When It Comes to Yoga Cues, One Size Does Not Fit All

Jun 28, 2024
Kelly Jensen, quoted in Yoga Journal: How to Tell Your Yoga Teacher Their Cues Don’t Work for You

As an experienced yoga teacher who has focused on inclusivity since I began teaching in 2002, I'm always coming across new yoga teachers who think they know everything - just like I did as a new yoga teacher! The students who have been harmed in these new yoga teachers' classes end up in my world. 

Recently, Kells McPhillips asked me how yoga students can approach a teacher after class and tell them that a cue didn't work for them. You can read the article here: 

How to Tell Your Yoga Teacher Their Cues Don’t Work for You

"Whether the instruction feels confusingly complicated or anatomically impossible for your body, it can distract from, rather than enhance your practice. It can also cause you to feel overlooked. But how do you start a dialogue with your teacher about their cueing  that leaves you both feeling seen?"

-Kells McPhillipsYoga Journal: How to Tell Your Yoga Teacher Their Cues Don’t Work for You

There are so many things that I love about this article in Yoga Journal (and it isn't just that I was quoted). I love that the author mentioned how beneficial online yoga can be, because yoga students have more options to find an experienced and inclusive yoga teacher who offers variations for every body and brain. I teach online in my gentle yoga membership for highly sensitive people, The Compassion Clubas well as private yoga online and in Brooklyn, NY

So, how would I approach a teacher after class and tell them that a cue didn't work for me? How would I tell them that I would like more modifications that fit my body? 

Honestly, I probably wouldn't have done it. When I first fell madly in love with yoga in my late twenties, I was thin, young, and able-bodied. I was also deeply insecure about my body, socially anxious, and decades from recognizing my neurodivergence (especially traits of high sensitivity).

I know there are plenty of students with more confidence than I had, and more agency. My self-esteem actually tanked in group yoga classes because I went into comparison mode and never felt good enough. I kept going back, though...

...I went back for Savasana.

At the end of one of the first yoga classes I attended, I was in deep relaxation and had the unfamiliar feeling of contentment. I was at peace with who I was. I felt, in that moment, that nothing was wrong. I was fully present and completely relaxed. It was deeply revelatory and wholly new to me. 

Yes, I often felt incredible after class, so I kept going back. I was seeking that elusive feeling of contentment. Meanwhile, I injured myself trying to contort my hypermobile but inexperienced body into shapes that looked cool.

I was pushing myself beyond my comfort zone and I COULD do the binds and deep folds. I was often pushed further into asanas by well-meaning teachers who had no idea of the wear and tear on my joints they were contributing to. Looking back from my 55 year-old body with unstable joints and chronic pain, I know I am responsible for taking my body there, but the power dynamic took away my body agency. Most of my teachers were not interested in providing variations. There was so much dogma in yoga then, and honestly there still is. 


Here's a specific example of yoga teachers misunderstanding the core values of yoga: I was surprised to see the responses to my comment on a recent Instagram post stating that I didn't like this cue: 

"Step your foot between your hands." 

Replies ranged from:

"If this is your least favorite IDK how you do yoga LOL."


"That’s where it goes if you are opening to Virabhadrasana B. Then your feet are where they are supposed to be when you press your back heel down. Asana isn’t just about the physical shape. There are all kinds of energetic channels throughout the body, so it matters."

What matters to me is that my students are not harmed during their practice. Stepping forward is a transition, not an asana. How we get from one asana to another is immaterial, and asana aren't meant to harm a yoga practitioner. Ever. The very first principle of yoga is non-harming, or ahimsa.

So many yoga students can’t step their foot between their hands.

Belly size, chest size, arm length, shoulder issues, hip flexor strength, injuries… there are so many obstacles. It’s quite hard for beginners. It's anatomically not happening for me these days. 

I've been in so-called beginner, all levels, or inclusive classes and have rarely heard variations given for this transition. I never cue it, and there are tons of alternatives. 

Some of the comments on the post agreed with me:

"This is not easy for me either - I feel you! "

"I teach beginners and there’s no way most of them can get their foot 'between' their hands. It’s usually half way up and to the outside of the mat. Frankly, with my busty bust and short arms, I feel no need to aim for between either!"

I can think of at least a dozen ways you can move your foot toward the front of the mat. Comment below if you'd like to see some. Maybe I'll make you a video!

The transition between downward dog and any warrior pose can be accomplished with steadiness and ease in boundless variations. And it’s all yoga as long as we’re paying attention to body and breath in the present moment, not causing harm etc. 


"A group of mom friends and I were just talking about your yoga class… saying that we’ve all been to ones that were supposed to be judgment free but that yours was the first one we actually felt that to be true."

-Megan C.


My body has been through many iterations in my 20+ years as a yoga teacher, so I have a lot of empathy, especially when it comes to transitions teachers rarely think critically or creatively about.

Not everyone can arrive in an asana the same way, but they are still benefiting from the asana. We can adapt asana to the individual. A yoga transition is for getting from one asana to another with steadiness and ease. If those are not present, or the practitioner feels discouraged because they can’t transition that way, we can change it and lose nothing. 

It's the responsibility of the teacher to become versed in inclusive cueing.

Today, a student coming to me after class to tell me that my cues didn't work for them would be an amazing gift, and I would thank them, but I do think that puts a lot of pressure on the student. 

There's a power dynamic, and they may feel as if their body is the problem, rather than my cues. While I'm very approachable, if someone didn't know me I bet they would rather not come back to class instead of coming up to tell me something I taught didn't work for them. 

