The Jivamukti Yoga method has incorporated adjustments as part of their teaching style. Teachers are trained well and without comment from someone like Sharon Gannon or David Life, this article isn't properly researched. I can't tell you how many times I've gone to a class outside of Jivamukti and I've gotten bad adjustments simply because teachers are not properly trained. Adjustments are an important part of the a yoga class. The role of the teacher, and the point of an adjustment is for one reason only; to help the student reach enlightenment.
shri k. pattabhi jois, the father of ashtanga yoga, said that without touch, progress can be very slow, and after teaching for 10 years I believe him. the art and benefits of physical assists are subjective to both students and teachers. when done expertly, by a well trained teacher, they can be one of the most profound experience you will ever have on the yoga mat. like finding true love, you'll know it when it happens.
Thank you for this article. As a teacher I am not fully comfortable touching my students. I have been told by a few past students, when asked, that they prefer not to be touched, so I often wonder how many others feel this way and haven't said so. This subject has been weighing on my mind d recently and it is so wonderful to be reassured that I am not less of a teacher for not physically adjusting my students, and may actually have more company in doing so than I had thought.
I'm surprised that you would be surprised that an experienced yogi a) did not want a hands on adjustment (especially in shoulderstand where neck issues present themselves) and b) asked what it was you wanted her to do. I think a good teacher should be able to verbally explain what they want or the action that's called for in a certain posture, and allow the practioner to try it themselves. If they sense the practioner could benefit with a well-considered physical adjustment, with the practioner's approval!!!!, they could try an adjustment that way.
Perhaps the practioner sensed your inexperience and/or has had improper adjustments in the past. I know I have and unless I know the teacher well, and know they are experienced, I decline the adjustment. And I'm a yoga teacher.
Perhaps the strongest point I would make is that people don't even necessarily NEED adjustments. Their poses are what they are for them at that particular point in time (barring a hideous misalignment or something). Let people be in their poses for what they are and try to get out of the mindset that folks need 'correcting.'
Thank you so much for the article. I have been teaching for a little over 2 years and just experienced my first negative reaction to a hands-on adjustment. I find myself feeling very conflicted about the situation. The class was practicing Shoulderstand (and doing wonderfully by the way) when I helped a couple of beginner students by placing my hand on their sacrums to give their spines some elongation. They were grateful when the adjustment helped their lower backs. I then approached an intermediate student (who has actually been practicing longer than me). I tried verbal cues and then leaned in to place my hand on her sacrum when she asked "what are you telling me to do?" She immediately recoiled and came down from shouderstand and told me she could do the pose by herself. I was a bit surprised considering her years of yoga. I do realize that I am not comfortable doing hands-on adjustments for fear of hurting a student. Your article gave me some good tips on how to handle adjustments in the future. I especially like the "survey" taken when the students eyes are closed.
Swapan Mookerjee, PhD
This article raises and discusses an important and sensitive issue - touching or hands-on assistance. I was appalled to read the comment by Faulds that the feet are occassionally used and in some traditions kicking is used as a means of instruction. In India and other parts of the world, the feet are considered unclean. Most people regard touching someone with the feet as an affront and in Bengal if someone even accidentally steps on your foot they will touch you and their own head while murmuring an apology.
In my own Yoga classes I rarely touch the student unless kinesthetic feedback is absolutely essential. Above all, I would never touch a student with my foot, period!