Appropriate Touch

Adjustments in Yoga can be the difference between years of confusion in a body part and complete illumination about the function of the body within moments. Touch can generate sensations of safety, trigger emotions and steady the participant to experience other aspects of the pose. It has always been part of my practice. Since I started Yoga many years ago, I was working with Acro Yoga and was told, “Oh, we do this thing called Leg Love at the end, it is really nice,” and since then have integrated massage and bodywork into my practice and work.

I feel that Yoga teachers who integrate hands-on adjustments into their work should practice with it regularly and use techniques they are familiar with when possible. It can transform the experience of the student massively as well as serve as some quiet time from talking non-stop(guilty here!). It is important to be clear with what is happening during the actual adjustment and explain what you are looking to do so that there is a synergistic relationship rather than being the student being manhandled into position or sat on. In my Ashtanga training, all the adjustment workshops were based around a get-them-in-the-pose philosophy, some of these adjustments really injured me and were not based around therapy. I realise this isn’t always the case, but it sure felt that way and seems that way from workshops I have attended.


Today I attended a workshop exploring the psoas muscle. After a lot of introduction about the muscle, in general, it was explained about the emotional charge of the area and that touching the pelvis was something to seek permission for (I agree on that, for sure). I wasn’t prepared when the same instructor came up to me laying supine on the floor, nudged the partner I was working with out of the way (who I was just starting to trust, the emotion of the psoas) and rammed her fingers and hands into my guts to make a teaching point. She negated my personal space to make a teaching point, sacrificed my privacy and trust and earned a swear aloud. I wanted to leave the room and was triggered and shut down. It sounds like I am really moaning, but the instructor didn’t take her own advice in a workshop about a vulnerable area. Had she moved in close to me, and even matched her breathing to mine, the animal part of me would have gotten acclimatised to her scent. Had she set gentle hands on me and engaged with me on a personal level, the wounded child wouldn’t have been thrown up first. Had she made the touch something for us both to engage in rather than a public spectacle and then shared it, I believe the teaching moment would have been stronger for her and for me.

So, to you teachers that use adjustments. I so appreciate your willingness to engage and to be there in that way for your students every day. Respect needs to be a part of that practice and engaging with the student on their level, something that the Forrest Yoga training is so great for. If you are looking for more experience of adjustments, attend a local Forrest Yoga class or do a FY Adjustment course.

© 2019 Finlay Wilson
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