The first two parts of this series discussed physical adjustments on yoga students to help them achieve a safe and accurate expression of a pose. This article discusses helping students achieve a deeper expression of a pose than they possibly could have without the physical assist. These should only be tried on more advanced students, as newbies might not be ready for forceful and intrusive adjustments. I would personally recommend you only try these on students whom you know well and with whose practice you are familiar, because you’ll be putting more weight and force into these kinds of adjustments, and they can often be physically intimate.
The purpose of these kinds of adjustments is to help a student get deeper into a twist, fold, reach, or bind than perhaps the student could achieve without the assist. The student should be fully able and capable of achieving the pose while assisted; it’s just that, on his own, his body doesn’t move that far.
So, a simple example: reaching fingertips to the sky in Warrior I. In this assist, you would stand behind the student and press in and slightly up on his triceps and hold, which would have the effect of straightening and lengthening his arms. The student’s reach may be restricted by his deltoids in the way, or lack of strength. The assist helps him extend outward and stretch farther than he could on his own. Pulling back on the front of the shoulders when the student rises into cobra pose or up-dog is another example; as is pressing gently down and forward on the shoulder blades / back ribcage in Paschimottanasana to help the student fold forward more deeply. Approach the student from behind, stabilize your stance (I come to one knee), place your hands on the student’s lats, instruct him to inhale, and on the exhale press forward and down.
As far as binds go, this type of adjustment would include bringing a student’s hands together behind her back in a pose such as Marichyasana II so she can achieve the clasp. She might not have the leverage, flexibility or strength to get her hands together on her own, but her body is capable of clasping with an assist. With a gentle pull on either wrist, you can help bring the hands together so the student finds the fun in the bind. I had an Ashtanga teacher that would help me into the Marichyasana binds, then stay behind me and just lean his front body onto my back to push my body forward, deep into the fold. Intimate? Kind of, but that’s where trust and familiarity come into play. Effective double adjustment? Totally.