The Art of Adjusting: Learning How To Receive.

Via Julia Lee
on Oct 28, 2012
get elephant's newsletter

image: quatriemedimension via Pinterest

The topic of hands-on adjustments is one that is often hotly debated in the yoga world.

There are entire training modules and workshops designed to teach the art of assisting. There are some schools of thought that say that all students should receive some form of physical guidance from a teacher—and others that claim that all adjustments should be verbal only.

Some teachers are huge advocates of hands-on adjustments, whereas others avoid them entirely, citing safety concerns; and while some students love a teacher’s guidance, others will specifically request not to be touched.

As both a teacher and a student of yoga, I’ve been at both ends of the spectrum—receiving and giving adjustments that may have been unwanted, as well as receiving and giving adjustments that were extremely well-received.

I won’t even begin to pretend that I’m any sort of expert on giving a good assist; rather, I’d like to share my experience about learning how to receive.

I remember being a beginner student and spending the whole class hoping and praying that the teacher wouldn’t come over to me and draw attention to the fact that I clearly had no idea what I was doing. As a self-proclaimed perfectionist, I (or my ego) hated the feeling of being helped, of being fixed.

Being adjusted felt like something shameful; an embarrassing reminder of my lowly status within the class. I didn’t know how to receive these adjustments, these corrections I felt I did not need.

One day, I was in a workshop—quite possibly my first as a beginner yoga student—when the teacher came over and gently adjusted me in Natarajasana (Dancer’s pose). And suddenly, a pose that had once been challenging and confusing and difficult made perfect sense to me.

No matter how many times I had heard the verbal cues, I didn’t quite understand how to express those words physically in my body until somebody actually took my arm and my leg and showed me the way.

And if I hadn’t been making that mistake and if the teacher hadn’t taken the time to see this, come over and assist me, I might still be practicing a dangerously misaligned Dancer’s pose today. Since then, I’ve come to truly appreciate the value of a solid hands-on adjustment. I look forward to those moments in class when a teacher approaches my mat and I know that I’m being acknowledged, that I’m being supported and encouraged to grow.

Ever since I shifted my perspective from adjust to assist; correct to challenge, my practice has flourished because my understanding of difficult poses has been heightened by my ability to receive the guidance that I need to get there.

I’ve realized that from my experience as a student, the question isn’t whether or not a teacher has the right to place his or her hands on my body—the question is whether or not I am humble enough to accept the fact that sometimes, even my own understanding of my body is not always complete.

Growing up in practice and in life is all about learning how to gracefully receive support and assistance, even when you don’t think you need it. It’s about allowing yourself the space you need to make mistakes and learn from them.

It’s about letting people in.

This is the art of adjusting: learning how to receive. Above and beyond the physical strength and flexibility I’ve gained from my practice, I’ve learned how to ask for help when I need it—whether it’s approaching a teacher for tips about a challenging pose after class or reaching out to others for guidance during times of confusion.

Yoga has helped me to develop more clarity around the situations I’ve learned I can’t always navigate on my own and feel into the necessary alignment of physical and mental openness and humility I need in order to accept the guidance that always seems to appear at the most opportune moment.

At the core of it all, there is the sweetest interplay between what we put out into the world and what we receive—the more that we can let go of the idea that we have all the answers, the more room we create for knowledge to reveal itself to us.

I am ever grateful to my practice for teaching me how to receive and laying this foundation deep within my soul.



Editor: Bryonie Wise

Like elephant yoga on Facebook.


About Julia Lee

Julia is a yoga teacher, lover of all things, and dedicated student of life. She strives to be open to whatever the universe throws her way and practice her yoga off the mat at all times. Julia believes that the best lessons can often be found in the most unusual places. She writes about her experiences at and on Twitter @julialeeyoga.


9 Responses to “The Art of Adjusting: Learning How To Receive.”

  1. greateacher says:

    Good Morning, this is really good.
    i am going to add.. recieving often ican be better accepted with breathing … exhaling on stretched or twist assists.

    I wish to caution tho, that observation of a teachers methods for assisting is important and valuable. You or/and I may nto wish to be adjusted by some teachers who use the ;crank it back' method.Telling teachers before class if you have an injury which should not be twisted, stretched, or pulled to prevent further hurting.

  2. papillon says:

    great article. just reading this made me think back to a couple of GREAT adjustments (or great memories i should call them), every once in a while someone really helps bring magic and lightness into a pose, and in turn helps your practice grow as a whole. the intention of your article is very yoga worthy, glad to read it, and thank you for sharing, .

  3. Receiving can be the hardest thing to surrender to in ourselves.


  4. Vision_Quest2 says:

    I can say, without reservation, most adjustments that are easeful or that are like a massage are welcome.
    To ensure that's all I get, though; for right now I take pilates mat.
    My knee is in no condition to be pushed in a yoga class.
    It has been the yoga teachers who are impatient for full expression of the pose, who don't let me catch my breath when I'm already straining … those in my life, anyway, are years later not directly teaching yoga to students. The market has a way of taking care of those types. I'm poor enough only to grouse online, and take my business elsewhere or stay at home, practicing. Some of their high-rolling clients may have threatened lawsuits and/or pulled corporate yoga recommendations. As for that adjustment? Yowwwch!

  5. […] The student wants more or less asana, pranayama, meditation, physical assists, history, psychology, philosophy etc. Everyone resonates to the teachings of yoga differently. A […]

  6. […] is through this touch that the body begins to feel safe and let go, to open to the present moment. And as I cradled their […]

  7. […] even do something I wouldn’t even do—they put their hand on my sopping sweaty shirt to make an adjustment during class. Sure, they immediately regret doing so, but it’s the thought that […]

  8. […] practice that you need—in and out of class. To me, the mark of a great teacher is one who is both hands-on and non-judgmental with his or her adjustments and can tell speak intelligently about the purpose of different […]

  9. Anuj says:

    Superb thought chain and how Yoga allows us to change deeply and internally over time.
    completely with you on hands on alignment and the touch of a guru.
    Devoted and regular Sadhana and Tapas takes us towards Pratyahara in everyday situations. Namate.