A couple of years ago, I wrote an e-book with accompanied with an audio c.d. called The Art of Adjustment. It’s basically a manual for yoga teachers, trainees and keen students. I’m sorry to say the book has languished on the Live Yoga Life site where it is for sale, possibly because I retired from teaching in Sydney not long after it was launched. Well, launched is a rather grand word for what happened. Appeared might better describe its debut. (Live Yoga Life website is rather cool anyway, so you might want to check it out for yoga-related products.) Adjusting students in yoga poses is such an important teaching technique, especially for those of us who are kinaesthetic learners, that I think we need to skill up wherever possible. So, today I’ll give you a little taste of what’s in the Art of Adjustment book. Guidelines for Adjusting Yoga Students 1. Working with a large class – If you have a large class, learn to move around the class quickly and efficiently so you can reach all the students you want to adjust. You don’t want students to stay in poses until they are about to perish from effort. Keep a kind of global awareness of the whole class even though you are adjusting individuals. 2. Permission to say ‘No’ –When you start out teaching a new class, let the group know that you will be making hands-on adjustments to their poses, and ask if they agree to that. Let them know it’s really fine if they say “no”. 3. Adjustments on both sides – Check that the adjustments you gave a student on one side have been replicated on the other side. 4. What to adjust first – Following your verbal instructions for a pose, adjust beginners first or those students who have not followed the verbal instructions for some reason. The most obvious misalignments need to be done first; fine tuning can be done later when the student is building on the foundations they’ve established. 5. Be gentle on yourself and make haste slowly – If you are a beginning teacher you may want to wait to do any adjustments until you know the student’s body and his capabilities – as well as your own capabilities! 6. Be flexible & responsive – Adjustments are not one-size-fits-all. It’s best not to make generic adjustments. Take into account the level of ability of the student, their anatomy, age, any medical conditions, and so forth. 7. Work with the student’s breath – Let the student hear your breath, and listen for theirs when you move into adjusting. You want to see that the student’s chest, abdomen and diaphragm move with their breathing. You’re in a dance together that allows you to use the wave of their breath to support your adjustment. 8. How long to adjust – How long you stay with the student you are adjusting depends partly on how receptive they are. If they seem stiff, resistant, or are holding their breath, it’s fine to pull back. Some students may prefer a yoga prop to help them adjust themselves, like using a block in one of the standing poses. Using props is a technique that works well for newcomers to yoga or for people who may be sensitive to touch. 9. Advanced students – Very experienced students appreciate your adjustments, too! When you adjust veteran yogis, you’ve made personal contact, and given them something to work on that will help them improve their pose. 11. Be postive – Before adjusting a student, first find something that’s working in the pose before judging what’s not working. You want to speak in an affirmative way whenever possible. In trikonasana, for instance, you might say, “I can see how you’ve improved your hip work, now try this adjustment for your neck and shoulders.” 12. Respect – The student trusts in your ability, so be safe, efficient, and respectful above all.
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