To touch, or not to touch…

To touch, or not to touch… There are good reasons for both.
Physical assisting in
yoga class is a nonverbal communication between teacher and student. Touch can be firm and corrective. It can be subtle and confirming…
Assist feature
Some reasons to touch students include:
  • Correct alignment.
  • Take someone further than they could go alone.
  • Fine-tune a great posture.
  • Direct energy.
  • Release a tight shoulder or low back.
  • Remind students to drop their shoulders, lift their head, etc.
  • Stabilize.
  • Balance.
  • Emotional/psychological support.
Never force touch on a student who has a “back-off” vibe & it’s a good idea to avoid students who love the assist too much. We’re not there to create dependency.
  • Do not abandon the group when working with an individual.
  • It’s not nice to point out the tight or new people to the group.
  • Be sure you are clean when touching and adjusting, and clean yourself up after class too. In a hot sweaty class, use a towel as a barrier between you and the student.
  • Use your hands, elbows, arms, and feet, sometimes even your head, when adjusting. But don’t poke at people, or stroke them, or pat them.
  • Keep adjustments symmetrical, working on both the right and left sides.
  • Ask students permission before adjusting, and check in with them after if you’re not sure how it went.
  • When assisting students who are working with injury, please be gentle and sensitive. Props are awesome, and showing someone how to work with props might be a better communication than scaring them with a physical adjustment.
  • Another important thing to know, it is the adjuster who generally gets injured in these scenarios. Be grounded and stable in your connection to the earth before assisting. Adjust from the foundation up, so whatever body part touches the earth, that’s where to begin.
  • When assisting, tune into the students breathing, sync up when possible, and move with the breath, especially with deeper adjustments.
  • Before trying new adjustments on your class, practice first on friends and other teachers. I practiced a partner pose with a friend and student on Maui, and he pulled my back out with an aggressive assist. Luckily it happened to me when we were on our own, and not to one of the students in a class. Yoga put me back together in a few weeks, and the experience gave me lots of valuable information on communicating in partner work.
  • Important! There is inappropriate touch. No one wants to be creeped out in a yoga class. This included lingering touch, petting or stroking.
  • Our intentions are important. When touching, know what you want to communicate.
  • When being adjusted, please communicate & it’s okay to say no thanks.

Courtesy of Devi Wears Prana by Michelle Myhre ERYT 500 Silicon Valley Yoga Instructor

Check out the Assisting workshop at The Hot Box Yoga September 1st 2013 with Hali and Kevin McQuillan from Real Evolution Yoga. $40 per person. Purchase on-line here! Limited spots available.

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