We go to yoga for all kinds of reasons: to get fit, relax, de-stress, strengthen our muscles… We don’t necessarily go to have physical contact with anyone. But should we expect it?
Many yoga teachers across the country adjust their students, helping to correct alignment and deepen practice. This might be quite gentle, such as realigning your head with the spine in Relaxation or moving a hanging arm/hand back over the shoulder in Triangle pose. But sometimes, more force is applied, like pressing hips back and down in Child’s pose or guiding the sacrum upward in downward dog. It can feel nice and believably prevent injury.
Last week, articles came out in The Times and Daily Mail reporting that Pippa Middleton, sister of the Duchess of Cambridge has found a new and very “hands-on” London-based Yoga Teacher, Stewart Gilchrist. He has been described as the ‘Marmite of yoga’, since his unique approach is not welcomed by all. Full article here.
So, what is acceptable? Is it up to your yoga teacher to decide when to adjust? Or should you have more say? One idea suggested is having “consent cards” where you can simply place a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ card next to your mat, indicating whether or not you give permission to the teacher to touch. This way, people can feel safe and no-one has to compromise. But should you give the green light, where’s the limit? And at what point can you change your mind?
I probably have a less conventional approach in that I don’t adjust my students. Apart from the odd palms on shoulders to induce relaxation or a turning of a twisted wrist, I stay clear. Perhaps being the other extreme to Gilchrist! I rely on co-performance, verbal instructions and some demo to teach. And I do this, so my students can truly come into their bodies and space, and build strength and confidence from there. It’s intuitive for me NOT to touch, and so I pay particular attention to how I deliver verbal cues, keeping the class safe and comfortable.
My teaching style won’t suit everyone. And nor will Gilchrist’s. So, I guess I’m curious – how do you feel about hands-on adjustments? Do you want more, less or perhaps just on certain days? Leave a comment below, letting us know your opinion.