Read John Friend’s response:
Over my 27 years of teaching, I have periodically had students partner in order to create a friendlier and lighter atmosphere in the class, to help increase their body awareness, and to slow the pace of the class. Over time, and a few partner injuries later, I have limited partner work in class to simple verbal exchanges—or, at most, having one student simply act as a stabilizing force for another, without making any manipulations or adjustments.
Overall I do not think it’s a good idea for a teacher to allow students to physically adjust each other in class. To physically manipulate a student’s pose in a safe and effective way requires a good working knowledge of postural alignment for a variety of poses, basic anatomy, and nuances of how to touch for physical adjustment. Many yoga poses challenge the body’s range of motion to begin with, so if someone’s pose is further pushed or pulled, or twisted unskillfully during an assist, the chances of
injury increase dramatically. It’s not uncommon for certified teachers of various schools of hatha yoga
to accidentally injure students while making physical adjustments. So the risks significantly increase
when the assists are made by untrained students.
In order to make a good physical adjustment, it is necessary to know principles of asana alignment and to observe whether:
- The foundation of the pose is properly placed.
- The basic form of the pose is being performed.
- The muscles of the limbs are evenly engaged and drawn into the core of the body.
- The arms and legs are rotated and positioned optimally.
- The spine is optimally positioned in the pose.
- There is uniform expansion of energy stretching out from the core of the body to the periphery.
In addition, you must know how to properly touch a student in order to make an effective adjustment,
which is not easy. It requires hours to teach another teacher how to make full, sensitive contact with
their hands on students’ bodies. It takes a lot of practice to learn how to properly touch a student in
order to both receive and transmit nonverbal communication. Once sensitivity has been developed, the
teacher then needs to learn how to effectively stabilize the student with her hands, feet, and/or body
before manipulating or adjusting the pose.
The sophisticated knowledge of exactly where to touch to make the most effective adjustment, and which way to move muscle and bone to optimally alignment the body, is beyond the scope of most students. Therefore, I recommend not permitting students to adjust each other in class unless they are trained teachers themselves, or unless they are simply acting as stabilizers for each other and there is no physical manipulation performed.