Adjustments & Consent: Camilla's Viewpoint
Following on from our previous article regarding adjustments, Camyoga teacher Camilla Leyland shares her thoughts on issues of consent and adjustment in class.
"With a well trained teacher who has studied skilful adjusting there should be no or at least minimal risk of injury to the student. At CamYoga, all the teachers are properly trained and adjusting workshops for teachers are frequently offered. The beauty in being skilfully adjusted makes a group class qualitatively different to practicing alone. A teacher is able to physically manipulate the body into a pose, improving posture and technique or offering a restorative or supportive element to it. Where verbal adjustments can often solve many alignment issues, sometimes, a tweak here and there helps a student get out of bad habits where they think they are making a particular shape but one or more elements are out of sync and yet they cannot feel this. In class, I often find that students want to be adjusted. Only last night one of my students noticed her neighbour enjoying having her lower back drawn towards the earth in childs pose and actually asked me if I could adjust her in this way too!
Yoga is one of the few practices in our lives that connects our physical and and emotional sides. Human touch can be a part of this process, acting in its own right as a form of therapy. I learned this some years ago when I took my first visit to an orphanage in Syria and left with one profound message: that the soothing impact of human touch is powerful beyond imagination. Toddlers left neglected in cots, with sores from banging their heads against bars all day, crying for someone to free them, were transformed into calm, happy beings at the mere touch of a hand. When I picked one up, another dozen started climbing over the bars of neighbouring cots lining the walls of the room towards the child I was holding, hoping for the same. It was such a humbling experience, to realise that all they needed was another human to make contact with them. A touch can mean so many things, that of a parent, a lover, a friend... I hope that through compassion and support, my adjustments will transmit the healing power of touch, serving to relax students as well as to deepen their practice. Touch can trigger many feelings depending upon the intention with which it is made. The trauma suffered by a student who has undergone sexual abuse may still find solace through the care of being adjusted in class - it really just depends on the person and on the mental attitude of the teacher making the adjustments.
"the soothing impact of human touch is powerful beyond imagination"
For those students who simply don't feel the need or in fact feel an aversion to being adjusted, I offer anyone to come and tell to me in confidence prior to the start of session. I also tread carefully when adjusting students with injury in order to avoid pushing them too far. I realise that at festivals and in super sized classes, a not to touch sign or even a scribbled note in capitals could be useful; but in a typical class, it should be possible to remember the one or two (usually none) who don't like being adjusted. Although I myself use yoga props frequently, keeping the need for these material items to a minimum helps us to remember that to do yoga we need nothing more than the space in which to practice, no matter where in the world we may be. Props like this adjusting notice can be useful and for some of us, a no adjusting sign is exactly what we need at a particular stage in our lives. Whatever our choice, with or without a sign, we should try to remain free in our practice, remembering that none of these items truly matter. None are a requisite ingredient to creating that deeper unfolding that comes from a lovingly attended to regular practice."
Camilla Leyland teaches Yoga Flow, Beginners Yoga and our monthly Family Yoga Class at Camyoga Central.