The First Class is a series of posts that discuss what to bring, what to wear and what to expect when you go to class. While this is aimed mostly at newbies, this is certainly applicable for people looking for tips on how to improve their yoga experience.
If you’re pretty new to yoga and haven’t had a hands-on teacher before, adjustments might seem uncomfortable at first. I liken the experience to the first couple of times I ever got a body massage, and I couldn’t mentally or physically get beyond the tickle factor. But once I knew what to expect and what the massage therapist was trying to achieve, the squeamish tickle factor subsided.
I was a little startled when I first started practicing yoga and was not expecting to be touched. The occasional reminder to not scrunch up my shoulders or to flex my feet is one thing. These are more like form corrections. However, a teacher grabbing my hips while in downward dog and pulling with his or her weight to help me elongate my spine is a whole different level of touch.
Adjustments are meant to help you deepen and find the intended expression of a posture. While your teacher walks around the class, checking on everyone’s form, he or she is also taking note of your limitations and your bad habits. Since I’m a major back sloucher, I get a lot of adjustments to help remind me to pull shoulder blades onto my back, rotate the shoulders to open the chest, lengthen my spine, and rotate the thighs to open the hips. When I’m being kind of lazy with my practice, that prompts adjustments to help me lengthen and fold deeper.
There are also times when adjustments are restorative. For example, after some deep back bending, you might have a teacher help with the opposing forward fold by pressing your hips down at the base of your spine with one hand as the other hand runs along your back toward your neck to “de-crunch” the vertebrae. <– Technical term.
As always, if you feel any pain or extreme discomfort (like you seriously don’t want anyone touching you at all), then politely say something to your teacher. And despite how the movies might portray yoga teachers, most aren’t creepers trying to be inappropriate with you, a la Couples Retreat.
Adjustments can help you take your yoga practice to the next level or help you finally understand the physical structure of a posture you’ve been struggling with. Other times, they feel really good and are a lot like what you’d get in a Thai yoga massage. Even if you’re new to the practice and new to teachers who offer adjustments, I’d say give it a chance. You might be surprised what your body can do with a little help from a teacher.