Why touch students in a yoga class? I think there are five basic reasons (you can probably think of more, but I’m generalizing): (1) to move a student into a better, more accurate expression of a pose; (2) to move a student out of a potentially harmful position; (3) to move a student into a deeper expression of a pose than they could achieve on their own; (4) “awareness” touching; and finally, (5) “feel good” adjustments. Today, I discuss basic corrections.
A lot of times, no matter how many verbal or visual cues you may give as a teacher, the student just doesn’t correct the detail you’re working on. Sometimes I believe it’s just more efficient to move the student there. Keep in mind, I’m talking about details here, not gross or large movements – if you’re having trouble getting everyone in class to bend their front knee in Warrior II, there’s a larger problem there.
A good example in this category is upper hand position in utthita parsvakonasana. Often the students will be reaching straight toward the ceiling, or the palm of their hand is facing in the same direction as their sternum (thumb down, palm facing away). And because it’s a fairly upside-down pose, the students can confuse left and right, up and down, forward and back verbal cues. If I happen to be walking past a student with this arm/hand position, I will just gently place my index and thumb around their wrist and move the arm toward the correct position; or in the case of a palm facing outward, my fingers and thumb on either side of the hand, and gently turn it toward the correction.
Another example, if a student is leaning far forward in Warrior II, I may place my hand a few inches behind their rear fingertips and tell them, “straighten your spine upward and reach back and try to touch my hand.” These two examples show correcting the pose, moving the student toward a more accurate form.
These types of corrections are gentle and quick, and often very small; more of a guide than a forcible movement. If you feel the student resisting, or their body just doesn’t move in that direction, I usually stop, quietly tell them “Good!” for the effort, and move on.
Of course, there’s more to it than that, in terms of when to do the adjustments (a whole different article). There may be multiple students with a the same issue in that pose. At that point, it may be better to ignore it and move on (if it’s a “no harm, no foul” situation); try a different cue than the one you just used if you have time; back everyone out of the pose and demo it; or talk them into the pose in another manner or from a different direction.