How to Feel the Love in a Yoga Adjustment
Dear Aunt Yoga,
So I went to this yoga class and made it all the way through, and at the end I'm lying on my mat in savasana with my eyes closed and the teacher walks by and leans down and puts her hands on my shoulders and presses them down into the mat.
And now I'm thinking- I got an adjustment in savasana. Apparently I can't even lie on the floor right.
Is it possible to lie on the floor incorrectly?
Gravitationally Challenged (and never going back to that class)
Dear Gravi C.,
I’m sure that you were lying on the floor quite masterfully, enjoying your well-deserved final relaxation. So why did your teacher touch you?
In yoga classes, your teacher may touch you with different intentions. An adjustment, as you’ve alluded, can be considered a kind of correction. It can be a light touch, used to communicate that you should try to bend your knee a little deeper here, ground into your foot there, open your hip in this pose but not in that one. Though the idea of a correction may seem judgmental, in most cases it’s really just another tool for teachers to help you practice safely. Sometimes, as a teacher, you’ve demonstrated the pose, you’ve given precise verbal directions for how to do it and then you look around the room and realize that your message isn’t getting through. Some people also need the physical sensation of a manual adjustment. This can get into a tricky area pretty quickly, as some students have a strong aversion to being touched at all while others may have an injury or other reason for doing the pose a different way. Communication is key. You don’t have to accept an adjustment from your teacher if it hurts you or it feels invasive. More and more teachers are asking at the beginning of class if anyone wants to opt out of adjustments or has an injury. It’s important to speak up if asked or volunteer this information if you feel especially strongly about it.
But, lest I digress too far, the type of touch that you received in savasana is not what I would called an adjustment, Instead, it falls under the other type of touch you may get in class: an assist. An assist brings you deeper into a position to help you go further than you can on your own or, depending the pose, because it feels really good. The later would include things like pressure on your hips in child's pose or pulling back on your hips in downward facing dog just because it generally feels amazing. It’s not about correction, it’s about pleasure and comes from a caring place of connection.
Some teachers have a whole routine they go through with each student as he or she lies in savasana. This may include pressing on the shoulders, lifting the feet to stretch your legs, lifting the head to stretch your neck and massaging the brow or hairline. You may not enjoy these touches and that’s ok. It’s a perfectly valid reason to find another class, since the synergetic relationship between you and your teacher is key to your ongoing practice. However, I'd bet my bottom dollar that this teacher's touch was not intended as criticism but was about sharing the love.