the sensation of drawing your front foot or leg backwards and your back foot or leg forwards.
Why? This helps to engage your legs muscles to find balance and build strength. I have weak hamstrings, so I find this helpful to strengthen and protect them.
Find a neutral pelvis
A neutral pelvis is where you are neither sticking your bum out to the back (anterior pelvic tilt) nor scooping your bum under so your hips tilt backwards (posterior pelvic tilt). To find a netural position, tilt your pelvis as far as you can one way, then as far as you can the other way. Make the movements progressively smaller until you end up in the middle – it can be easier to try this lying on the floor with your knees bent up at first, then try it in a standing position.
Why? A little tilt is natural and not an issue, but consistently going too far one way or the other in yoga could result in back ache.
Engage / activate / switch on your glutes / core / quads etc.
This cue is intended to make sure the target muscle is working. If you are not sure whether you are doing it right, poke whichever body part is supposed to be activated – if it feels firm, then you can be reassured you are using that muscle, or set of muscles. When it comes to feet, ‘active’ feet means either flexing your toes towards your face, pointing the toes away from you or ‘flointing’, which is where your foot is extending away from the ankle, as if you were going to point your toes, but your toes are flexed back.
Why? This depends on the context. It could be to help you find stability, to experience greater sensation or stretch, to ensure your practice is safe or to direct your focus.