Anybody in the education game (which is everyone, really, isn’t it?) should know what is their preferred way of learning. These ways are called styles of learning, and they can roughly be presented in three categories: auditory, visual and kinaesthetic. Sometimes the styles overlap, so it’s possible to be an auditory/visual learner or any other combination.
I trained yoga teachers for years, and what I observed is that, among this specialised population of trainees, most were kinaesthetic learners. They could understand the postures by doing them, and then their learning was enhanced by having the teacher give them physical adjustments.
In the general population, however, 20 to 30 percent of people learn by listening to instructions (auditory). Another 40 percent learn visually, that is, in a yoga class, by seeing a teacher demonstrate a pose. These statistics imply that yoga teachers need to learn to layer their teaching with verbal explanations, visual demonstrations, and hands-on adjusting, so all learners are catered for.
One of my favourite students is a highly auditory learner, so when she is in class I’m extra careful to be clear and logical in my instructions – not that I’m careless at other times
The optimum place to begin teaching a pose is to give clear and concise verbal instructions, along with a demonstration. To be an effective teacher of beginners, one learns to adjust misalignments verbally before adjusting physically. This lets the students sense and feel their postures and helps them develop internal reference points in their bodies.
Sometimes, as a teacher or student, the spoken instructions don’t land. Then it’s time to stop, assess what’s not working and possible add a demonstration or adjustment. This will give the student a visual/kinesthetic body and mind link.
For beginning yoga students, clear spoken instructions help them attain the basic shape of the pose, like broad-brush strokes. With experienced students, words can be more detailed so they elicit more refined expressions of a pose.
At any level though, the combinations of demonstrations and appropriate adjustments will increase the students’ understanding by leaps and bounds.