The last article opened the gate to why the need for assisting and adjusting in the asana practice.
Now I come back to the same topic from a technical perspective, with my personal touch of course linked to my experience as a student and teacher.
A teacher approach involves to see every being as a whole not just the physical part.
The transformation that can occur through adjustments reaches the deepest layers of our being, helping to expand the limited notions that we often hold about ourselves.
As well as the greatest doctor could not do a surgery to himself neither a yogi can adjust himself, therefore as a yogi we need always to rely on someone else to get feedback and betterment in our practice. Yoga is not about flexibility or how many poses you can do, is about for what and how you do them; since the yogi aims to create and keep the energy, not to absorb it. Indeed, after a yoga-asana practice you should feel energized, not tired. Ashtanga Vinyasa could be understand as a dance. It’s a practice that requires a constant flow from one pose to another, if possible without stopping, that’s where Vinyasa plays a main role. Vinyasa serves as a transition without remaining static. VINYASA must be done, modifided if necessary but it’s important to keep the body warm and in movement.
In the primary series of Ashtanga you could do more than 60 vinyasas. Imagine around sixty repetitions every day six days a week in a practice for life in the wrong way.
All the ingredients to get injured: repetition + wrong movement + not being corrected or adjusted
Precision, stability, balance, strength and alignment are the elements that Yoga melts in order to have a healthy and developing practice.
The constant flow along with alignment is a key issue. It is how we define accuracy, merging the alignment up with the persistent movement.
Let’s define and review few concepts so we can understand what are we talking about. Perhaps you name it in another way, but that’s not important, the point is to put a name to the action.
Foundations which will prepare you to perform adjustments
Corrections & Alignment: qualities that belong to the asana that include precise movements and positions that ensure optimal benefit, reducing the risk of injury.
Corrections are not an option, they are a MUST, in order to keep our practice in a save environment.
If we are aware of the Asana and all the parts of the body involved, then we can correct ourselves.
How to Correct a student?
A correction, most of the times, is an alteration of the position of the body. A subtle awareness.
In general terms,
- Use brief and soft movements, touching gently.
- Pointing to a body part.
- Indicating the need to engage or relax a specific part of the body, joint, or muscle.
- Listening to the breath. Guide the student through correct breathing thechniques.
Corrections are a MUST, but over-correcting can cause frustration or a feeling of failure in the student. Be compassionate and mentally aware of the emotions that can arise.
Adjustments: assisting, so the person can not only go deeper in the asana, but also rewiring body awareness and rediscovering the subdlties of the asana.
Adjustments and assisting are the act of verbalizing an instruction, stretching, pressing, moving or touching a student while is in a yoga pose.
It refers to a deeper change in the pose. Through observing the student´s body language, the teacher should be as precise as possible knowing when and where to press, twist, stretch or touch.
With the adjustment we encourage awareness of the body, offering a greater range of motion.
How adjust or assist a student?
The teacher must be aware of their own body position while adjusting the students.
Observing the intensity of the pressure and ensuring the student is feeling it in the areas where the asana is designed to take effect.
From theory to hands on:
- Be gentle when approaching a student.
- Check frequently if the student feels discomfort or feels too much pressure, avoiding pain, especially in the joints and delicate body parts such as the spine or neck.
- Be aware of the face expression and bodily reactions. Listen to the student’s breath and look at the student’s face, will guide you to how the student is feeling during the adjustment.
- Guide the student on the inhales and exhales associated with each movement while giving the adjustment. And don´t forget to sync your breath with theirs.
- Be confident with your touch when adjusting students, movements should precisely direct the student towards the fullest expression of the asana.
- Don’t change your hands position too fast, be gentle and consistent.
- Don’t force. The moment you feel resistance is the moment to stop. Communicate with your student.
- It is helpful to ask students if they want more or less pressure rather than asking if the pressure ok. Ask specific questions to receive accurate answers.
- Once you finish the adjustment, carefully leave the students so they can sustain the adjustment phisically.
- The time invested adjusting someone will change depending on the posture, the student’s need, and the circumstances involved. In Mysore style, the teacher often stays between three to five breathes, on both sides of the body to mantain equilibrium.
- Experiment & be creative. Your common sense together with your knowledge will allow you to create your own comfortable and effective poses in order to reach the optimal adjustment.
- Custom made assists: The best adjustments are individually tuned, based on the teacher’s appraisal of the student’s unique needs and conditions.
- As a guide you also help to adjust the mind of the student using the drishti, reminding where to focus their gaze.
Pace yourself. Sometimes less is more. Guard yourself in the energetic level.
Ask yourfelsf: Am I focused on this student or thinking of something else? Am I trained to safely and effectively apply the assist I am about to do?
Those are general guidelines for adjusting, nevertheless they may not apply in certain cases. There are several options, different techniques, at the end you decide which is the best for your student relying on the student’s needs, limitations, as well as our ability, strength and knowledge.
As a teacher myself, I believe Ego should not conquer us in those delicate situations, not allowing arrogance to manage ourselves and think that we know someones’ body better than they do. We may know asana better than some of our students, but certainly we haven’t lived in their bodies as long as they have. The conclusion is, NEVER push when a student says or looks like is ENOUGH.
Touching can be an issue for some people, on the assumption that the student is new you may want to ask permission the first time, if possible before the class begins. However, if you are in a Mysore style program is implied you are going to be touch.
As a teacher, allow to practice what the student’s body allows them to do. And if you consider their body don’t allow to practice a pose you shouldn’t let them do it. Moreover, being thoughtful of not creating a dependent attitude from the student. Teach self-reliance so students can learn to take care of themselves.
The sensation the student will feel is somewhere between comfort and moderate discomfort. The aim is to help the student immerse himself in the inner world through the phisycal body. Always seeing it as a collaboration, a mutual learning for the teacher and student, with endles possibilities of growth.
“There are circumstances to adjust and to not adjust¨
So the teacher is assisting mind, breath and body. Adjusting the mind to focus on the breath that moves the body» — John Scott, Warsaw. 10th August, 2017.
Wish you good assisting 😉