October 14, 2013

Alanna Kaivalya: The Art of Adjustments. {iBook Review}

Note: The author was given a free version of this eBook. However, all expressed viewpoints, positive and negative, are that of Amy, and Amy alone. Read on!

Alanna Kaivalya’s iBook, The Art of Adjustments, utilizes the art of multimedia to provide a great resource for yoga teachers.

Through simplistic design and well-crafted video demonstrations, Alanna gives straightforward, thoughtful instruction for safe adjusting techniques. Her love of teaching is evident as she shows confidence and ease in her presentations. Her genuineness shines through her instruction.

For some teachers, touching and adjusting students can seem awkward. And for others, like me, teacher training advised to always choose verbal cues and demonstrations before you touch, with the idea that too much adjusting can disrupt a student’s inward focus.

After a number of years in the field and working with students of all levels, I’ve found there is a place for both schools of thought. And as Alanna notes, Americans are not a “touch culture;” instead, we discourage it and view it as an invasion of personal space. She states that “adjustments are a form of physical contact that allow the student and teacher to create a relationship of touch that is safe and nurturing.”

Through touch we can show students where their practice can go and open them up to new possibilities. Alanna notes that through safe adjustments, students “have the tools to return to this new place on their own.” We, as teachers, can aide in bringing students to that next level, helping them discover their body positioning or proprioception.

The book is best-suited for yoga teachers who already have an understanding of anatomy and movement and may be looking for help with safe assists. I found the simplistic design refreshing and free from the verbosity that often litters instruction-based books. The directions are easy to understand and the accompanying videos are extremely helpful. As soon as a question popped up for me, Alanna answered it.

The videos are the gem of the book. It can be difficult to explain assists effectively through words and photos alone and Alanna does an excellent job describing each segment of the adjustment.

As a long-time teacher, I am familiar with some of the adjustments, but others are quite helpful, particularly her suggestions on how to stabilize the sacrum in certain poses—like pressing on the hip rather than the leg in a reclined twist, letting the twist happen through pressure on the shoulder instead.

I also appreciate how she combines various adjustments, such as using them through the course of a sun salutation—something that hadn’t occurred to me before. I’m apt to adjust only one pose rather than staying with a student through the course of a vinyasa.

She also stresses the importance of hand placement, noting how and where teachers place their hands on a student speaks a lot about their confidence as a teacher. She outlines proper hand position in order to avoid intrusive touch while also being effective in the adjustment.

I did have slight pause with the ribcage assist she uses to press on the student’s back in poses like baddha konasana and upavistha konasana (the teacher using his or her lower rib cage to deepen the forward fold). I understand her thinking here, since the teacher’s hands are creating an external rotation in the thighs and unavailable to press on the student’s back, but I felt the adjustment may be too intimate for some students. I would reserve the assist for students I’m well-acquainted with or returning students who are familiar with me.

She also presents a suggestion to sit on the student’s sacrum in balasana—a good adjustment for students who are comfortable with the pose. She does caution using this technique with students who have knee issues, but I’ve also noticed that students who have foot and ankle contraindications find pressing on the sacrum in this position uncomfortable. I would suggest her caution include these concerns as well. She does offer a gentler variation that would work better in these circumstances.

I’ve used some of her techniques in my classes and they’ve worked well. As Alanna states, through adjustments “we have the opportunity to deepen our students’ experience of yoga physically, mentally and emotionally.” We can also boost our confidence as teachers. She explains that it is through a thoughtful teacher-student connection that we become better teachers.

Alanna’s book bolsters that meaningful connection and would be an excellent resource for yoga teachers.


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Ed: Bryonie Wise

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