How to Draw Stick Figures
“I want to practice at home, but I don’t know what to do.” “I try to take notes, but I can never remember what we did in class.” “Can you write down that sequence for me?”
If you’re a yoga teacher, these common questions and concerns from yoga students seeking a take-home practice can leave you at a loss for words. Your students may not remember or yet know the asana names in English, let alone Sanskrit, so a simple list won’t suffice. But who has time to write out complex transitions or uncommon pose variations? Still, you don’t want to send eager practitioners home empty-handed. So instead of writing out sequences, try drawing them.
Stick figure drawings can also be useful for breaking down pose alignment in workshop settings
Some pictures can instantly convey content that even the proverbial 1,000 words cannot, learning to makes simple asana stick figures will allow you to quickly and precisely jot down a practice that is easy to follow. “Each figure can be imbued with an enormous amount of information,” explains Viniyoga teacher and therapist Kathy Ornish, “and because you can include so much detail with stick figure drawings, it’s easier for your students to remember what to do once they’re on their own.”
Stick figure drawings can also be useful for breaking down pose alignment in workshop settings. “They ensure that everyone knows which posture is being discussed,” says Para Yoga teacher Karina Mirsky, who uses these techniques during teacher trainings. “I’ve found that drawing stick figures is a safe way to demonstrate common alignment errors,” she adds.
Drawing Tips and Tricks
Even if you’re not artistically inclined or haven’t drawn stick people since grade school, with a little practice, you’ll get the hang of it. “Just make the circle for the head and then add the spine,” recommends Mikelle Terson, yoga teacher and author of How to Draw Yoga Stick Figures. “Once you have the spine down, you can figure out where the legs go and then just add arms.” From there, start to include key details to provide important cues, like drawing hands and feet for arm and leg positions. Add a dot or line for a nose to illustrate which direction the head is facing.
Your drawings for most poses will appear pretty straightforward, but more complex poses may challenge your abilities, not to mention your student’s understanding. “Because you’re taking something three-dimensional and making it two-dimensional, revolved postures, like parivritta trikonasana (revolved triangle), can be hard to illustrate,” says Terson. “That’s where I put a dip in the spine, so instead of being straight it’s got a little curve in it. That’s just a symbolic representation that the pose is revolved.”
Terson also stresses the importance of repetition for stick figure novices, and suggests drawing each asana, step by step, several times in order to get the hang of it—just like you practiced your penmanship when you were a kid. “Just by doing it over and over, by the time you finish, you pretty much should know how to do it. Then it becomes like writing a letter of the alphabet, instead of thinking ‘Oh my God I have to draw a triangle pose,’” she says.
Kat Heagberg is the editor of Yoga International and has been teaching yoga since 2005. She loves to write about ways to make challenging poses more accessible, the power of language in yoga culture, and to offer encouragement and advice to new yoga teachers. Though she initially trained in alignment-based styles of yoga (which continue to inform her practice and teaching), Kat likes teaching vinyasa flow best of all. Read her work and take her classes here on Yoga International!