The job of a yoga instructor is to serve the students. When the bottom line becomes the primary factor, this job is compromised. A Media group of yoga instructors, in Media, Pennsylvania, a beautiful suburb and popular yoga destination near Philadelphia, met to discuss connecting and healing. Nurturing ourselves, and nurturing each other, was offered into open forum. The question of the hour was whether or not teachers during yoga should be hands-on or not. This is a controversial topic that comes up often in yoga classes. Advanced teachers are less challenged and more intuitive about this type of thing. Generally, students who have been studying continously with advanced mentors for years, have learned that yoga is immensely nurturing, healing, and it works. The wise and intuitive teachers knows who to touch, how to touch that person, whether or not with pressure, or lightly, and she/he helps in aligning and balancing everybody. Inversions often need touching while lengthening the spine, and dropping the head and neck; also, inversions such as downward-facing dog, and other poses, call for a strong spine. Teachers adjust one’s body into perfect alignment when one is uncomfortable or unbalanced. There is controversy about the do’s and don’ts of physical contact; nonetheless, approach touching a student with the recognition and exploration of individual differences.
Hands-on experience assistance is an excellent aid while working with new participants and others. Most students crave learning through gentle touch, and they want to know about their body, Adjusting a student’s pose is a very important part of teaching; therefore, the Media, Pennsylvania group of yoga instructors was much more pro when using “touch.” Sometimes it is much easier to convey something through the hands, while teaching, rather than words. The right touch can be worth a thousand explanations.
Observe the effect. Some advanced instructors noted that, with private clients, touching and adaptation of an asana may be appropriate when beginning; however, as the years continue most students learn, know and use their body and mind properly and they don’t require any physical contact. Watch your own breath as a teacher, be mindful of your internal alignment, and pause and think. You’ll know whether or not placing your hands on someone is appropriate. Private clients do not usually have to be lifted and extended, as they are already grounded, if practicing with devotion, over one or two years. In groups and large classes it is easy for a teacher to walk around and get a feel for everyone, as they do a pose, and just a gentle touch of the spine can straighten a pose and deepen the posture.
As the hour came to a close, and the open forum proved to be exceptional and challenging, somebody asked whether or not asking a student for permission to align them with touch, or announcing touch through adjustment before class, was appropriate. It depends on the class, but in general, do not make any announcements that are strong; make a verbal cue. Approach a person simply, stay sensitive to the student without any permission, make eye contact and work to promote a sense of ease. Always avoid any erogenous zone in a man or a woman as you’ll always find another way to make an adjustment. Keep manual adjustments and fixing people challenging and open to change. Stay flexible with all students and guide each one with commitment. Touching during a yoga session can dispel the illusion of separateness; however, not touching, working with advanced private or group clients, and having fun and sensitivity filling in the voids during a heightened yoga practice, works really really well. Stay flexible with your clients, flow, and put forth your best teaching ability.