Physical adjustment is a tricky area in yoga practice. First of all, not all students want to be touched, let alone being "handled" (no matter how familiar they are with their instructors), while not all yoga instructors would touch their students: there is this concern that imporper adjustments can lead to injuries. I'm lucky to be practising at a studio where most (though not all) instructors handle physical adjustment cautiously; like, they'll Always ask before they do anything. I actually love being adjusted because only then do I actually FEEL some of the benefits of the poses. Yesterday I was at a stretching class and it was great to have the instructor gently pushing me deeper into asanas as simple as the Child Pose.
In this pose, most practitioners can easily rest their bottom on their heels. But for me, perhaps it is the tight hips, or hamstrings, or the gluteus maximus (bum), or a rigid spine, my bottom can never touch my feet. Not that it really matters but sometimes I feel I am not getting the sort of stretch that I should be getting in this particular pose (so, ironically, I struggle in what is supposed to be a resting pose). So, yesterday, my teacher came over and gently pressed my lower spine down in order to get me into the position. I wish I can remember where or what was being stretched but I was too busy feeling the amazing sensation!! Later, he came over to give my "Cat Tail" (a lying down pose) a deeper twist by pushing my my hip and shoulder down simultaneously, as well as helping me with my (beg-for-mercy) Frog pose (see earlier post). In these positions I could feel my body resisting though keeping the breath going helped me relax a little more, thus allowing more space for depth...
Here is one teacher's (David Muesham) perspective on posture adjustment (posted on Yoga Abode), which I find quite interesting:
"It's become quite common in recent years for teachers to move through a yoga class giving many physical adjustments, and the students can come to expect and enjoy being touched. So, it's possible that teachers sometimes feel obligated to make sure everyone gets plenty of adjustment.
"This opens the door to ‘over adjusting,' - ie adjusting at times when it's not really necessary. Many years of experience with students of differing experience, ability and body type is needed to understand adjusting, and especially when not to adjust.
"My approach is to adjust only when I think it's necessary. There are times when adjustment can help a student to discover a new aspect or depth of a posture, but at the end of the day, I feel that my role is to help the students learn to practice on their own.
"Of course, adjusting does not always mean pushing people deeper into yoga postures; it may be done verbally, or with very gentle physical corrections or directions."
PS Always good to know I am not the only one: http://www.yogaforums.com/forums/f16/hero-pose-childs-pose-etc-7970.html