The teachings of the philosophy of yoga speak to the idea that our awareness is a continuous expanding aspect of us. Prakriti may wither with time, but the mind can continue to expand.
I have found my path as a studio owner exactly this. When we first opened about 15 years ago, we all did a lot of manual adjustments. Through awareness cultivation, we now offer what is called touch awareness and work on our greatest tool as teachers: verbal and demonstrative cues.
We also understand the science of proprioception and interoception. These two sensory perceptions are cultivated beautifully in the practice of yoga. It is also very important it is managed by the practitioner, not the teacher. To maintain a state of safety is incredibly important in the process of empowerment and healing that yoga offers.
Here are my top three reasons why Beloved Yoga does not offer manual adjustments and/or joint articulation.
1. It is not in the scope of practice of yoga teacher or yoga therapist.
Sri Jois/Sri Iyengar made manual adjustments a thing, and we now know the multiple issues that lay in touch. Unless teacher trainings are offering massage therapy training, then yoga teachers have no business physically manipulating joints and placing their hands, body or weight on other people’s bodies. The moment a teacher touches a client, the liability insurance offers no protection.
2. There is a fine line between what is perceived as respectful or abusive.
This fine line is often defined by the practitioner’s experience. In group classes it is especially challenging to know the nuances of our practitioners. Respect sovereignty.
3. Just because we offer the choice of touch doesn’t make it OK.
Humans don’t like to be left out, and creating a safe space for all is highly encouraged. When a teacher assists a few people in class that want it, others can perceive this as getting more attention. It can also be agitating for the nervous system to see others being touched in certain ways.
I believe yoga studios are sanctuaries. As a yoga studio owner, I examine all our practices in the yoga domain. Sometimes we need to pick up new ideas, and sometimes we need to let some go.
Maryam Ovissi, C-IAYT, 500 E-RYT, RPYT, RCYT, YAECP, is the founder and CEO of Beloved Yoga in Reston, Virginia.