Intention in Yoga Adjustments
Intention: What is it that we want to communicate to the student in this moment?…and why?
If I broadly defined what a correct adjustment is, I would say that a correct adjustment is the one that effectively fulfills the intention created by the adjuster based on their experience and the variables of the student.
Intention is a really important word in our conversation about doing adjustments. We want to have a really clear intention when we place our hands on someone. The intention is part of the reason why you’re doing the specific adjustment that you’re doing (Check out Adjustments… Why Bother?). Without a clear intention, the adjustment can end up being confusing or possibly even injurious to the student. Without a clear intention, there is more room for misinterpretation by the student as to what you’re actually trying to do. Your experience and the student’s individuality converge to help create an intention that we are going to try and carry out while doing the appropriate adjustment in the moment.
There are a number of valid intentions that we can have when we do an adjustment with someone.
- Teaching a technique of how to do the whole, or part of a posture.
- Re-patterning the way in which they’re already doing something.
- Simply supporting the pose they’re doing
- Grounding the person and the pose
- Deepening the pose
As students progress, it makes sense that the need for adjustments will also change.
So, your experience and understanding, along with the student and where they’re at, combine together with different intentions to make an effective adjustment.
Order of Operations
You could say that there are three stages of applying an intention to a yoga adjustment.
1) Observe the student and take in the information
2) Work with the foundation of the pose
3) Apply one or more additional intentions for the pose
First, as I discussed in “Observing Yoga Students before Adjusting Their Posture”, we need to take in the information about how the student is currently doing the pose.
Then, based on our own experience and study of the pose, we’ll form an intention for working with the most fundamental parts of the pose.
Foundational intentions could include:
- grounding the pose
- adjusting to create length and space
- adjustments that focus on the pelvis (the “core” of the body)
- adjustments that direct pressure or focus into larger joints
- adjustments that work with controlling the student’s center of gravity
Once the foundation of the pose is established, then it might be appropriate to adjust other aspects of the pose to help the student evolve the pose further.
Depending on the pose, there will likely be layers of intentions within each pose that can be explored. Intentions within a single pose could be primary, secondary, tertiary, etc.
Your intentions should incorporate a plan for the overall development of the student’s practice. How does the pose fit into the short-term, mid-term, and long-term plan for the evolution of the student’s practice? Are there aspects of the pose that will develop slowly over time? What intentions can you work with now that will serve the student in the long-term?
Additional intentions that might be appropriate are:
- deepening the pose
- adjustments that address the smaller joints in a chain after the larger joints are working appropriately
- advancing the pose beyond the most basic version
- incorporating aspects of the pose that build on the foundation
- adding additional aspects of a pose that the student must work simultaneously (for example: balancing and twisting)
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David explains why the key to lowering into chaturanga is doing two things at once: maintaining an active serratus anterior and relaxing the triceps and deltoids.