As a teacher, I can’t not look around at people in a yoga class, even if I’m participating instead of teaching. I worry about the front knee of the woman in Warrior II next to me, I love that the dude in front of me is spreading his toes. As much as I try to keep my eyes on my own mat, I slip up constantly.
One of the things I love spotting, though, are people’s hands on their own bodies. Wiggling the flesh out from under their sit bones in a seated forward fold, spinning their thighs inward in a wide-legged pose. I get happy, because these people are know their bodies and their practice, and they take ownership of both.
Did I mention I’m a huge self-adjuster? Surprise, right? This isn’t to say that I don’t enjoy teacher adjustments. If I could have someone stand next to me during my practice and give me some good, deep adjustments in each pose, I would sign up for that so hard.
But never underestimate the power doing it yourself. Sometimes I keep my hands on my hips the entire duration of the pose, just seeing what they’re up to in Warrior I, taking my arms completely out of the equation. Wowza.
Self-adjustments are rarely cued. And if Simon didn’t say, than there’s no way anyone’s feeling where their pelvis is in this twist.
But they are so important, not only for teachers to cue, but for you to use in your own practice.
When you get curious in a pose and examine your body with your own hands, you have a better idea of what is where. If you’re externally rotating or internally. If you’re pelvis is tilted forward or back. If your sacrum is level. And what the hell is that leg even doing back there in Half Moon, anyway?
By placing your hands on your body, you suddenly become aware of what your body is doing, and what it feels like when it’s doing it.
Here are a few of my favorite self-adjustments:
Bring your top and to your top side body. Feel your low ribs–are they sticking out? Knit them back in, and feel your obliques firm under your fingertips. Then reach to your bottom side body–is it curved downward and collapsed? Lengthen both sides of your torso equally by bringing more height under your bottom hand with a block or bringing it higher up on the shin. Maybe even the thigh. Anything but the knee.
Bring your top hand to your lifted thigh and make sure the leg isn’t sagging down or tilted up, too far forward or swaying back–The leg should be extending straight from the hip.
Some teachers will cue looking down the body to check the leg position, but I totally fall out of the pose every time I attempt this.
Any kind of twist
I’ve totally given up extending my arms in some twist because I’m so fascinated at what my pelvis does (#shityogateacherssay). In twists, the pelvis usually wants in on the action too.
Try it: if you’re twisting toward the right in a simple seated position, the left hip will shift forward. If you pull the left hip back in space, neutralizing the pelvis, the twist moves up the spine. It may not look as deep–you may even come out of the twist a bit–but it offers a deeper variation.
For example: In twisted triangle where I’m revolving toward the left, I put my left hand on my sacrum. Usually the right hip wants to drop, so I actively lift my right hip away from the earth, feeling my sacrum level out.
In this pose especially, the arm can become a distraction. Those “as long as my hand is up, I’m doing it right” thoughts begin to surface. Just leave it on the sacrum, or the hip.
Is your arm up? No. Are you still doing the pose? Absolutely.
Use your touch lovingly. With everyone, but especially yourself. Touch yourself like your body is the most amazing thing you’ve seen today. Like you’re precious, like a lover. Because you are.
A Note for Teachers
So why cue self-adjustments, especially when you’re there to give them The Best Adjustment Ever?
- Some people don’t want an adjustment from you, or anyone, right now.
- Self-adjustments give your students permission to touch their own bodies. And people need to feel comfortable touching themselves–it leads to being comfortable with their own bodies.
- It gives students ownership of the pose. They have the comparison of the habitual way they get into the pose, and once they self-adjust, they feel the effective alignment of the pose. Now they can replicate that at home when an adjuster isn’t with them.
- Self-adjusting empowers the entire practice.
What are your thoughts about self-adjustments?