If you’ve been to more than a few yoga classes, chances are that you’ve been physically adjusted at one time or another. The teacher will come to your mat and use his or hands to modify (for example) your stance, or your foot placement, or the extension of your arm. In a perfect world, the teacher would ask for your permission first… both because it’s just good manners (hello, personal space), and also for issues of safety. But more on that later. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen. Out of the handful of times I’ve gotten adjusted, I was only asked once.
Every teacher is going to have his or her own personal stance on the issue, and while it’s not something I can recall ever making a conscious decision about, unless it’s requested I will not be doing any manual adjustments. Here are just a few reasons why:
1. Personal preference. I’m not a huge fan of having it done, so it would only stand to reason that I wouldn’t want to do it to someone else. With a couple of notable exceptions, the majority of times I’ve gotten adjusted it has broken my concentration, made me more self-conscious, and served more to interupt the “flow” of my practice than it did to actually help.
2. Verbal cues can be just as effective. The great thing about verbal instruction as opposed to manual manipulation is that the entire class can hear and benefit, without anybody feeling singled out. If I look out into the class and see that someone could use some clarification, simple reminders like, “Your back foot is turned to 90 degrees… shoulders are down and back… palms are facing the ceiling…” are usually all that are needed.
3. It can be dangerous. There’s often a very good reason someone’s in the position that they’re in. I have heard horror stories: overzealous teachers causing pain, soreness, or outright injury. My own personal story took place about 10 months ago. I was nursing (an as yet correctly diagnosed) shoulder injury, which I’d dutifully noted on my waiver when I signed into class. My range of motion on that side was fairly limited, but I was listening my body, paying attention to my pain level, and doing what I could. My arm was extended overhead at about half the rotation of where it “should” have been had I had a healthy shoulder… and before I knew what was happening, there were hands on my arm, gently – but quickly and forcibly – twisting, twisting, twisting. It hurt immediately, but not as much as it would hurt later that night. I don’t want to go as far as to say that that is what actually caused the surgery I would eventually need a couple of months later… but it surely couldn’t have helped.
If you’re not understanding something, and/or would like physical assistance in getting aligned so you can better feel what it is you’re aiming for, by all means! Ask, and I’d be happy to help. If you don’t need it: I’ll watch, I’ll guide, I’ll give verbal instructions… but unless you tell me otherwise, I’ll gladly keep my hands to myself.