Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0
LarryD517

Hands On Manipulation?

11 posts in this topic

I've been going to a classes with a few different instructors at a fitness center (not a yoga studio) for a few months now.

A couple of the instructors never touch the student, rather they will come over and explain the position if it's not correct.

One of the instructors gently guides the student during a pose. For example, in downward dog, the instructor, from behind, will place two fingers on the hips and gently pull back (full disclosure, I'm a guy and the teacher is a woman). I don't mind this approach as she never forces, merely she guides the student to learn the feel of the pose as it's supposed to be done.

Another instructor will more forcefully try to push the student. For example, in cobbler's pose she'll push the leg/knee down. I don't think this is good, in fact, I think it's dangerous as there's a reason why I stop at a certain point....it don't go no further! I imagine her training (she's a former gymnast from Russia) might have been along these lines.

 

I don't know enough about yoga, nor the teaching styles, to appreciate whether the last example, the somewhat forceful approach is an acceptable teaching method...or whether it's just dangerous. I've stopped taking her classes as I am concerned about injury. A few of the students (in other classes) have warned me about her style and a friend said she 'felt something pop' in her leg when the instructor manipulated her.

I'm friendly with the fitness center's manager, who has never taken yoga and I want to know whether I should discuss her style with the manager, or not. How much hands on manipulation, if any,  is appropriate?

YogaByCandace and yogafire like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm not one who feels that comfortable being touched by strangers (massages are far from relaxing), but I think that a yoga instructor shouldn't be afraid to respectfully touch their students, unless they specifically ask not to. Sometimes I get confused by verbal instructions and being physically led into the position makes more sense to me.

While I prefer the second approach you describe, that is, gentle guidance, the last style can have some merit if done correctly. Sometimes you underestimate your own limits and stop short of your real edge. Being - very carefully - pushed so you can see how far/deep you can really get into a pose can be useful for your practice, but it must be done in such a way that the student isn't afraid to speak up when they've reached their true limits while the instructor reads very attentively the student's cues, listens to what she or he is saying and respects the student's limits.

One of my former instructors had a similar style as the former gymnast's (she was a former dancer), so I suppose there's something in that kind of background that leads to pushing harder than other styles of teaching. Having said that, this instructor was very good at knowing how far was too far and how hard was hard enough.

If I was in your situation I'd speak with the instructor first. There's a good chance she isn't quite aware she's pushing too hard. Depending in her response to constructive criticism I'd then approach the centre's management.

LarryD517 and YogaByCandace like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So there are two types of 'hands on manipulation' - an adjustment, which is like what you first described, where they're just helping you to get the basic alignment. The second is an assist, which is to help you get deeper into the pose. The second scenario that you describe is an assist (although it shouldn't be done forcefully, though it is REALLY intense for people). 

 

When I wrote about my disappointing class w a super famous yoga teacher, we were taught that second assist. As the instructor, you really are supposed to push big time on the place just outside of the hips (so, the tops of the thighs) to help the knees come down but I agree with you, a part of me was silently screaming, "Please no! My knees can't take it!" Knees, in my opinion, are a tricky thing and I personally don't feel comfortable doing this assist because of that. 

 

So here's my suggestion: if she is FORCEFULLY pressing down and not going slow, and mindfully, and asking you if it's ok, how it feels, if she needs to back off etc, then I would take her aside and talk with her about it. Remember it's your class and your body and she might just not be aware that most people don't have the openness in the inner thighs to withstand a big time assist like that. If she still doesn't get it, I personally would talk with the manager because it's about safety now. 

 

Remember that as students you have every right in the book to say, "I prefer not to be adjusted or assisted today." You don't have to give a reason or explain yourself. You could also do this privately at the beginning of class, or even say you're dealing with an injury and would prefer not to be touched. Injury is the magic word to keep people away haha. 

Vicky, mimisouth, Hildegard and 3 others like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That was really helpful to understand the difference between adjustments and assists.  After I got some very helpful and strong assists, I kept going to classes wanting to get touched but then I would be "disappointed" sometimes. Now I understand those were adjustments, not weak assists!

 

The assists can be very teacher specific, so I hope it doesn't turn you off from receiving them in the future from the right person in the right place.  I am a bit surprised assists are happening at the fitness center, to be honest.  I started off at my gym, and those were all adjustments. When I was ready to do more (1.5 years? I felt like I was plateauing at that time), I went to a yoga studio and received assists that helped me deepen my practice.

 

If you can find a teacher you trust, assists can be a great experience.  I've been lucky and have found three teachers I trust, who always ask if anyone has injuries before class, because they actually know enough anatomy to help make modifications.  That may be one way to filter out teachers - if they ask about injuries in the beginning of class.

YogaByCandace and LarryD517 like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Hi Larry,
Here is the International Yoga Alliance for Ethics (not to be confused with Yoga Alliance). http://www.internationalyogaallianceforethics.com/code-of-ethics/ Section 4 down the page. You can see they are very strict. And if you read more you find out why they are so strict. They use the terms neutral touch for adjustments and weight-bearing touch for assists.
 
And you are right pushing the knees down in Cobbler’s pose is not a good thing. I looked through a few of my books for instructions and every one of them specifically stated do not push the knees down. It is not how the pose is suppose to be learned and practiced. Although it is taught this way a great deal. When you push against the muscles at their limit they fight back to try to protect themselves, you know the link in your signature :)
 
Proper engagement of the legs and hips will let the knees drop on their own, a much kinder and gentler way, which is much more healthy and productive. Hopefully you had the opportunity to learn that in one of your other classes.
 
Others here have given you information as well. It is up to you to decide what to do with it. I am glad to see that you have choosen to not go to a class that gave you concern.
LarryD517 and yogafire like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

 
And you are right pushing the knees down in Cobbler’s pose is not a good thing. I looked through a few of my books for instructions and every one of them specifically stated do not push the knees down. It is not how the pose is suppose to be learned and practiced. Although it is taught this way a great deal. When you push against the muscles at their limit they fight back to try to protect themselves, you know the link in your signature :)
 

 

That's scary! Should Larry alert the fitness manager? It seems best to talk to the teacher after class, but, only if you keep taking her class. If you don't, I don't think anything will change for other people, but, how do you do it so that it doesn't feel like being a tattle-tale?

YogaByCandace likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've had a couple of conversations with him, sharing a lot of the wisdom shared in this post.

As a fitness center manager, he's had to deal with the issues of touching (for example, an instructor gently and respectfully guided a 17 year old...and the mother went ballistic).

As such, he's planning on having a general discussion with all instructors (not just yoga) regarding touching.

A lot of students, especially new ones, might not know whether guiding is appropriate or not, nor will they feel comfortable addressing the instructor.  

Appreciate all the input and welcome further comments.

YogaByCandace likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You might also encourage him to have the instructors make a little announcement at the beginning of class that they'll be adjusting/assisting as they see fit and it's meant to help and ensure proper alignment etc, and then ask students to let them know when they come over to them if they'd prefer not to be touched. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

One studio that I attend actually has a question on the enrolment form asking whether you're happy to be assisted/adjusted during practice. I am more than happy being adjusted/assisted, but I appreciated the question!

MrBalloonHands likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Larry, I hope all is good now at your gym-studio. I watched an interview today with Melanie Cooper, she's sweet, and remembered your topic. Around 8 minutes " Is there certain postures that is not too clever to adjust?..." It is not exactly the same posture that you describe but the same.

 

If anyone else has an interest the interview is full of good information. Teachers may find it very interesting as well.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0