Magic Hands

Adjustments. They can be oh-so-good or so very wrong. The right adjustment given at the right time can open up a whole new world of actions, a new realm of sensation previously unexplored, and infuse the student with a burst of energy from depths unknown. The wrong adjustment can interrupt a good groove, scare the student away from yoga entirely, or even result in injury.

The administration of adjustments is a skill that I have enormous respect for: touching one sweaty body after another with genuine warmth and loving kindness can't be easy, not to mention the intuition and thorough knowledge of the human body needed to give them correctly. As a yoga teacher in training, my interest lies not only in the effects of the adjustments on my own practice, but in the technique and manner of the (usually) wordless interaction between teacher and student. This coming weekend in the teacher training program I am currently undertaking, we will have our first adjustment workshop.

The reason I bring this up is because I attended a class on Tuesday night in which I received some truly profound adjustments. It was a very full class, not a single spot left on the floor, so there was an extra instructor walking around giving adjustments. She gave me a lot of attention. I was visited on both sides in Warrior I, where she led me through a series of tucking the tailbone, then lifting the chest. Then tucking the tailbone some more and lifting the chest again. And again. And again, with every breath. I think my spine grew an extra two inches. The extra length was amazing, and the action in the core produced some serious heat. Then, in a twisted lunge, she told me to "squeeze the quad into the hamstring" of the back leg. I thought the leg was straight and strong before, but with this action, I came into a buoyancy and stability that allowed me to twist more deeply.

Those adjustments were great, but the most astounding was a very subtle adjustment I received in a forward folding one-legged pigeon. She placed the thumb of one hand in the hip crease of my front leg, and the other hand on my sacrum on the opposite side, if I remember correctly. The pressure of her hands was nearly nonexistent -- at first, I thought rather blandly, "well, this is nice...." Then, just a few seconds later, it dawned on me. "OH..." My hips melted. My chest sank into the floor. I still don't know how she did it, but it was the most blissful pigeon I've ever had. I thanked her as best I could after the class, and we spoke a bit about the action needed -- keeping the floating ribs tucked and the spine straight -- in my warriors and lunges.

She is a warm and generous teacher, and never once made me feel as though I were doing the poses incorrectly. Rather, she illuminated new paths within the asanas to remind me that there is always more work to be done. I feel privileged to be able to learn from her, and I'll keep asking about those awesome adjustments.


  1. Adjustments have always intimidated me as a new teacher... the teacher training I am in is full-on adjustment practice almost every weekend, and I love it! We adjust our teachers who use humor and bluntness to prepare us for the actual teaching environment. I already feel more confident in my classes, and hope I inspire people as you experienced!

  2. Hi Alice - The scariest part, for me, is generating the right sort of energy toward the students, infusing them with the right intention. The focus and presence required seems enormous. How does one learn a good "mat-side" manner?

  3. I just took over a studio space from a teacher who left. Which is great...but, she was a massage therapist as well and she did all of these super touchy massagey adjustments. Students LOVED that. I'm so not a touchy person. I'm more of a reach toward my hand etc person. They all seem so disappointed. Oh well.

  4. Babs - They may seem disappointed now, but I'm sure your new students will come to appreciate you for making them do the work.