Yoga Teacher Training (Breath Cues for Baron Baptiste Inspired Vinyasa Classes)

Calling all yoga teachers-in-training!

Are you hitting some road blocks while you're working toward your 200 hours?

I feel you ;)

Becoming a yoga teacher isn't easy (and I don't think it should be!). We have a huge responsibility to our students, to the tradition of the practice, and to all of the teachers who have gone before us. We want our classes to be empowering and our sequencing to be safe and effective in the body. And as teachers, we want to set an example of compassion and mindfulness in our communities.

With all of this in mind, where do you even start?! Early in my training, which was a 200-hour Baron Baptiste-inspired Vinyasa program, I remember becoming overwhelmed by the amount of information swimming around in my head.

I felt nervous, I had trouble remembering the order of the poses, and I found myself saying filler words like "um" and "OK," when I was concentrating on the poses and watching the alignment of the students.

In the beginning, it can feel like a blur of emotion and information.

If that's where you are in the process, take a deep breath. You will move through this. Right now, your job is just to practice!

Here are some helpful hints that allowed me to get down the "rhythm" of teaching.

Write down your sequence and practice it at home before you stand up in front of class to teach it. Even if you get turned around with your words, or you misspeak (maybe you mix up the left or right side), your body's memory will help get you back on track. In that moment, try to connect with your body rather than any frazzled thoughts or emotions. What body parts are involved in this pose? What am I doing with my body here (and how do I invite students to move into that same shape)?

A few reminders on how to cue the breath:

In general:
Inhale as you lift up or move upward
Exhale as you move downward or draw in and up with mula bandha
Inhale to lengthen the spine
Exhale as you twist
Exhale during the most active ("work") part of the pose

Get comfortable with the breath cues for Sun Salutations. This is your foundation. In my Baron Baptiste style training, we spent quite a bit of time on this during the first few weeks of teacher training. We would go around the room "popcorn style" and practice saying the cues out loud; for instance, one person would say the first three poses, and then the next person would jump in and continue with a few more poses.

It helped us understand the basic breath work going on in a sequence, almost to the point of it seeming "singsong" and kind of boring.

Even if it starts to feel monotone, practice it! If you can nail these breath cues, you'll be ready to do more complicated cues and start to refine your voice when you teach.

These breath cues for sun salutations will also come in handy when you're nervous in class, or you make a mistake. Instead of freaking out or panicking, you can fall back on the information you've literally memorized, and re-establish your flow in class. Students might not even notice that you made a mistake ;)

Note: what you see below is the basic basic basic version of this. Nothing fancy. You'll definitely want to work on adding more detail to how you cue students in class, or this will sound incredibly dull during class. But for now, let this be your base, just so you get the basics down. You got this!

Sun Salutation A & B Breath Cuing (Baron Baptiste Style Vinyasa Yoga Teacher Training)

Sun A

  • Inhale, arms up
  • Exhale, forward fold
  • Inhale, halfway lift
  • Exhale, high to low plank
  • Inhale, updog or cobra
  • Exhale, down dog
  • Take three breaths (pause)
  • Inhale, look forward
  • Exhale, step or jump to the top of your mat
  • Inhale, halfway lift
  • Exhale, forward fold
  • Inhale, arms up
  • Exhale, hands to heart center

Sun B

  • Inhale, lift your arms and sink your hips into Chair pose
  • Exhale, forward fold
  • Inhale, halfway lift
  • Exhale, high to low plank
  • Inhale, updog or cobra
  • Exhale, down dog
  • Take one breath in
  • On your exhale, step your right foot forward
  • Inhale, Warrior I
  • Exhale, high to low plank
  • Inhale, updog
  • Exhale, downdog
  • Take one breath in
  • On your exhale, step your left foot forward
  • Inhale, Warrior I
  • Exhale, high to low plank 
  • Inhale, updog
  • Exhale, downdog
  • Inhale, look forward
  • Exhale, step or jump to the top of your mat
  • Inhale, halfway lift
  • Exhale, forward fold
  • Inhale, chair pose

What do you think? How are you feeling about breath cues for your Vinyasa flow class?
I'd love to hear your feedback in the comments below!

PS I highly recommend also checking out my other post on teacher training and how to memorize a flow for more helpful tips on how to memorize information and integrate it into your teaching.

Photos 1, 2 and 6 by Jobi Otso. Photos 3, 4, 5 & 7 by Brock Scott Photography.