Finding Strength Through Your Voice: Tips on Verbal Cueing!

Our voice is a powerful tool. As movement educators one of the ways we can improve our client’s experience is through not only the words we use but also through our tone, tempo and resonance of our speech.

How much do you cue?
Sometimes I listen to instructors who are as afraid of the pause between their instructions. They think they have to fill each and every moment with verbal correctives, but most people can’t absorb that much information and in fact it may make them feel like they aren’t getting it if they can’t keep up with non-stop cueing.

Where is the pause?
I believe the pause is the moment where neuroplastic change can happen. I like classes that give me a chance to work on a movement in my own time at my own pace. Sprinkling a few of these through a class is a gift to your students.

Photo of Heather Dennis working with student

Is your voice calming, energizing or irritating?
Many instructors are not conscious of how their voice affects their students. While some people may enjoy a boot camp style there are just as many people with trauma issues that will find that style dysregulating to their nervous systems. Again it is not only the words you use but also the tone and pace you say it in.

Are you a black or white teacher?
Using language that continually references “ the right way to do it”, subconsciously tells people they are doing it wrong. It can be a powerful paradigm shift for teachers when they abandon this approach and instead utilize a more somatic method of guiding clients to notice and sense what is going on.

Are you in your body or in your head?
We need to stay embodied while we teach embodiment. Are you teaching from a sympathetic state or a parasympathetic state? Things you might want to notice while you are teaching are tension in the jaw and shoulders. Also are your hands cold when you teach? All signs that your excitement of teaching is hijacking your nervous system.

3 SIMPLE TIPS: Working with your own body when you are working with someone else’s

  1. Become aware of the support of gravity by noticing your feet on the ground and gently shift your weight from front to back of the foot and from side to side.
  2. Soften your eyes by focusing on a soft gaze, which includes more of your peripheral vision.
  3. Notice the space in your mouth by bringing your attention to the width, length and depth of your tongue. Also notice the space between the upper and lower palate, the space between one side of the mouth and the other and the space between the front of the mouth and the back of the throat.

Using these three awareness skills while you are teaching will help you notice tension in your own body that you may be unconsciously transmitting to your students. And we all know that the work of embodiment is about becoming aware of unnecessary tension and learning to let go of it so that we can move more efficiently.

Heather Dennis

About Heather Dennis

Heather Dennis is a movement educator who is a certified Pilates instructor through STOTT and Long Beach Dance. She has studied and taught yoga, somatics, and Pilates for over thirty years. She is currently training with Feldenkrais elder Mia Segel in her Mind Body Studies and Slings myofascial training with Karin Gurtner. You can find her at