At some point during our Yoga Journey we've all received an assist or an adjustment from a teacher. Sometimes that hands on assist is an "ahhhh" moment (like when you get a little added pressure on the low back in child's pose), sometimes its a "groany" moment (maybe when the front leg eased deeper Warrior 2) - but often the internal dialog is "Should I be able to do that myself?" or "What was I doing wrong?" or "Why do they (meaning teachers) always come over to me in that pose?"
The answers to these questions are somewhat individual - but there is an overarching truth about assists (and these days Truth's are few and far between, so listen up).
Assists are given for three main reasons
1) To help the practitioner find proper alignment or support in order to prevent injury - i.e. a knee is tracking slightly off-center of the foot
2) To take a practitioner deeper into an asana than they could go by themselves i.e. low back assist in child's pose. No one can get as deep in the hips as when assisted
3) To give extra JuJu to someone who looks like they could use it i.e.- holding a practitioner's hips in plank to take some of the load off
To these ends there are several different modalities for assisting a practitioner in class:
1) Hands on adjustments - all that is exampled above
2) Props - the wall, blocks, straps, blankets, chairs, wall ropes etc. Props allow us to take our asana practice deeper while remaining supported - how many of you found your first Urdhva Dhanurasana (upward facing bow- a.k.a 'wheel") with use of the wall, straps and blocks??
3) Verbal cues - you may have noticed at Blue Banyan we ask our teachers to instruct verbally, not by practicing. One of many reasons for this is that the awareness of ones body in space and in relationship to itself is heignethend (increased proprioception). So when a cues is given i.e. - to track a knee over certain toes, or to stay lifted through the arches of the feet - the practitioner, over time, is able to access these cues and adjust themselves.
So.. next time you are in class and the teacher gives you an assist, or suggests a prop or repeats a verbal cue you know is for you, try to quiet the self judgment & know that the suggestion is in the spirit of caring and support. We, as teachers at Blue Banyan instruct with the intention of teaching bodies not poses, teaching you today so that you can practice tomorrow, of holding our community and students with the spirit of compassion, assistance, service and knowledge. We would never ever want to "fix" you - because you know what they say... "If it ain't broken..."
Peace and light, sophie