Talking about Adjustments

My yoga practice has truly been a group effort. Every teacher, every class has been part of the process of building a practice. I have learned from adjustments from teachers, from assists from other students. Many profoundly changed my practice and my life and I remember them clearly.

Think about the physical adjustments you have received in yoga classes over the years. Which ones do you remember – which with positive feelings, which with negative – and why do you think you responded the way you did?

Last night I taught a workshop on adjustments for teachers and teachers-in-training. With gratitude to my teachers and fellow students, Here are a few of my notes:

WHAT IS YOUR INTENTION? (Remember, this is not about you.)

  • Protect the student
    • are they ready to go that far/deep?
    • are they open to being touched?
  • Provide stability (e.g. handstands)
  • Move energy
  • Fine tune alignment
  • Release misplaced tension
  • Let the student gain understanding of the pose, feel better, deepen experience
  • Give the student well-placed confidence (not misplaced)

At the opening of class, let your students know that they are not necessarily doing something wrong if you give them an adjustment. Give them the opportunity to ask not to be touched, then (of course) respect that and thank them for telling you.

As always, if it is for a correction, do a verbal adjustment first.

Approach quietly, but let them know you are there. You will often be behind them. Remember that it is their practice, not yours – you are supporting not fixing.

ALWAYS PROTECT YOURSELF– your back, your nose!!
When appropriate, use your whole body, not just your hands or feet.
BE CONCISE with your touch – do not linger, it gets creepy
BE CONFIDENT
KNOW YOUR STUDENT – check for injuries, maybe offer props
ALWAYS STABILIZE FIRST – at the foundation

DEON’S mantra (Deon De Wit is my Thai Yoga Therapy Teacher)

  1. TOUCH (pay attention to WHERE) and stabilize if necessary
  2. NEST – pause, breathe with them, take your time
  3. LEAN – apply the assist, giving them appropriate support, be it physical and/or a quick word of encouragement

It is their asana, breath and intention, not yours.

When you adjust, encourage (with your adjustment) students to move from the energetic core of the pose, rather than the extremities. Generally, the hands and feet will adjust themselves if they are moving from the focal point.

Check in with your students by looking at their eyes, sensing misplaced tension or lack of stability. Be aware of their center of gravity. Move with them, not against them. Remember, you are almost always helping to create spaciousness.

A mindful adjustment can change a student’s attitude and their practice. It can be the sweetest of gifts during a practice.