Here are my thoughts and reflections on the whys, hows ,dos and don’ts of adjustments in yoga, but first let me offer some examples of what I think might be in the speech bubbles above people’s heads if only we could see them:
What exactly is the teacher trying to get me to do?
Am I doing the pose all wrong?
Wow, that feels amazing.
Why has the teacher picked on me?
Is it meant to hurt/feel like this?
I never thought I could get into that pose
Of course the speech bubbles might also say:
Crikey that feels a bit intimate
I can smell his/her garlic breath
I’d rather you didn’t touch me at all
A teacher might use the term ‘assist’ rather than ‘adjustment’ because from a teaching perspective our intention is to assist the student in one of the following:
· Experiencing the pose more deeply e.g. finding more length in the spine, space to breathe more fully, being able to bind, twisting more deeply
· Finding more alignment so that the benefits of the pose are maximised
· Ensuring safe practice
Telekinesis! Only joking but it’s spooky how often just at the point I look directly at someone’s knee alignment in a class they self adjust.
More often it will be a verbal cue or suggestion which might be accompanied by a hands on physical adjustment e.g. to steady someone in a balance or encourage a twist.
As a student do tell your teacher if you’d rather not be adjusted. It’s perfectly fine not to want to be touched. You don’t have to give any reason full stop. Do tell your teacher if you experience pain or discomfort or you feel as if you losing your balance/steadiness. However experienced your teacher is they cannot know what it is like to be in your body and cannot feel what you are feeling so if it’s not good you need to tell them. If you feel an adjustment is too intimate or inappropriate just say ‘stop’ or ‘no’ and move if you need to do so.
As a teacher do check with students they are comfortable being adjusted. Be clear about what your intention is with the adjustment.
Say something is OK if it’s not OK. Be guided by your own body and what works. Don’t feel you’re doing anything wrong if a teacher comes to adjust you.
As a teacher do not make adjustments unless you feel confident in what you’re doing, don’t inflict your garlicky lunch breath on people. Back off immediately if you’re asked to. Obvious and non-negotiable but it needs to be stated – never ever touch someone inappropriately.
A good adjustment is like receiving a present - it makes what’s already a good experience even better and yes, it really can feel amazing and magical.