Yoga Adjustments: 5 Ways to Tell If You're in Good Hands

A good enough adjustment just doesn't cut for an awesome one.

As yoga teachers, our job is to verbally instruct, visually demonstrate and physically align our students. The ability to cultivate 2 of the 3 makes you a good teacher; the distance to make 3 out of 3 is what makes one frankly-unforgettable.

Something about the sensation of touch, personal attention & care, I feel taken care of every time I receive a great adjustment in my yoga class.

Since young, I have the passion for human bodies. It fascinates me on so many levels. Not surprisingly it took me on many paths that directly related to it-dancing, personal training, yoga and Thai massage. In addition my bachelor degree in Human Kinetics provided me the foundation in human anatomy and sports medicine. All in all, whether conscious or subconscious, I'm passionate about human bodies and what they can do.

Now that I'm a full-time yoga teacher, I can't help but fall straight in love with adjustment. I love the ability to visually identify what a student needs and help him/her into the correct alignment.  It's satisfying for both teacher and student.

For those who've had bad experiences with yoga adjustments, here are a few points I always go by:

1) Did your teacher respect your comfort zone?

That means the teacher should discontinue the adjustment as soon as you feel uncomfortable. (Voice up! Otherwise the teacher won't know.) Rather it be a physical discomfort or you simply want privacy and space. The choice is always yours. 

2) Did the teacher ask for feedback?
I always ask 'is this ok?', ' do you feel pain in the knee..shoulder..elbow..?' Without feedback, there is absolutely no way a teacher know if the students are going beyond their limits.

3) Did the teacher adjust in accordance to your breath?
Simply said, an adjustment on simple alignment can be done on an inhale/exhale. However, when the teacher is trying to intensify a posture (going deeper in forward bends or a backbends) it is always on an EXHALE.

4) Was the grip pain free?
The hands of the adjuster should be positioned so that no flesh is pinched and  bruises are made. I follow a 3-fingers adjustment, instead of the whole palm, only 3 fingers are applied. (Except for inversions and twists)

5) Lastly, did you feel safe?
Adjustment is very intimate. It is based on a trusting relationship between student and teacher. Teachers must have the understanding and knowledge on safety and proper alignment. Then the students can relax and try to progress in their practice.

Never for a heartbeat I'm downplaying yoga teachers who don't believe in adjustments. I respect that. For me, the ability to articulate to the students through touch helping them progress in their practices makes adjustment an art. When I  witness healthy postural changes, the wide smiles from the students and their outwardly gratitude, that makes adjustments to me- a passion.

This article is written by Annie Au. RYT 500, yoga teacher, vegan and traveller.