The Ul­ti­mate Guide to Ad­just­ments

More teach­ers are tak­ing a hands-off ap­proach to as­sists— and more stu­dents are won­der­ing where the line is be­tween help­ful and in­ap­pro­pri­ate. Here, mas­ter teach­ers share their think­ing on this touchy de­bate and of­fer expert ad­vice to help keep ev­ery­one s

Yoga Journal - - Contents - By Jen Mur­phy

Se­nior teach­ers of­fer per­spec­tive on hands-on and hands-off as­sists and trauma-in­formed yoga. Plus, eight trans­for­ma­tive self-as­sists.

YOGA TEACHER CO­RAL BROWN says she’s prob­a­bly per­formed thou­sands of hands-on as­sists on stu­dents over the past 20 years. When she trav­eled with her teacher, Shiva Rea, her role was to pro­vide

en­er­getic align­ment-based as­sists— mean­ing she helped stu­dents move into a deeper em­bod­i­ment of twists, for­ward folds, back­bends, and more. “To my knowl­edge, I never hurt any­one,” says Brown. “But look­ing back, I fully own that there is a dan­ger, and po­ten­tial for in­jury, in as­sist­ing.”

When she sus­tained a ham­string tear af­ter a teacher gave her a deep as­sist, Brown says she re­al­ized that some as­sists can be too much—and she shifted her views on hands-on ad­just­ments. “Rather than use an as­sist to prac­ti­cally do the pose for the stu­dent, I now use a guid­ing touch to teach stu­dents how to em­body the pose on their own,” she says.

Like Brown, many other teach­ers are re­think­ing their use of hands-on ad­just­ments in pub­lic yoga classes, which are feel­ing scarier than ever for both teach­ers and stu­dents. Af­ter all, we live in an in­creas­ingly liti­gious so­ci­ety, and the #metoo move­ment has brought a height­ened aware­ness to power dy­nam­ics. Vinyasa yoga teacher Ja­son Cran­dell says this is one rea­son why he started giv­ing fewer man­ual ad­just­ments. “It’s nat­u­ral to crave the af­fec­tion of the per­son in charge, and that can lead to big prob­lems,” he says. “In my mind, that was a rea­son to be more re­served in how I in­ter­act with my stu­dents.”

Cran­dell says he’s also hear­ing a grow­ing num­ber of sto­ries from stu­dents who’ve ex­pe­ri­enced in­juries af­ter in­tense man­ual ad­just­ments, which he be­lieves is a re­sult of many teach­ers be­ing rad­i­cally un­der­trained to per­form them. “We have fetishized range of mo­tion through out­lets like In­sta­gram, of­ten at the ex­pense of the qual­ity and in­tegrity of a pose,” he says. “As teach­ers, we need to stop think­ing about hands-on as­sists as a way to push stu­dents more deeply into a pose.”

ParaYoga founder Rod Stryker agrees, adding that man­ual ad­just­ments may not be as help­ful as they are made out to be. “Well-in­formed, deep hands-on ad­just­ments—done skill­fully—can feel good, but they’re not nec­es­sar­ily pro­duc­tive to the stu­dent in the larger sense or mean­ing of prac­tice,” he says. “In fact, I’ve no­ticed stu­dents grow de­pen­dent on teach­ers who do a lot of hands-on ad­just­ments, and they can even be­come emo­tion­ally re­liant on be­ing ad­justed.” If a stu­dent’s safety is com­pro­mised in a pose, Stryker will per­form a man­ual ad­just­ment. Oth­er­wise, he fo­cuses on ver­bal and vis­ual cues.

Whether you’re a teacher crav­ing more in­for­ma­tion on how to nav­i­gate hands-on ad­just­ments or a stu­dent won­der­ing what’s ap­pro­pri­ate, use the fol­low­ing guide to help chart this tricky ter­ri­tory.

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