Don’t Be So Touchy

I didn’t grow up in a touchy feely home. I don’t remember us being big huggers or anything. Not that it was a cold house—we just weren’t an overly affectionate family. Needless to say, I’m not one of those girls who hugs my girlfriends every time I see them. I’m not even overly huggy-snuggly with my husband (much to his dismay). It’s not that I don’t love these people in my life fiercely—I just like to give people their space.

Maybe it’s because I generally like my own space.

Fast-forward to my yoga teacher training program and having to do hand-on adjustments.

Now that I understand the purpose of adjustments, I love, love, love them. But when I first started doing yoga I thought I was doing everything wrong. Teachers would consistently adjust my downward facing dogs. They’d nudge my shoulders down in Warrior 1 or adjust my pelvis and hips in Warrior 2. Once I realized those adjustments made the pose feel better in my body or helped me find more length or depth in the poses, I couldn’t get enough of them. Now when I’m taking class I try to mind-melt with the teacher to draw her over to me to adjust my hips in child’s pose or even give me a gentle adjustment in savasana.

For some reason, though, I am not comfortable with giving adjustments yet.

Adjustments are very intimate—not in a sexual way (at least they shouldn’t be), but in a “You’re totally in my space” kind of way. Not only are you physically close to a student but ideally you should try to connect your breath to theirs. I suppose because I’m very aware of my own space and who’s in it, I’m conscious of the students’ space and try not to encroach on it. Yoga is vulnerable enough as it is without having someone all up in your business. When I can, I give verbal cues for alignment, but there are times where physically directing a student into the correct alignment is the only way to adjust them.

My feedback is consistently that I’m too gentle. I also give drive-by adjustments—I get in and out quickly—which is okay to a point. You don’t want to linger because that’s kind of creepy, but you do want to make sure you’re placing your hands with purpose so they understand what you’re doing and why.

It’s been hard for me, though, and I realize the issues are mine to get over. It hasn’t helped that I jumped right into assisting an advanced class—one full of students who absolutely adore my teacher. I feel like they aren’t satisfied until she gives them her adjustments. Also my issue to get over.

I’ve been hesitant to adjust and it has frustrated the hell out of my teacher. And me. On Monday when my mentor group met we all went over adjustments again. I worked one-on-one with my teacher for nearly an hour as she adjusted me first then had me adjust her over and over again. She was very direct with me and kept pushing me to give very clear adjustments with intention. I have to admit the whole thing shoved me out of my comfort zone, but I do feel like I’m getting better.

We’re at the part of the program where we have to switch classes—I’m going to move from an advanced class to a beginner class and I think it’s going to be a great experience. It will give me time to work with bodies that may just be discovering yoga. I can step back and rework the basics, with myself and with the students.

Hopefully, I’ll get the hang of this some day.







  1. says

    Your program sounds great – very intense and practical. How wonderful for you. I wouldnt worry about the adjustments – like everything else about you as a teacher, that will come with time and grow with your confidence. As a side note, I’m not even sure whether teachers should give adjustments. Two of the best teachers I know never touched a student, for several reasons including the one you mention about each persons own sense of personal space and intimacy. But each method is different and adjustments, given by a well trained and gentle teacher, can be helpful.

    • says

      I just read an article (I can’t remember where) that said teachers probably shouldn’t even consider adjusting students unless they’ve been teaching at least 5 years. I actually think that’s not a bad idea. Unless you’re very skilled at it, it is possible to hurt someone. I think that’s why I’m so nervous—I take that seriously. I’d rather try to give verbal adjustments whenever possible, but students generally hear about every 3rd or 5th word and tend to miss those cues.

  2. says

    I’m not a touchy feely kind of person either and I always thought I was weird. Then I read Tina Fey’s book “Bossypants” and realized I’m not weird. I’m German. Good to know!

    Keep practicing giving adjustments – you will do great!

  3. Mary says

    I never mind when the teacher gives me an adjustment in class. I always took it to mean they wanted me to do better – in a nurturing way. I’ve never thought they were all up in my space at all. IDK. Maybe I’m just odd.

    • says

      I love them—especially a really good downward dog adjustment. They feel amazing. There are some, though, where the instructor really gets up against the student (half moon is one that comes to mind) to provide stability while helping open the chest. I’m hesitant to do those because I don’t want to throw someone off balance. Maybe once I’m less nervous in general I’ll feel more comfortable because I’ll feel more grounded.

  4. says

    Oh I looooove getting adjusted in class…& if I’m totally honest, the teacher I love getting adjustments from, although a wee bit of a thing, gets right on in there & I KNOW I’m being adjusted….she is awesome…

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