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November 11, 2014

Stop Correcting & Start Adjusting—a Guide for Yoga Teachers and Students.

yoga teacher

I have had a lot of new yoga students lately and a few have thanked me for “correcting” them.

This has always taken me off guard. I forget that when you start yoga, anytime someone comes up to you and shows you another way than what you are currently doing, you are likely seeing it as a correction. I have also heard teachers refer to adjustments as critiques or corrections too.

This is distorted thinking.

So, I write this post for teachers and then students.

Calling All Yoga Teachers.

When helping a student with their form, if you are coming into their space and look for what is “wrong” with their pose, you are in a terrible samksara.

You are trying to help them “improve”. You approach a student and ask yourself the question “what are they doing the most wrong and how can help them fix it?”

Reality is, nothing needs to be fixed.

They are actually doing the pose perfectly. The most perfectly they can with the knowledge they have in that moment.

Every pose is summary of who that person is in that moment. It shows you how they deal with stress, discomfort and it also shows why they came to yoga in the first place.

So, before you go in and “correct” someone listen to them with your eyes. When I was in TT my teacher would say, if you are thinking that someone is a hot mess before you go in and adjust them stop! You’ll do more harm than good.

So, how do you adjust a student?

Look at your students perfect pose. Marvel in its perfection and look at the body language that they are using. Then ask yourself, “What can I do to help make this pose more comfortable for them?”

See how this is different?

For example, someone is in warrior B—it does not look quite like the cover of Yoga Journal (as if they would ever choose that pose for the cover! Haha)—you first notice a few things that could be corrected right?

Maybe their knee is past their big toe or bowed in, their belly is protruding and spilling their sacral chakra all over the floor, their stance is way short, they are leaning forward, their shoulders are so tense they are practically touching their ears and they are looking in the wrong direction.

Hot mess, right! Wrong!

Step back and notice what is perfect and what they are saying with their body. This is a stressed person. You may not know their life story but you do know from this pose that in life they work way too hard. You know, they probably worry a lot. You know, their body feels tight.

This is the perfect reflection of who they feel they are in that moment.

You also know that they are brave because they showed up to yoga!

They are a warrior. So what would you do to make them more comfortable and make them feel better about the pose they are in? Now, I could tell you what I would do but, that would defeat the purpose. Summary—adjust for comfort and sensation, not to make a pose “correct.”

Students! Leave the World Outside With Your Shoes!

It is perfectly natural to feel you are being corrected in a yoga class, especially when you first begin yoga but, I always hope that my students will come to realize the difference between a correction and an adjustment. Here are a few things that I hope you will get out of your yoga practice.

You already do yoga perfectly.

Yup, I said it, you!

Even if you have never done a yoga pose. Why? Because yoga is actually not poses. It’s a way of thinking.

First, accept you are on the path and you are learning. I have yet to meet a yogi that feels they are done learning about yoga.

You’re willingness to look at yourself is brave.

You’re perfect and do not need “correction” or improvement and the only approval that you really need comes from yourself.

Learn to feel and listen to your body.

If your yoga teacher is asking you to relax your shoulders it is so that you notice that you are doing it, not that you are not doing something incorrectly. It is to make you aware.

Most of us do not notice when our body is tense until there is tons of pain (or your yoga teacher tells you). Once you notice, you’ll also how much better it feels when you relax.

Breathe. Deep. It never hurts and always helps.

Yoga is only about one thing—quieting the mind.

Not sexy yoga pants, balancing on your arms, improving yourself, drinking Kombucha tea or doing the splits. It is about being comfortable, peeling back layers of yourself, believing the impossible is actually possible and loving yourself.

Every pose is a journey to feeling better in your skin, not improving it, but accepting it.
Your yoga teacher’s job is to gently direct you in peeling back the layers, learning about who you are and helping you find comfort.

Show up! Feel sick? Tired? Anxious? Angry?

It doesn’t matter, show up!

If all you do is lay there, then fine.

Showing up is all you need to do, the rest is whipped cream on top.

Also, I am not just talking about yoga class. I am talking about life. show up!

Now, corrections do have their place and yes, sometimes they do belong in yoga as well.

Everything does but, if you approach people with the attitude that you are correcting them because they are wrong, my prediction is that it will not turn out quite the way you want.

Start with what is right and just work on making that more comfortable and effective.

Namaste yogi friends.


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Author:  Samantha Bellerson

Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock

Photo: flickr

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