Dear readers, say hello to Agni. She is our anonymous columnist who will be responding to your questions about what happens on and off the mat in the yoga world. She is a yoga practitioner and teacher with several decades of yoga experience. She has had many amazing teachers, and even more amazing students. She chose the “nom de plume” Agni in homage to “Dear Abby”, and because she hopes to help us burn down our obstacles to joy and freedom.

Dear Agni,

I go to a studio where some teachers are heavily into adjustments and others don’t touch students at all. There’s a teacher I am currently enjoying but she doesn’t give any physical adjustments. I LOVE being adjusted, it really helps me, and it feels good! Should I ask her for adjustments?

an anonymous yoga practitioner

here-is-what-agni-had-to-say

I remember my first adjustment in a yoga class. The teacher grabbed my ankles in shoulderstand, lifted my elbows clear off the ground, and placed me back on the floor. When he put me back down, my elbows narrowed into a tight punctuation mark and I became aware that there was now a pocket of air inside me that wanted to come out. With a fart-like sound. It would echo throughout the pristine and hip atmosphere of this vinyasa yoga class. It would point to me, the new student, like a big neon sign: FARTER (or, even more revealing, QUEEFER).

I froze in place, unsure what to do. Can you guess what happened next? Yup, you guessed it. I was able to get some of the air out silently, but when I came out of the pose the remaining air snuck out in a sprint, like someone yelling “nyah nyah,” thumb to nose, four fingers waving, on the way out the door. To my great surprise, no one in the room seemed to notice, but I turned a deep shade of purple and was mortified. I never went back to that teacher.

This experience did not endear me to adjustments, but another one did. On a yoga retreat in a forest, at the end of a sweaty body and mind-wringing class, the teacher gave me an adjustment in Paschimottanasana. As “Across the Universe” played on her mixed tape, the teacher leaned her whole body into me. She pushed me firmly and forcefully into a deep forward bend. Her faith in me and the pose, and my connection to the Beatles from my parents’ records ushered forth an unexpected release. In an instant I was sobbing. A wave of memories and sensations flooded me and just as quickly left me folded in two, and blissed out.

Her adjustment had provoked something inside of me. Fortunately it turned out well – no hamstring pull, no Kundalini awakening, just a wrung out yogini with a little less of a karmic load.

These examples show, I hope, a wide range of the consequences of adjustments. But I haven’t even hit upon the real issues, like injury (happens all the time), trauma (on top of trauma), or harassment (you’d be surprised). I have several friends and colleagues on my yoga journey who have been damaged by adjustments, others who were touched inappropriately, and some who just don’t like to be touched by anyone without their permission, period.

Some yoga teachers are aware of this and wouldn’t dare touch a student without asking. Others don’t adjust because they have to teach fourteen classes a week to pay the bills and it’s too much of an energy drain. And some don’t know what to do, so they (wisely), leave well enough alone. And enough of writing in sets of three!

My question for you dear practitioner is what do you really want? What is the need in you that you want to be met by this teacher? Do you need physical contact and aren’t getting it elsewhere in your life? Do you want more from your teacher than she is willing to give? Can you imagine why your new favorite teacher doesn’t touch? And have you had a massage lately? Touch is incredibly personal. It’s intimate. And it can greatly affect your experience, for better or worse. You are hoping for the positive aspect of adjustments, but maybe your teacher has a whole other agenda for you. Maybe she wants you to learn to adjust yourself through practice. Or maybe she just has tendonitis!

It sounds like you really like what she has to offer. I say keep showing up. Ask her about it if you’re honestly curious. And get a massage.

[Photo by Irene Chapparo– CC BY]


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