An Attitude (of) Adjustment

An important part of yoga teacher training is learning to help student in their practice by offering verbal and non-verbal adjustments during asana.  Of course, this means that discussion of adjustment, and practice, is important in teacher training.

Image by Sami Taipale

In the teacher training I attend, we have been working on adjustments since the very beginning.  I think that within the first 2 classes we had begun to do small physical adjustments on our peers during poses.  I found this extremely challenging, as I am not a toucher.  This may be my midwestern upbringing.  It may be because I grew up in a family where there wasn’t a large amount of hugging and touching, at least after early childhood.  Or, maybe it’s just me.  At any rate, I am mostly ok with being adjusted, as I assume the expertise of my instructors and – like a doctor – that touch seems to be official.  But, me adjusting others was harder.  I just don’t usually touch other adults – besides family members.  The first few times were really unpleasant.  It’s gotten better, but it remains an area of uncertainty for me.

Our most recent assignment for adjustment was to pair up with a fellow teacher trainee, and be the “adjuster” for that person during an entire vinyasa class, and then vice versa.  I took my turn at this last week and it was quite interesting.  The day that I was to be adjusted for the class, I found myself a little nervous at the start, but it passed relatively quickly.  The nerves were primarily due to the idea of having that much focus directly on me while doing asana, and not so much about the touch.  Once I got over that part of it, the only remaining worry was whether I would accidentally kick or knock over my colleague as she did the adjusting.  All in all, it was very  nice to have such personalized focus during a class.  While her touch is light, it was pretty directive, and it gave me both reminders and some new information about alignment.  Though I know that my shoulders tend to creep up and my upper back round, a reminder is always good.  And, I was less aware of the alignment of hips during some poses (lunge, for example).

Two days later, it was my turn to do the adjusting, and that produced far more nerves.  I reviewed all of our notes on asana the day before, and reread material in our texts about adjustment, and then tried to remind myself to focus on the person in front of me. During/after the actual class, I reached a number of conclusions about my experience:

  1. Being in a class and not doing the asana, but not being the teacher either, is a rather conspicuous position.  It’s hard to not feel out of place.
  2. When you don’t know how long a pose will be held, it’s confusing to determine whether it’s a good time to adjust.  I had planned to use the instructor’s behavior as my guide here, but she was just getting over the flu, so reluctant to do physical adjustments, and as a substitute, her style isn’t familiar enough for me to guess what she would hold.
  3. Physical adjustments are complemented by verbal, and trying to do physical without speaking (as I didn’t want to distract from the instructor) makes it difficult to communicate your intent effectively.
  4. I tend toward a light touch, and I’m not sure that’s a problem in and of itself.  However, there were times when I was unclear whether the lack of a shift in a position based on adjustment was because the shift physically could not be made, or because the adjustment itself was unclear.
  5. It’s easy to come up with adjustments for people who are pretty far off in the pose, or have a consistent issue (i.e. in almost any pose an instructor could adjust my shoulders and upper back and be on the right track).  For a student who has pretty good alignment, determining the more subtle changes that could be made is more of a challenge.
  6. One-on-one full class adjustment is a good way to get more comfortable with the process, but it feels awkward because adjustment isn’t being based on whether that person really needs (or wants?) to be adjusted in that position.
  7. I have a strong reaction to any attempts to adjust me (I will often move as much as I can in the direction indicated – though sometimes I must admit that I have to be persuaded to come out of a fold!), and may thus have an unrealistic expectation of how much visible change will occur during an adjustment.
  8. I think that getting it through my head that I’m not giant and therefore unlikely to squish or break anyone is probably going to be helpful with this.
  9. 1-8 lead me to conclude that, at the end of the day, my discomfort with touching will eventually become not the biggest hurdle of adjustment processes.
  10. Practice and all is coming!



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