3 Tips for Advanced Adjustments

One of the most powerful tools for yoga teachers is kinesthetic empathy—the ability to feel how a student feels in a posture.

May 3, 2013    BY Sandra Anderson

If you’re a yoga teacher who would like to improve your adjustments, you can cultivate kinesthetic awareness—the ability to feel how a student feels in a posture. Try the following exercise. It will help you develop skill in artfully assisting individual students.

  1. Observe the student closely. Look at physical alignment, but also look for energetic qualities. Where does he seem to be stuck, unaware, tense, or compacted? What is your overall impression? Is he unengaged and not making an effort, or is he struggling and trying too hard?
  2. Mimic your student in the pose while she is not looking. How would you feel if you were in a posture in the same way she is? Take the shape of her body in the posture, and arrange yourself energetically as closely as you can. If her shoulders are hunched, hunch your shoulders. If her leg looks tense and locked at the knee, lock your knee and tense your leg.
  3. Compare the feeling in your body now with your usual experience of the pose, and mentally articulate how you would adjust the pose to a more comfortable, stable, or integrated position: “Draw the shoulder blades down the back and together,” or “Soften the knees by shifting your weight over the arches of the feet.” Once you’ve felt your way into the adjustment, you can verbalize the modification to your student or offer a hands-on assist.

With practice, you’ll be able to immediately sense the “feel” of your students in the pose just by looking, and can use your kinesthetic memory of how you typically experience the pose to direct them to a new and more satisfying practice.

Sandra Anderson
For over 20 years Sandra Anderson has shared her extensive experience in yoga theory and practice with students from all over the world. A senior faculty member and resident at the Himalayan Institute, her teaching reflects access to the living oral tradition, and the embodied experience of 30 years of dedicated practice. With a background in the natural sciences and interest in classical Sanskrit, along with frequent pilgrimages to India, Sandy has a rare capacity to eloquently convey the... Read more>>

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