Physical Adjustments in a Yoga Pose
"So today, I was in a yoga class, I moved into the position and the teacher paused and moved my arm and put pressure on my hip. What's that all about? Was I doing it wrong??"
When I first experienced an adjustment, I did actually think that I was doing something wrong. But really, don't worry! During the normal course of a yoga class, a teacher will walk around the class watching how people are moving, primarily to make sure everyone is safe and to notice if anybody needs any further alignment tips to help them experience a pose a little bit further.
I wouldn't dream of making assumptions about other people's teaching styles and so I can only speak for myself but during my training, I have been encouraged to help students as much as possible to feel the pose and that means using my words or my hands to place a gentle pressure or a reassurance.
In my yoga sessions, I try facilitate and provide a safe environment for people to practice their yoga. If I notice that someone could do with having their feet a little wider apart or their arms activated a tad more, I will offer a verbal cue. If I notice that someone is looking grounded and strong in a pose, I will ask them if it's ok to adjust. Now. Here's the key thing. If you are not comfortable to be touched, that is completely fine, please just say "no thanks" and I'll go on my merry way. I promise you I will not be offended. I would so much rather that you are comfortable in your own practice, for that is exactly what it is; your practice, not mine.
There is a whole multitude of weird and wonderful looking adjustments that teachers can provide; they attend whole workshops and training courses based on this very topic, learning how to use their hands, shoulders chests, legs, straps, blocks, chairs - anything, you name it, to help their students have their optimum asana. A good physical adjustment is made when the student has a good stability in the pose; the teacher can exert firm pressure on the body to help you get more out it. When my teacher adjusts me in my adho mukha svanasana (downward facing dog), my hips feel so lifted that it almost feels as though I could completely take my hands from the floor. Believe me, it's the most delicious stretch all the way along the spine that you can't really achieve on your own.
Now when I attend a yoga class and notice the teacher moving closer to make an adjustment, my ten-year-old inner child whips her hand up into the air "Me! Me! Me! Adjust me!!