Touch tells more than a thousand words
Sometimes a tactile impulse can tell more than a thousand words:
- This is an effective way to indicate direction of movement to the student.
- By using this approach you don't distract other practitioners in the room.
With the following guidelines you can learn to give safe and effective adjsutments.
Be aware of what you want to offer the student in your adjustment. This intention should be clear enough so that the student understands what you are trying to point out to them. You should have the purpose of offering something to the student when you adjust. Don't just give the student a random massage while in the pose.
Touch can irritate some people, and can be found to be particularly intimate. By working with a clear purpose, you avoid misunderstandings. If you notice that the student is irritated, try to keep a respectful distance to give them extra needed space. Take caution to keep a good amount of distance with new students until you have established rapport.
Use the Momentum of the Rhythm of Breath to guide you
Observe the student first. Connect with them by matching the rhythm of their breath.
- Breathe with the student. This will hep the student to find harmony in the breath.
- Enter by following the student through their movement. Make contact through the movements, following his or her lead.
Adjustments should be harmoniously given by following the students flow. There should be no mechanical pushing or pulling here and there going on.
Listening to support contact
Slowly build contact with the practitioner. The first touch is actually just tuning into the practitioners breath. You will feel into their breath, where they have tension and the energy that is coming from the student. Once you have made initial contact, always keep contact through the entire adjustment. This is particularly challenging when you are helping to keep a student in a certain position and holding them steady, or as the student is moving. Once your physical assist comes to an end, end contact with the same care as when you made contact.
- when building contact, listen and tune in with your hand first
- when you are stabilizing the student or the student is moving always keep one hand on the student
- form yourself with the hand or other body part to fit the students shape ("Perfect Fit")
Usually an adjustment will last about 5-10 breaths. The practitioner will stay put, or they will switch sides. Specific adjustments that are held for longer periods of time (i.e. over 10 minutes) are covered in the Advanced Ausbildung and/or in specific MTC's. In these cases we are supporting a student through a series of positions. When you feel comfortable with this basis of listening through touch, it becomes natural to offer such adjustments in your classes or at home when you practice. Anyone who has experienced the feeling of a good adjustment can speak to the surprising sense of wellbeing from being supported through their practice.
What's the Reason?
Constant contact builds security. The student knows where you are and that you are definitely there. For this reason, the basis of all body work techniques starts with the rule: "Never lose contact!"
Our hand's pressure and grip should be soft and adapted to the practitioner. It should help guide him or her harmoniously toward your intention.
- If you apply too much pressure or weight, you could injure the practitioner.
- If the hold is too sharp, you could bruise them.
- If your touch is too timid, it may be misinterpreted or tickle the student.
- If your contact isn't made with a deep sense of understanding the conversation of the contact, it may cause the practitioner to tense up.
As soon as we enter the student's space, we are stepping into their sense of equilibrium as well. Be cautious to observe and support the students balance by:
- Entering and exiting the adjustment- this can be particularly challenging to not compromise the students balance.
- Try to make contact on both ends of the area of focus, and when exiting releasing evenly from these two sides.
- You can let the student lean on you. This way you support their weight.
What's the reason?
Nothing will make your student more skeptical of a teacher than the sense that the teacher is going to knock them over during an adjustment. Specifically during movement it can be quite hard to promote stability in your adjustments.
You have to take care that you are in a safe position before you think to support a practitioner. Only when you feel comfortable and stable can you pass that on to your student:
- Use your weight and the student's weight.
- Stay cool and relaxed.
- Pushing and pulling is easier when the arms are straight. This is especially useful when there is distance between yourself and the practitioner.
- Lean into the practitioner with your body weight cautiously. This is especially useful when you are very close to the student.
What's the reason?
You can only really help someone when you are mindful of your own position. If you are in a less than optimal position, the strain you carry will transfer directly to your student.
You probably want to be able to help your student again tomorrow. Many beginning teachers forget to look at their own alignment when they adjust. This can lead to a backache for the rest of the day. This doesn't have to be the case. If you set yourself up ergonomically before you go into the adjustment, it will be comfortable and somewhat effortless to give adjustments, and can also be a healthy practice for yourself. At the end of the lesson you may even feel as good as if you had practiced yourself.