In the space of just a few weeks I’ve felt as a yoga teacher a few students have put me in an awkward position & I don’t mean Utkatasana. I teach Bikram Yoga (yes the hot sweaty one) which is a dialogue lead class. That means the teacher guides the class verbally a bit like a GPS. Everything you need to know is in the words. If you listen carefully & allow your body to respond to the words you’ll do just fine. One of the differences in the Bikram sequence, apart from the heat & the dialogue, this style does not encourage props or hands on adjustments from the teacher.
At Teacher Training it is made very clear that teachers should not touch a student in any way or form to conduct a correction. I am 100% comfortable with this rule & the theory behind it.
If I decide to give a helping hand to assist a student in a posture for alignment reasons a number of repercussions could occur.
- The student may not have given me consent to touch them & therefore I may well offend them by doing so.
- My well-meaning adjustment may actually cause the student injury or pain, as their body might not be ready for that correction.
- If I hurt a student they might take action against me & as outlined in my certification that there will be no touching of students I’m in big trouble.
Therefore it’s super awkward when in the middle of class a student grabs my attention and asks for ‘a hand.’ Okay, they are asking & giving me permission to touch them but as I said above if their body is not ready to go further into that posture I still might hurt them. In response I just smile, shake my head & carry on teaching. After class I explain to the student why I will not give them a physical correction.
It’s happening more often of late I’m being asked to assist in this way. Unless it’s one of those wave trends that’s passing through. Students see a teacher doing hands on corrections so they wish to have one too. No one wants to miss out on some special attention! I’d just like to highlight here that I personally would like to adhere to the rules & not give hands on corrections. If my colleagues wish too then that’s their business. I will verbally guide you or I will personally demonstrate the posture for sure but I won’t help you physically. Please do not put me in an awkward position and ask me to do so.
Looking at this from an energy point of view. If I go to a student for a personal hands on correction then that will command my entire attention. It will take the energy away from the other students as I’m focusing close up on just one. If I give a personal ‘verbal’ correction everyone benefits as they share by listening too.
The favourite postures I find that students request some help in is floor bow (Dhanurasana) & half tortoise (Ardha-Kurmasana). It seems no big deal to just help a student’s hand find their foot behind them in bow right? I feel it’s a huge deal. Please don’t get me started on the use of hooking a towel round the feet either ;-). The use of props has their place but not in the yoga I teach.
If a students body is not flexible enough yet to get the grip then that is the way it is. If their hips aren’t touching their heels in half-tortoise I will not push them down there, even when requested too.
The moment I touch a student I have taken their yoga away from them. They did not achieve the foot grab or hips on heels by themselves. I’ve taken away their responsibility to keep trying, to keep struggling & most importantly try the right way. Wouldn’t it be much more of a greater achievement to reach, struggle & sweat for that grip over twelve months (or more/less) all by themselves? Then when they finally grab their foot ‘they’ did it for themselves.
Their body changed, loosened up & became able in the time frame it took because that is the path of yoga. The self-discovery. The greatest achievement one can have by figuring it out for one’s self. It takes determination, faith, patience, self-control & concentration.
Looking at this from the opposite standpoint would be by physically helping a student enables them to feel what the posture should be like. They know what the right way is & have something to aim for. Sure but they will eventually get where they need to go & have a bigger light bulb moment when it happens for the first time through self-discovery.
Studios run private lessons or posture clinics to create a safe, organised place so students can get personal corrections. If you have time ask after class too for assistance if you are seeking it. Keep listening to the instructions and trying the right way you’ll get it.
It’s amazing for me to watch the student’s journey. I get so much out of seeing them do it for themselves. One regular student I’ve taught for two years now has just managed to wrap their elbows in Eagle. The hands aren’t quite together or fingers interlaced but with patience, time & encouragement they are getting there. Slowly but surely.
I hope this has resonated with some of you out there. Just keep trying the right way. I’m there with you holding the door wide open for your journey of self-discovery. You have to step through it though for yourself, when you & your body are ready.
Love K xx