Adjustments can be an extremely effective part of the way a yoga teacher communicates with their students. Adjustments can be soft, energetic, enabling and supportive. They should feel GOOD. If an adjustment feels painful or horrible – then something is going very wrong. Here are my suggestions for ensuring your adjustments are safe and effective and compassionate.
I remember as a kid, helping my slightly OCD mom ready our bedsheets to be folded. We would each grab two corners and pull our ends taut, in our efforts to eliminate all the wrinkles and crinkles we could before we began. I kind of think of backbends a little like this lately … as I reach in opposite directions, smoothing out my own bumps and bends, creating the clean length and lines my OCD mom could be proud of. But sometimes it’s confusing. After all, most of us learned to drop back and stand up in a backbend by bending our knees forward to counter our weight as we go back.
The arm balances of third series really take all I have in terms of upper body strength – and all I have is often, still not enough. Jen René asked her teacher, Tim Miller, for advice last week.”Use your head,” he told her. When she relayed his message, I giggled at the irony of a teacher finally telling me to use my head instead of get out of it!
Giving adjustments is the main thing I love about teaching. It’s amazing how so much communication can take place in relative silence. I see adjustments as a way to help and support people during their yoga practice. I see adjustments as a dialogue, with my hands and intention I ask the student ‘do you want to go this way?’.
Back bending with ease and grace requires that the Hip flexors (front of the hips), shoulders, and the whole of the front of the body are flexible and strong. Yin yoga is a way of opening the body with passive stretches held for a prolonged period of time. If practiced correctly it is a very sure and safe way to work on increased flexibility.
Padmasana or Lotus can be one of the most challenging and frustrating poses for a yoga practitioner. The ankles, knees and hip joints all have to be mobile and the muscles in the legs and the hip girdle have to be flexible. It is all too common for the knee to be injured trying to put the body in lotus before it is ready, so first a word of caution: take your time. There is no rush and it really doesn’t matter if you never ‘get’ Padmasana.
If there’s a holy grail in the Ashtanga yoga practice, it must a long central axis (or spine, for reference) and rooted pelvis, for within the two lie the keys to heaven – or as we say, bandhas. And so it seems logical we do all we can to protect and keep these lines sacred. The primary series offers us the perfect place to practice this alignment with shapes that logically lead us towards that promised land.
I don’t know if you know this about Ashtanga – but backbends are a pretty big damn deal. When I started, no one cared that I could stand on my hands. No one wanted to see me float or jump or balance on my arms. No, they wanted to see my backbend.
Only, I didn’t have a backbend. I had more of a coffee table.