Giving verbal cues and adjustments are ways a yoga instructor can invest in the experience of his or her students. Adjustments have the potential to build confidence and better connect students to their own practice, help them learn to accept their innate imperfections and open up a new level of the asana experience. There are different kinds of adjustments. There are verbal cues, for instance when a teacher tells a student to make sure the fingers are spread wide or that the heels are reaching toward the mat in downward dog. There are hands-on adjustments, where a teacher might place his or her hands on your shoulders to remind you to relax them down away from your ears or assist you in getting into a bind. Some adjustments feel gentle and nurturing and some are meant to challenge you by assisting you into the next phase of a posture. Most adjustments are meant to keep the practitioner safe and help build confidence in their practice and will often lead the student to a-ha! moments as they finally feel the completion or comfort available in a pose.
It is always ok to approach your teacher before class and let them know of any injuries or implications that might make adjustments uncomfortable for you. If you let your teacher know you prefer not to be adjusted, the practice will not only be more comfortable for both of you, but the instructor may make more of an effort to give you verbal cues, which can be just as effective.
Here are some reasons adjustments rock my world
Adjustments Build Confidence & Improve Body Awareness
I enjoy knowing that I’m doing a pose correctly. Because most yoga studios don’t have mirrors, it can be tough to tell when my back arm is too high or too low in Warrior II or when my legs aren't quite straight up in headstand. When the instructor moves my arms into place or holds me steady while I engage and press my legs a little straighter, I can feel what it’s like to be properly aligned in the pose so I can work on getting there on my own the next time.
Adjustments help connect the student to the practice
We’ve all been there...totally zoned out in class, going through the motions. When an instructor comes around and lifts my extended arm higher in Triangle Pose or assists me in a stretch, I wake up and return fully to my practice, mentally and physically.
Adjustments make the student feel nurtured and noticed
Especially in crowded classes, it doesn't matter why type of adjustment I’m getting, when the instructor singles me out to make contact, I feel acknowledged and nurtured by the attention.
Adjustments are a gentle way of addressing our innate imperfections
None of us do every pose perfectly. Yoga is a constant practice and when we feel we’ve mastered a pose, there is always a new way to challenge ourselves in it. Adjustments help us acknowledge these subtle imperfections and address them in gentle ways as we work toward mastery. This, like so many others, is a lesson that can be useful both on and off the mat.
Adjustments introduce a deeper level of asana
I’m sure we can all think of one pose we would never have gotten into for the first time without assistance from an instructor. Whether it was a bind, an inversion or proper alignment in downward facing dog, instructors have been taught ways to help students find the next level within a pose.
Adjustments keep you safe
There are certain red flags your instructors are watching out for during a class that can cause serious injury if they aren't addressed. Every student has different body structure, limiitations and tendencies and the instructor may give different cues or adjustments to different students in an effort to keep all of you safe from immediate or long term injury.
Adjustments show that your teacher is invested in your practice
Adjustments take a serious level of effort and energy from the instructor. If the instructor stops by to give you a cue or adjustment, they are making an effort to enhance your experience and help you better connect to your practice and to their class.