To Adjust or Not To Adjust?

Christie Pitko
To Adjust or Not To Adjust?

As a yoga teacher and forever yoga student, I’ve received incredible adjustments that led me to “a-ha” moments of bliss. There have also been times when the touch from the instructor was too soft, too deep, or even unnecessary.

Some teachers feel you should not touch students, while others believe physical adjustments can expand the student’s yoga practice. Whichever side of the fence you are on, however, here are five basic guidelines for adjusting during class.

1. Why adjust?

Beginner students may need to be adjusted to correct their alignment and avoid injury. Students with more yoga experience may be adjusted to deepen their experience of the asana.

Because each student is uniquely arriving into their bodies and their practice, assessing why you are going to adjust students during your yoga class is usually a good idea.

2. Permission is the golden rule

I always ask students if they are comfortable with touch. A great trick is to ask in the beginning of class during Balasana (child’s pose) if they are comfortable with touch.

Have students raise a hand, while still in child’s pose, if they do not wish to be adjusted. This helps beginners feel relaxed, since no one but the teacher can see who has or hasn’t raised their hands.

3. Commitment and knowledge

Light touching can feel awkward, unsure, and even a little inappropriate. The student can lose confidence in themselves and the instructor. Always be intuitive, decisive, and firm. Stay fully present. If you don’t know how to adjust a certain pose, don’t do it!

4. ABC: Always be communicating

It is helpful to ask how your students are feeling as you guide them into transition. Watch how the student reacts to and breathes during the adjustment. You will be able to tell through physical cues from the student what kind of experience they are having.

5. Stay current

As educators, we must always be learning how to do what we do even better. Enroll in an adjustment workshop or advanced teacher training. Pay close attention to how your favorite teacher adjusts you in class. Practice adjustments with fellow instructors to receive feedback.

Adjustments can be transformative

Adjustments during a yoga class can encourage a new connection between yoga and student, as well as between student and teacher. When done properly, adjustments can guide the student to their highest expression of the pose.

As instructors, we have a responsibility to appreciate where the students are in their practice when we decide to use touch. Students and teachers, what do you think? Yes or no to adjustments during yoga class?