Many yoga teachers tell me that they don’t feel comfortable touching their students. A lack of confidence and a lack of understanding about touch can lead to teachers shying away from offering adjustments that could help to deepen their student’s practice.
Still, well-performed adjustments are incredibly beneficial. To help you deepen your skills of adjusting a student in class, here are some of my top tips for making mindful adjustments as a yoga teacher.
1. Always check in with your students each time they come to class.
It’s best not to assume that just because someone has practiced with you for a while, they’ll also be open to your touch in every class. Check in with them and ensure they are willing to receive adjustments.
2. Have intention behind your touch.
When you adjust a student, have a specific goal in mind. What are you trying to help the student accomplish with your touch? Are you taking them deeper into a pose? Helping them refine their alignment? Are you creating awareness of a certain area of the body?
Think about this intention and let it help guide you through your adjustments.
3. Remember that there are different kinds of touch.
Too light of a touch can feel creepy, while too firm of touch can feel like you’re forcing the student and potentially moving them beyond their capability. Find a level of touch that is informative and guides your student but without feeling pushy or aggressive.
Find some willing guinea pigs and practice adjusting them while getting feedback on how the touch feels and directs them in the poses.
4. Adjustments should never be forceful.
The intention of an adjustment is to help and provide information. It isn’t our job as teachers to force students into placement and alignment that their body is unwilling to do on its own. Listen to your students’ feedback as you adjust them.
Let them know that it’s ok to tell you when they have reached their edge.
5. Avoid touching students in places that feel awkward or inappropriate.
This seems like it should not need to be said, but I am often surprised by adjustments I see being done in classes. Stay away from the front of the neck, the armpits, the groin, the glutes and strong touch on any of the joints.
6. Don't make too many adjustments to one student during a group class.
This can make them feel they’re doing things incorrectly and they might become self-conscious. I try to circulate around the room and adjust evenly across the students present.
These tips can help you more confidently adjust your students and help them move more deeply into their practice. You might find it helps build loyalty with your student base as well, since many students appreciate a well-executed adjustment.