Giving physical adjustments to students as a way of teaching Yoga is very common and totally accepted.
Almost. In recent years a lot of practitioners start to speak up about the unpleasant experiences they had in adjustments. Some share theis stories of physical abuse in this context. Whether it is sexual or some other form of inapproriate or violent touch. It is a complex topic and there is lots of good analyzes and reflection on the intricacies of being adjusted through touch.
All I want to bring forward in this debate is my very personal story.
Except of understanding the movement better, I could deepen into poses much faster through being pushed and pulled by a teacher. I progressed with teachers pushing me beyond what I could do by myself. I progressed with teachers using their physical power to guide me into spaces beyond my limitations. Just reminding you: I m not bringing forward the pros and cons, the theoretical benefits and dangers of adjustments, or questions of what progressing in Asanas even is. This is only my personal experience. And I liked to explore new possibilities in my body with the physical help of a teacher.
I vividly remember one of the very first adjustments I ever received. It was such a profound and eye-opening experience that I chose to come back to this teacher even though he was living at the other side of the world. The way the teacher adjusted me opened me body up in a way it had not for a long time. Not only that. For the first time I properly understood how I should move my body in this pose, where I was heading with it. Being directed through touch from a teacher was an absolutely poweful addition to verbal or visual cues. Physical adjusments definetely depeend my understanding of movement again and again.
Part of my adjustment experience is also painful. Once I was pushed into Viparita Shalabasana, full locust with feet on my head by a teacher. I was flexible enough to get there, but obviously not strong enough to get there by myself OR get out of there in a controlled and safe manner. After pushing me uo there the teacher continued on her stroll through class and left me alone, consequently I snapped out of the pose after some time..immediatly in hardcore pain with my right ribcage totally being knotted up so that I hard time to breath. It took three days for me to be able to take deep breaths again and stand up straight withoug intense pain. This is ten years ago, I still feel this injury today. It never completely healed again. Obviously I could skip this part of my personal Yoga adjustment history. Or the part where teachers jammed some intense smelling lotions on my neck while Savasana-massaging me without even asking me before.
But overall I would never want to miss adjustments as part of the teachings I received. Because there was more to it than understanding the position better or deepening and progressing faster in the practice.
It taught me a lot about the nature of touch and relating. It taught me how two people can communicate through their bodies. I had the most intimate and beautiful conversations of my body and the teachers body. Moments of meeting each other in total presence. Moments of merging with each other. Being adjusted raised my awareness of different qualities of touch and its subleties. I learned how to meet touch, how to receive touch. Physical adjustments for me contain memories of being deeply connected to a teacher and sharing an intimate space for these moments. For my benefit.
I know how lucky I am with this almost all positive experience and therefore do support anything that makes physical adjustments safer for all. I do like the consent cards that some studio studios offer now as a good first step to at least make sure the touch is happening consensual.
Like these consent cards they offer at YogaSky, the studio where I am located.