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Teaching Yoga

Help Your Students Let Go: 5 Hands-On Assists for Savasana

Senior AcroYoga teacher Deven Sisler and yoga teacher Britta Rael demonstrate 5 ways that hands-on assists can enhance the Savasana experience.

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We’ve all seen the shirts that say, “I am just here for the Savasana.” Well, I like to say, “I am just here for the hands-on assists in Savasana.” Touch is the first sense that we develop in utero, and a calm, supportive adjustment can aid relaxation during our final resting pose more than any other technique.

Teachers, be sure to ask for consent, as hands-on adjustments may have the opposite effect if they are unexpected or unwanted. Tell your students you would like to offer them an assist to help them find more ease in Savasana. Ask them to place a hand on their own belly if they would like to receive your touch. Or, you can instruct students who don’t want any touch to fold over a corner of their mat or place a “do not assist” card next to their mat.

5 Hands-On Assists to Enhance Savasana

BEFORE YOU BEGIN Take 3 breaths of gratitude for the opportunity to give supportive, compassionate touch. Clear your energy and intention of any distraction so you can be completely present with each student.

1. Feet

corpse pose adjustment

According to healing traditions, many of the body’s energy lines begin in the feet, so that’s where we start to invite initial relaxation. The feet can also be a less intimate body part, so beginning here may allow your student to become more comfortable with your touch.

Rub your palms together as you approach your student to gently alert them that you are near, while also making sure your hands are warm. Let your hands fall softly onto your student’s feet. Take a breath here, simply making contact. Rock your weight to the right, and pour pressure through a straight arm, alternating on your breath to the opposite side.

See alsoHelp Students Go Deeper: 5 Yoga Hands-On Assists

2. Legs

corpse pose adjustment

This adjustment is particularly supportive if you have a student who lies in Savasana with their legs very close together or very far apart.

Scoop your hands underneath your student’s heels or ankles, then come through kneeling to standing, using the strength of your legs. Arrive in a strong Goddess Pose. Bend your legs from side to side to give a slow, gentle swinging motion to your student’s legs to help release tension in their lower back and outer legs (editor’s note: swinging motion not shown). With their feet in your hands, point your student’s toes toward each other to increase internal rotation in the thigh, then point their toes out, creating external rotation. After a few breath cycles, gently place their feet hip-width apart on their mat.

See alsoThe Philosophy of Touch: The Benefits and Risks of Hands-on Assists

3. Hands

corpse pose adjustment

This action will help release tension held in the shoulders and arms.

Standing to one side of your student, slide your hands underneath their wrists to cradle their hands. Lean away to draw their shoulders from their ears; inhale and release. Repeat twice more. As you place their hands back on their mat with the palms of their hands facing up, apply pressure to the middle of their palms to help them ground into relaxation.

See alsoWith Their Own Two Hands: Teach Self-Adjustments

4. Shoulders

corpse pose adjustment

Rub your palms together to warm your hands. Let your palms fall gently to the juncture between the deltoid (muscle covering the shoulder joint), collarbone, and pectoralis minor muscle (upper chest). As your student inhales, breathe in with them. As they exhale, apply a gentle pressure down. If their breath stays even and calm or deepens, those are cues that the pressure is increasing their relaxation in the pose. If their breath stops or holds, that is an indication that there is too much pressure and you should stop. Listen through your hands to the connection you are creating with your student.

See alsoPartner Up: Learn How to Make Skillful Adjustments

5. Head

corpse pose adjustment

Many people are not aware of how much emotional and physical tension they hold in their head, neck, and forehead. Releasing this tension through physical touch can open the door to deeper relaxation in Savasana and life. The following adjustments to this sensitive area are incredibly subtle, so be sure to share them only with students who know you, trust you, and have invited your assistance.

Mindfully place your fingertips just under the ridge of your student’s cranium (try palpating your own ridge first, if this is new for you). As you exhale, lean away, applying a tiny amount of pressure, which will draw the head away from the spine. As you inhale, release back to center. Repeat twice more if their face looks relaxed and breathing stays even. Slowly release your hands. Place your thumbs at the top of the forehead and your fingertips above the hairline; take a deep breath here. Draw your fingers away from each other along the forehead, then make circular motion at their temples with your thumbs (editor’s note: circular motion not shown). Finish by giving three mild tugs at the earlobe.

See alsoA-ha! Adjustments

Look for Deven at Wanderlust West Virginia, Vermont, Colorado, and at True Nature Yoga Festival in Mt. Hood Oregon this summer. Read more on her blog.

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