Thursday, May 29, 2008

Savasana and Injuries

When we have injuries or even really tight areas in our body, we feel differently in them, we don’t allow the energy to flow through them effortlessly either from years of holding or habit.

When our students have an injured place in their body, especially if they have had it for some time, they hold their body in an imbalanced way as a result. An easy and very powerful way you can begin to affect their injury is to have them envision balance in Savasana (Ending Relaxation Pose). Have them imagine their sides as feeling equal. Have them imagine their breath flowing equally through both sides as well.

You can also guide them to begin the process of no longer seeing the injured side as the “bad” or “injured” side. The more they can see the sides as equal, the faster a healing can occur.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Assisting Part III: The Conscious Adjuster

In Part I, I discussed the benefits of adjusting. In Part II, the disadvantages. So what is the balance? It is what I call the “Conscious Adjuster”. In conscious adjusting, we don’t just mindlessly walk around the class adjusting every student as we teach. We take a moment (and it only takes a moment the better you get at it) and assess whether the adjustment is necessary and whether it will truly help the student understand the point you are teaching. We don’t adjust for something we aren’t teaching, even if it might be useful. There is nothing more confusing for a student than adjusting the arms when you have been focusing on the feet all night.

The conscious adjuster also uses all three adjusting techniques (voice, light touch, and physical manipulation) with more emphasis on voice and light touch. Voice is telling the student what you want to see and is the best adjustment technique. It takes a great teacher to be able to use their voice that well. Voice is best because the adjustment is then entirely the student’s. She made the movement in her own body and has a better opportunity to be able to replicate it.

Light touch is another good adjustment technique. In light touch, you use one or two fingers, at most a flat palm. Light touch is good because it will bring attention for the student where you want her attention without adding too much of your own energy. A light touch often wakes up the brain to be able to identify the correct muscle to engage to create the movement so the action is almost entirely the student’s.

Last, but certainly not least, is physical manipulation, when you, the teacher, actually move your student into the position she needs. Although this technique may be all yours, it can get a student out of stuck consciousness place (See Part I) so it is definitely useful sometimes.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Assisting Part II: Not All It’s Cracked Up To Be

In my last post, I discussed the benefits of adjusting. So, here is the downside of adjusting: the change is yours and not your student’s. What I mean is, when you make an adjustment, it is something you have done to the student, the student has not done it for herself. Then often times the student cannot replicate what you did. The newer your student is to yoga, the truer this idea is. I once had a beginning student who, after straightening her arm, said she could not feel a difference in her pose! Many to most beginners just don’t have a strong enough connection to their bodies to feel the benefits of our changes. Even advanced students often struggle with replicating an adjustment once they are home on their own mats. It is often better for a student to figure it out, sometimes over years, by herself. (I have a few corrections that I still remember, for whatever reason, that I finally “get” years later!)

So, what’s the answer? Stay tuned for Part III.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Assisting Part I: What’s the Point?

Assisting refers to whenever we suggest an adjustment, by words, touch or physical manipulation. Of course we tend to view an adjustment merely in terms of physical manipulation, but whenever we suggest to a student to change their position with words or a light touch, we are also adjusting them. Over the years I have heard many arguments for and against adjusting students (especially with physical manipulation) so over a few different posts, I am going to explore a few sides to assisting.

Remember that the point of yoga is to shift our consciousness; to evolve. In yoga we do it through our bodies. We take our bodies to new places that then takes our consciousness to new places. Who among us has never experienced being stuck? We all get stuck in our illusions and that stuck consciousness shows up in our body as doing the same thing with our body over and over. Often we are sure we are doing what our teacher is asking of us, only to be shocked when she comes over and manually adjusts us into the correct position. And surprised when we realize we can’t yet replicate the adjustment without outside assistance. (How many times have you adjusted student, again and again and again, for the same pose! My rule of thumb is three adjustments and then I let it go. I realize that they aren’t ready for what that position has to teach them and their body is resisting the change.)

My main support of adjusting is because it can get our students out of their ruts; to wake them up and take them where they haven’t been before.

Stay tuned to find out what my hesitations are for adjusting!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Paschimottanasana: Part III

In the final installation of this series, we look at aligning energetically in Paschimottanasana. Aligning energetically begins with being precise in your physical alignment, fully engaging the body and, well, getting the bones aligned well. Once you are there, you can feel your energy more fully.

Once you have found the alignment and physical work I discussed in Part III, have a yoga partner aid you in these variations to help you tap into the energetic support of the pose. These variations are for the full engagement of the legs in Dandasana that will then take you into a well-supported full pose.

The first variation is subtler than the second one. Begin here and if you don’t feel anything, move to the second one.

Have a partner sit squarely to you at your feet. It is important that your partner be square to you when you are adjusting, especially when you are working on the energetic level. Once you have found your strong Dandasana pose, have your partner take her index fingers and lightly touch your heals. Can you feel your legs engage on a deeper level?

If not, here is your second variation. Have your partner place her hands on lightly on your ankles. If you still don’t feel anything, have her press harder. See if you begin to extend your legs from a level deeper than the physical.