The only way I can see it happening is if the teacher explicitly invited that feedback.

It would be great to be able to have such a conversation one to one, without defensiveness and judgment. I know from experience that being open to feedback like this can deepen the respect and connection between a teacher and student. 

At the end of class, I have often announced something to the effect of, "I'll be here for the next 10 minutes if you'd like to ask questions or give feedback about your experience. I truly value your input because it will help me to improve. You can also take my card and email me if you prefer."


“Cues are important because they help students make the mind-body connection. A good cue does not direct students to a particular feeling, experience, sensation, or expression of a pose. A cue grounds the student in their own experience.”

-Kelly Jensen, quoted in Yoga Journal: How to Tell Your Yoga Teacher Their Cues Don’t Work for You


I'm Passionate About Making Yoga Accessible to Your Body as It is Right Now

I was overjoyed to be quoted in the same Yoga Journal article as Matthew Sanford, the founder of Mind Body Solutions, a nonprofit organization “dedicated to transforming trauma, loss, and disability into hope and potential by awakening the connection between mind and body.” 


“A good cue should not be delivered too forcefully or with disrespect. I always want my cues to create a sense of wonder and exploration. At the end of the day, what a teacher wants is for their students to make yoga their own.”

-Matthew Sanford, quoted in Yoga Journal: How to Tell Your Yoga Teacher Their Cues Don’t Work for You


In my gentle, trauma-informed yoga classes these days, I tend to offer variations to the entire group that I believe would help the person I see struggling. I don't want to single them out, and I also can't force anyone to try a certain variation, so I present the idea as an option for the whole class. 

I always prefer to pause and show a new way of accessing a pose or transition, because everyone in the room can benefit from that awareness and understanding. If there's someone in the group who appears to be having trouble accessing the practice, and the cues I offer aren't working well for them, I will share different cues and model a lot of different variations.

I tend to demonstrate the gentlest variation with my body before showing other options.

Yoga Cues Don't Work The Same For Every Body or Brain

I'm also mindful that some struggles are invisible.

The student who looked the most at ease during the flow might be the one who bursts into tears at the end because they are under so much pressure at work. Or my own example, of being a beginner with hypermobile joints and anxiety, incapable of knowing how to stop yoga teachers from pushing me deeper into poses.

Even if your body can do something today, bodies change. I'm passionate about making yoga accessible to your body as it is right now. I want students to know that if/when they are injured or depressed or gain weight, there's always a place for them in my class. Yoga doesn't discriminate. 

As a new yoga teacher, I thought I knew everything.

Now that I've taught thousands of students, I'm clear that they are the experts in their bodies and their needs. Inclusive cues make yoga available to everyone, and that's the way it should be. 

Yoga is accessible to everyone, and to practice yoga you never need to step your foot between your hands. Ever. 


If it hurts when you practice yoga, but you know your mental health will suffer if you don’t...

I'll help you listen to your body with more care, and show you variations you may not have thought to try. I can help you adjust the poses that don't work for you so you can get back on your mat safely.

We'll work together to find the best way for you to practice yoga without making your pain worse - or causing you emotional harm. I want to be clear: yoga is not a self-improvement practice, it is about self-acceptance. 

Gentle yoga has helped me more than anything else as I deal with my own injuries and chronic pain. I want the same relief for you. Release your tension and soreness through somatic movement practices, so that you can feel free to do what you love. This gentle yoga series helps sensitive people with sore joints to relieve stiffness and welcome tranquility.


"I am not the most flexible human. I leave class feeling centered, connected, and rejuvenated."
-Frank L.


Get personal support from me, Kate Lynch, a mindful yoga teacher with over 2 decades of experience. Together we'll customize your practice, so you can return to your mat with confidence. 


“I have been working with Kate for years. She is versed in her craft and has a way of making people feel comfortable.”
-Donna H.


Do you love yoga and want to keep practicing without making your pain worse?

You know staying still and stiff won’t save you from pain. But if you’ve been cleared for exercise and you jump right back into your previous practice, you could re-injure yourself. 

What do you do? 

There are ways to practice safely.
I can help you 1-1. If you want my help, sign up for a Personalized Yoga First Aid Session with me!

This targeted private session will help you feel more confident on the mat, even if your hip socket has been screaming at you all morning.

In our 20 minute private session, we will:




You'll receive customized notes. We can even make a video. Armed with your new tools, you'll be able to confidently take care of your body in your favorite yoga class.  

  • This session isn't going to fix you, because you’re not broken. 

  • It's not a full-body workout, it's a targeted session.

  • It is not medical advice or physical therapy.


Sign up for one of my limited discounted spots for $45 $25:

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Hi! I'm Kate Lynch!

(She/her) I'm a mindful yoga teacher who helps highly sensitive, empathetic people self-regulate so they can feel more joy and calm. Since 2002, I’ve empowered thousands of students to feel more grounded, focused, and relaxed. 

I founded The Compassion Club to give you a soft landing where you can breathe, move, and heal in community. See everything yoga that I offer here.

The parent of an amazing atypical kid, and a mindful parenting coach for neurodiverse families, I help parents self-regulate so they can enjoy parenting their neurodivergent kids. 

I'd be honored to support you as you care for yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally. 

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Gentle yoga to release your stress and shift your mindset about struggle.

If you get your buttons pushed often by other people's issues, you may be hypervigilant. You might feel it in your body as clenching, tension, or chronic pain.

You'll become more grounded in awareness of your body.

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