Intimate Yoga Adjustments.

Via Maureen Miller
on Feb 22, 2012
get elephant's newsletter

“What is an ‘intimate’ yoga adjustment?”

My non-yoga-practitioner husband asked me this question when I was filling him in on a conversation that took place earlier this evening after a teacher training practicum class.  Hmmm… how do I explain this to a non-yoga student in a way that is easily understood.  Well, herein lies the glitch—the description of an “intimate” yoga adjustment is a matter of opinion.  Some people feel that if an adjustment is coming from a place of support and good intention, then anything goes.  I am not in agreement with that philosophy because that does not take into consideration what we do not know about each student’s life off the mat.

I believe that any yoga assist or adjustment (assist-helping the student get into a deeper expression of a pose by using your hands and/or body; adjust-moving the student’s body to correct alignment first, then moving toward the assist) should enhance the student’s experience in a way that does not distract their attention from their practice.  For example, if a teacher is providing an adjustment and their hand is in close proximity to the student’s butt, chest or genitals, or if a male teacher is giving a female student a Downward Facing Dog adjustment from behind—this may be distracting to the student.

Here are some important questions to ask when providing adjustments:

1. How well do you know your student and how long have they been practicing under your guidance? Are they comfortable with adjustments? How does their body respond to different types of adjustments given their body limitations and other postures where they are more flexible?
2.What is the intention of the adjustment?
3. Is there another way to approach the adjustment to attain the same result?
4. Are you certain that this student will appreciate this particular adjustment in this particular way?

Some of the best assistance to students can be verbal assists—where we allow the student to experience what is possible by gently guiding with words.  My teachers taught me to know the intended result before entering a student’s space to provide any adjustment. And in the spirit of that advice—if you are unsure about an adjustment—don’t do it. Sounds simple, but not all teachers abide by this.

In a time when we are reading about “yoga wrecking our bodies” and teachers having affairs with students, we need to uphold the integrity of yoga and be mindful of how we interact with our students.  The connection between two people in a way to optimize present moment awareness and the possibility within an asana. That’s one of the main goals of any adjustment, so omit the “intimate” part of the adjustment to be certain that it’s an amazing experience for your student.


Editor: Kate Bartolotta


About Maureen Miller

Maureen is a yoga teacher, life/health coach and an aspiring writer. She teaches yoga and leads a yoga teacher training/develop your yoga practice program for students who want to learn more about integrating the body, mind and spirit. Maureen believes when we find balance in all areas of our lives, we live in alignment with our core values and we can live a life filled with intention and purpose.  As a yoga teacher and life/health coach, it is her intention to be with students/coaches on their journey as they investigate decisions that brought them to where they are today, examine options toward change and make choices to break through current challenges.  You can find Maureen on Facebook, Twitter and at her website: Living Life, Making Choices.


5 Responses to “Intimate Yoga Adjustments.”

  1. feedback on my Living Life, Making Choices Facebook post – and my response:

    feedback: If people learn that the body and intimacy means inappropriate contact then that is all they will see. Clear your mind and learn something different!!! the healing comes when you change your way of seeing things. Physical therapy yoga massage it all equates to energy flow, positive!!!!!!It equates to the hewaling power of touch, it equates to human contact without sexual drive, it equates to learning how we can heal with out medications and surgeries!!!!!

    my response: I understand your point of view fully, however – it's important to meet people where the are at…. if someone comes from an abusive background and they innocently (not knowing yoga teachers sometimes do hands-on adjustments) attend a yoga class where a teacher gives an intimate adjustment, it could have a detrimental effect. But if the teacher knows the student (and their history) they can work on respectful contact – over time. The healing power of touch is only healing if the recipient is ready to receive it. Thanks for your thoughts.

  2. Greg Turner says:

    Looking at the Picture of the asist above, I would not only ask the question of intimacy…but ALSO, how about SAFETY? That is very risky "adjustment. Really now…

  3. Greg, in my Ele posts I like to have them be short and so I decide not to use this post to address safety…. perhaps in another post I'll do that. Thanks for your feedback.

  4. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Interesting article! To adjust, not to adjust – that is the question! I have had experience with certain teachers that have literally pulled, pushed and squeezed my body into positions that I could not get into by myself. This always, always left me feeling super confused. First, why were they nearly forcing me into these positions and secondly, why couldn't I get into them myself? Obviously I wasn't good enough, at least that's what I used to think. Perhaps this is my little tangent, but is in someway related to intimate adjusting. How far is it necessary to go? I think verbal alignment is key – empower the student versus the teacher wanting to take control of the student's body.

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
    Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook
    Follow on Twitter

  5. Tanya. Thanks for posting in Ele Yoga.
    I feel like the topic could be a series… so much to consider. I like how your feedback propels us to think even more about it.