Personally I love being adjusted, especially by a teacher whom I have been practising regularly with.
For two years I have practised in a Mysore style setting with three teachers on a regular basis, and I find the overall experience of hands-on adjustment highly beneficial. Sometimes the adjustment guides me to work towards a full pose, sometimes it reminds me of the alignment of the pose, sometimes it encourages me to explore the subtle aspects of the practice such as bandhas, breath, etc. Under such guidance, gradually I grow more and more independent from the teacher’s help, as I learn how to refine my practice and draw the attention inwards.
This amazing experience has constantly motivated me to study anatomy and the art of adjustment. In the past two years I had some experience in learning adjustment by taking intensive trainings and being an apprentice in a regular Mysore style class. When I knew I was going to move to New York, I was thrilled that I finally got the chance to meet Guy Donahaye, one of the very best Ashtanga teachers in NYC, and study with him in his adjustment workshops.
I took all the three workshops: Primary series foundation, Primary series refinements, Intermediate series adjustments. Learning to adjust from Guy felt like learning new poses in a Mysore style class:
After he had explained the alignment of a certain pose and demonstrated the adjustment twice on two different people, every one paired up and practised the adjustment through repetition and on different people. When we were practising, Guy was very attentive to what everybody was doing, he was giving assistance and answering questions with great patience. In some complicated poses, such as Marichyasana D, Supta Kurmasana, Pasasana and Kapotasana, he was either standing or sitting next to me, talking me through every single detail and guiding me with his touch — very much like teaching me a new asana in a Mysore style setting. And when I continued practising the same adjustment on other students, he might be helping someone else in the classroom but still kept checking on me until I was able to perform everything he had taught.
The workshops were limited to a very small number of people, and Guy’s assistant, Alex, was assisting too.
For students without any adjustment training, I think they had plenty of opportunities to ask questions, to focus on some of the fundamental, relatively simple yet effective adjustments by performing them on different bodies in a safe environment and reviewing the techniques every day.
For students with some adjustment training background, the workshops offered great opportunities to explore the more complicated adjustments, how to get deep into the poses safely and effectively for both the practitioner and adjuster.
Guy shared many wonderful experience in the workshops. He often talked about breathing — the adjuster, or the teacher, has to breathe consciously too. He had reminded me a few times about my breath when he was observing me adjusting a challenging pose, and made me see that when I lost my breath I started accumulating tension. Well, when a student forgets to breathe in a pose they can easily hurt themselves, and similar things could happen to the adjuster too when they are moving without breathing consciously — or worse, the student gets hurt at the same time. I believe the teacher’s conscious, deep breath is also important when leading a class. Sometimes when I talk too much in a class and become unable to breathe with students, I lose track of the rhythm of practice easily, and even feel distracted, overwhelmed by the stirring energy I have reflected to the whole class.
Some of the students I met at the workshops came from Boston, Ithaca, Buffalo; one of them even flew all the way from Hawaii. I plan to do Guy’s workshops again, maybe next year, even if that means I have to fly from Singapore to New York — needless for me to say how amazing these adjustment workshops are.