This morning I had a tech session focused on adjusting students in various asanas (poses). Adjustments can be verbal or physical:
- When a teacher gives a student a specific verbal direction (such as “Move your foot there”), that’s an adjustment.
- When a teacher states a verbal instruction to a class as a whole (such as “Remember to keep your knees together”), that’s an adjustment.
- When a teacher physically moves any student’s body (from gently touching a shoulder to strongly pulling on the hips), that’s an adjustment.
As a student, I have had a variety of experiences with adjustments. Some teachers adhere to a “hands-off” philosophy, choosing to offer verbal adjustments 99% of the time, and touching people only when absolutely necessary (i.e., a student is about to hurt him/herself if direct and immediate intervention doesn’t happen quickly). Some teachers follow a “gentle hands-on” process, touching people lightly, and usually with just the first two fingers of their hands. And some teachers are all about physical adjustments, and not only lay full hands on people, but also their arms, and their feet… And some “strong-adjustment” teachers have been known to also lean into their students, pick up their students, etc. These teachers sometimes ask the student if it’s okay if they are touched, but sometimes “adjustment-happy” teachers just go for the gusto, and don’t solicit permission before making their move.
Personally, I like some hands-on adjustment (versus only verbal instruction). With verbal directions, I’m never quite 100% certain if my body is in the alignment it’s “supposed” to be in; with hands-on adjustment, I know when I’ve entered the pose the teacher wants me to be in, because s/he stops moving me when I’m “there”. But now, it’s my role to find out what kind of an instructor I want to be. Which brings me to today’s tech session.
Today’s teacher spent a few minutes at the beginning of class discussing why a teacher would ever adjust a student (i.e., the “motivation” for making adjustments). The teacher then had us each find a partner, and then formed the partner-pairs into a large circle. The structure of the class was as follows:
- We watched the teacher (in the middle of the room) do a variety of possible adjustments for a single pose.
- Each partner-pair designated one person as “student”, and one person as “teacher”. The “student” entered the pose, and the “teacher” applied whatever adjustment method(s) were appropriate for where the student was at.
- After 1-2 minutes, the partner-pairs switched roles (so the “student” became the “teacher”, and vice versa.) The duo then repeated Step 2.
- After another 1-2 minutes, everyone came together for a quick total-class debrief.
- After the debrief, the outer circle of students stayed in place, the inner circle of students moved down one person, so that voila – new partner-pairs were created.
- Then, everyone went back to Step 1, and began the process all over again.
I really liked the structure of this session. I liked that the teacher began the class by discussing the right motivation for making adjustments. (Intention is so much a part of yoga [and of life]; and yet, it is often a part that is glossed over, if even addressed [or recognized] at all.) I also liked that the teacher began each pose with a clear description of what to look for, and gave specific guidance on how to apply a variety of different adjustments accordingly. I liked that I got to work with a variety of different people (so, I got to experience not only different body types and different body abilities, but also different student personalities – which is a significant consideration when doing adjustments). And I liked that I got to engage for most of the session in very hands-on experimentation (no pun intended – seriously). I got to see what applying gentle, “two-finger” adjustments felt like; and I got to see what it felt like to be more assertive and direct in making adjustments.
Before this class session, I wasn’t very comfortable with making adjustments – primarily because I felt like I didn’t really know what I was doing. I know how various yoga poses feel in my body, and I also have good self-awareness around my body’s own strengths and limitations; so I know how much I can push myself, and I know how far I can allow myself to be safely adjusted by someone else. However, I don’t possess that same awareness for other people’s bodies; and the last thing I want to do is make someone uncomfortable by doing an adjustment that pushes them “too far” (physically, or emotionally), or (God forbid) even injure them.
However, in today’s class, I learned various ways to “read” another person’s body, and gained methods that now help me better know which adjustments are likely to be most appropriate for a variety of student situations. I really do feel more comfortable performing adjustments now. At least, I feel more comfortable adjusting fellow teachers-in-training. I suspect I might feel differently when I teach my first class with “real” students. I wonder how bold (or timid) I might be in making adjustments in that new setting? I guess I’ll address that when I get there. : )