10,000 Vinyasas

Tag: adjustments in yoga

The Importance of Adjustments in Ashtanga Yoga

by on Jun.21, 2012, under teaching, Yoga, Yoga practice, Yoga Teachers

When I began my journey towards teaching yoga, the fastest and easiest way was to take a weekend teacher training course with YogaFit, a U.S. organization founded by Beth Shaw. Even at this early stage, I could perceive that this method of leaching out all the authenticity, homogenizing and dumbing down of yoga was unsatisfying to me as a budding Ashtanga practitioner. Indeed, I believe that one of the major reasons Ashtanga appeals to some people is its authenticity. At any rate, adjustments are not taught in YogaFit, or at least, not well (the rumor was that in California, you were forbidden by law to adjust students). Subsequently, however, I was fortunate enough to  attend a series of workshops on adjustments, taught by a senior Anusara instructor, and of course, I had the direct experience of my teacher’s adjustments on me. These experiences made me realize the importance of adjustments (the Anusara teacher called them “assists”) in teaching yoga in general.  I have recently been contemplating the deeper aspects of Ashtanga yoga in comparison to other styles, particularly Iyengar and its now discredited offshoot, Anusara, and the role of adjustments in poses.  In essence, adjustments in Ashtanga are an integral part of the practice and dovetail nicely with the theory of the idea that energy flow is more important than alignment in Ashtanga.  An example of this would be the pose Utittha Trikonasana, which in Ashtanga involves taking the forward hand to the foot and binding the big toe. To achieve this, students are encouraged to shorten their stance in order to lower the hand sufficiently. Over time, the student will open and be able to go more fully into the pose, but also, the teacher will adjust the student and encourage the body to feel the depth of the pose, thus contributing to the progress of going deeper. Viewed in this way, adjustments are vital to the practice of Ashtanga.  Indeed, most Ashtanga teacher training programs emphasize adjustments to a great degree (I think). When I think of the shallowness of the Yoga Fit training and the teachers who simply model poses in their classes, I appreciate the Ashtanga practice so much more.

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