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.