Are Hands-On Adjustments Creepy?

by Jessica on March 20, 2014

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In Mysore-style Ashtanga teachers often give adjustments with their hands.  This style of yoga differs in that the teachers observe students and offer verbal and physical corrections, enhancements, and sometimes just help the students to energetically feel the posture.  At times they may help a student to go deeper than they feel capable on their own.  Mysore style originated out of Mysore, India as taught by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois.   His English was very minimal, and would often use hands on adjustments to show students how to do a posture.  In Ashtanga yoga giving physical adjustments is a foundational part of teaching.  Generally in Mysore style class teachers have more time and energy to focus on observing students, because they are not verbally teaching the whole time.
Does ‘hands-on’adjusting sound creepy to you?
It kind of does to me.  But when a teacher approaches the student clearly and confidently and physically or verbally adjusts, the right cue can shed a whole new light on a posture.  Great adjustments can be physical or verbal, sometimes simply telling someone to relax their jaw or shoulders will make a world of difference to their level of bodily tension.
Let’s face it – many people are completely unaware of their bodies.
Have you ever said raise your right hand as you inhale and half the people raise their left hand?  Yes, and there are many such examples.  Sometimes even the best teachers need to give a student a quick tap to lower their heel or relax their jaw.  Being clear about what should happen to a students shoulders, hips, legs, arms, and breathing in each posture is essential.
What does it mean to open your heart in a yoga posture?  Or to shine your sit bones?  
Often the language in yoga is flowery, like something teachers may have heard on a spa commercial.  Don’t get me wrong – I’m guilty of doing this.  Sometimes I feel the need to fill a silent void when leading classes, and fluff just pours out.  Learn how to give clear and concise language to talk students in and out of postures.  Until you observe the student, you won’t know where they need help in an asana.

Why are adjustments an integral part of yoga?
The teacher is there as an observer, and the verbal or hands-on adjustment is the teachers way of giving you that little tweak.  This may help you to deepen your yoga posture or release a held spot.  For example, many people hold their shoulders very tightly, so they creep up toward the ears.  A simple tap on the top of the shoulder reminds them to release and find more ease in the postures.

Refine your practice
As a student or teacher you will develop a better understanding of what to observe in your own body throughout your own yoga practice.  Many of us are not aware of our own patterns.  We habitually do things the same way, maybe our right hip is higher than our left, or we always tense our left shoulder.  Having someone notice and offer a correction can sometimes transform your practice.  Learning more about anatomy and function of joints will help you to understand more clearly on what is being triggered in a yoga posture
Adjusting can be scary….
Because we’ve all heard the stories about students being hurt by physical adjustments.  Whenever you physically touch someone there is always a risk.  You need to know how to communicate with students and when to stop.  Learning how to do this with skill and precision is an art.
Ready to dive in?  
Come to our Yoga Adjustments Workshop, Saturday March 29th 1-3:30pm.  Register here.

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