Hands on/off Adjustments

Turns out people notice what you don’t do.

A regular to one of my yoga classes recently had knee surgery and when I asked how they’re feeling in their practice they said, “great, except in child’s pose... I didn’t mention it to you since you don’t give assists like that (deepening assists e.g. pushing on low back in child’s pose).”

Hands on adjustments in yoga or the lack there of is a form of communication and I think it’s important to know what you’re saying with them if you give them.

When I use to let people adjust me the assists we’re always about deepening the pose I was in - whether I needed/wanted it or not. Sometimes they were too much and I injured myself. As a teacher, I deemphasize going deeper so there’s nothing for me to push on. I don’t emphasize an aesthetic so there’s nothing for me to correct. I do focus on and foster things like interoception, finding, allowing and the personal power to arrive in your signature alignment. More studios are taking notice with some offering (yes/no) consent cards so students have a say in their experience on the mat. It was after learning more about adjustments and the complexities of consent culture that I decided they’re not central to my teaching. Touch can of course be healing and I realize some people love hands on adjustments. That’s great. I’m not trying to be your everything in the yoga studio. As I continue to redefine yoga with sustainable movement the less I need to “fix” or change someone’s yoga pose. My approach is to make more space for movement diversity.

Rare photo of me giving a down-dog push to a fellow yoga teacher friend who also knows her body very well.

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Genius Feet.

What has 52 bones, 33 joints, 107 ligaments, 19 muscles? Your feet!  It's no wonder Leonardo Da Vinci called them a "masterpiece of engineering and a work of art." 

This month in my group classes we're taking a closer look at how the feet and legs support you in, well, just about everything. It's an area of the body we take for granted especially since we walk around on our feet and legs all day without much thought. How often do you think about the engagement of the muscles in your feet or how the 3 arches (yes 3) in each foot are influencing, supporting your overall posture?

"Essentially we’re standing on a triangle with one point at the base of the big toe, one at the base of the little toe and one at our heel. Connect these three points together and you get a triangle. Now take these three points and connect them to the top of the ankle joint and now we’ve created a pyramid and that my friends is a very stable structure to be standing on." - David Keil.

Yoga is one of the few mainstream group movement practices where everyone takes off their socks and shoes. It's a unique opportunity to build a healthy, stable foundation. With a little attention to this small part of the body we can build strength, agility and balance. Our feet are connected to our legs and our legs are connected to our hips and on up the chain... you get the idea, your feet are quit literally the foundation that connects, supports and influences the rest of your awesome body. 

In most yoga classes the stretch is an inherent part of the practice, but when you take a closer look at familiar postures like triangle pose we can use our awareness and hone our attention to the subtle body to create a balance of flexibility + stability. It's not overtly obvious, but when we slow down and tap into the power of our legs - Voila! Strong + flexible hamstrings. I wrote all about my love of Trikonasana here, but read on to see how incorporating a block to draw up through the legs in triangle pose is just one way to help you find the less obvious qualities of activating your feet and legs in yoga. 

To bring more strength into your hamstrings during your yoga practice start with the feet.

  • In triangle pose, press into the mound of your big toe of the front foot.
  • Make the action with the feet like they are sliding in towards one another. Feel the inner thighs awaken.
  • Use a block at your calf muscle. This will give you feedback and help activate the musculature of the legs. This can be especially helpful if you have a lot of flexibility, because it is easy to hang out in the stretch and lock the knee joint.
  • Hug muscle to bone.
Prop yo' self! 

Prop yo' self!