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Teaching Yoga

Help Students Go Deeper: 5 Yoga Hands-On Assists

Hands-on assists can be an incredibly potent tool for helping yoga students find better alignment, relaxation, stability, and extension. Learn five from AcroYoga teacher Deven Sisler.

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“For students of yoga, receiving a great hands-on assist can communicate more clearly than words,” Sisler says. “Hands-on assists are an opportunity to help students gain deeper access to a pose, even if they are not doing anything ‘wrong.'” Here are 5 poses where hands-on assists can be beneficial, and how they help, according to Sisler. Teachers: Remember to ask for consent, as touch can be very intimate and may be unwelcome by some of your students.

See also The Keys to Confident Teaching

Mountain Pose (Tadasana)

Deven Sisler offering a hands-on assist for Mountain Pose.

This adjustment supports students in rooting down to rise up in Tadasana and other standing poses.

Place the palm of your hand over the top of their foot in Tadasana. Keep the hand soft and receptive as you press down. The additional pressure can help your students ground into the full capacity of their own structure and find better alignment through this standing posture. This technique is very simple and can be utilized for most standing poses.

See also Your Go-To Grounding Pose For Fall: Tadasana

Warrior III (Virabradrasana III)

Deven Sisler offering a hands-on assist for Warrior III.

This assist will help your students find stability and extension in Virabhadrasana III.

In Virabhadrasana III, gently approach and ask if you can give extra support. If the student agrees, connect your outer hip with the outer hip of their standing leg lightly. Then place one finger on the heel of their extended leg to give proprioceptive awareness of where their foot is in space and to help your student find more extension.

See also The Art of Inside-Out Hands-On Adjustments

Forearm Balance (Pincha Mayurasana)

Deven Sisler offering a hands-on assist for Forearmstand.

This assists helps the student connect with the foundation of the pose for more control upside down.

Ask your student to kick up with control into their Forearm Balance. Stand at their back body and delicately place your feet on their hands and wrists. This will help your student directly connect with the large surface area that they have to balance on and allow them to gain much more control upside down. Your hands can support their hips, or you can place a fist in between their calves. This will help them activate the larger leg muscles, squeeze to center, and lift higher. Guide them to say “down” when they are ready to come out of the pose and make sure your hands are on their hips as they bring their feet to the ground with control.

See also Partner Up: Learn How to Make Skillful Adjustments

Child’s Pose (Balasana)

Deven Sisler offering a hands-on assist for Child's Pose.

This assist can help the hip flexors and quads release and the lower back relax.

Check that your student has healthy, comfortable knees and ankles in Child’s Pose before you apply any pressure. Take one palm to the top of your student’s thigh. Alternatively, apply pressure with one palm and then the other (on the other thigh), lumbering slowly toward the knees. Due to the intricate nature of the knee, apply less pressure as you approach the knee, while you can apply the most toward the hip juncture.

See also To Touch or Not to Touch

Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana, variation)

Deven Sisler offering a hands-on assist for Pigeon Pose.

Instead of focusing on alignment, this assist helps students fully relax into the pose.

Place the heels of your hands together on the top of the student’s bent thigh and rock a little of your weight into your hands. Walk the hands down a few inches and then repeat two to three times. Ask, “Does this feel OK?” before you repeat.

See also With Their Own Two Hands: Teach Self-Adjustments

See also So You Graduated Yoga Teacher Training—Now What?