Why Do They Keep Adjusting My Downward Dog?

image of yoga teacher giving downward dog assist

Why Do They Keep Adjusting My Downward Dog?

A good friend of mine once asked me, “Kelli, can you check out my Downward Dog and help me with my alignment? I must be doing something wrong, because in almost every class, my teacher adjusts me when I’m in it!”

Why do teachers adjust me?

Am I doing something wrong?

I was already in the pose as deep as I could be. Why did they push me to go farther, when I thought yoga was about honoring where I’m at and letting go of competition?

All questions that students have asked me and I have asked myself. There are 4 main reasons teachers adjust students:

1. It feels good to be touched.

Some people go all day without receiving human touch as it’s frowned upon in most workplace settings, and some people live alone or with non-relative roommates. The benefits of gentle touch are numerous: calming us down, releasing oxytocin and diminishing our stress response.

2. An adjustment provides a road map of where to go in a pose.

Some students are kinesthetic learners. They can hear the cues and see the demo, but must feel the pose’s alignment in their own body in order to get it. Once brought into alignment by an instructor, they can usually find it again on their own next time (or at least gain successive approximations of it).

3. An adjustment helps you access your fullest range of motion.

You may guide yourself into the same postural outline that you observing your teacher demoing, or the students next to you taking, when you actually have more space or accessibility in your own body to go deeper. A good adjuster will listen to the steadiness of your breath, read your facial expression and gauge if you are under stress. From there we guide you into depth until your body resists the stretch, then stop. You may access more flexibility than you knew you had.

4. We want to keep you safe.

If we notice your joints  out of alignment in as way that puts you at risk for injury, we may guide you into a safer position.

What’s important to keep in mind is that YOU know more about the sensations in your body than even the most skilled instructor. IT IS ALWAYS OK TO OPT OUT OF ADJUSTMENTS.

Sometimes you don’t feel like being touched, or you’re nursing an injury, or just slept weird and woke up with a sore neck. Maybe you feel like softening your practice that day, and have no desire to go deeper. Some students feel pain when adjusted, but are embarrassed to speak out or think that the teacher must know better, so they suffer through pain or even get injured from an adjustment.

During an adjustment, if sensations go beyond therapeutic, into strain or pain, speak up immediately.

Here are some things you can say to your teacher to let them know:

“That’s good right there.” (If you’re at your edge and feel that they are still going to guide you deeper)

“That hurts.”

“Can you go softer, please?”

“That doesn’t feel right for my body.”

Readers: I would love to hear your feedback on this one. What do you think about adjustments? Are they necessary? Love them, hate them? Would it be better to find the pose on your own, in your own time?

Oh P.S. Adjusting downward dog is one of the most often given adjustments because it’s practiced so many times within a Vinyasa Class. It’s quick and easy for a teacher to step in, press your hips up, and step out. (Really though, doesn’t it feel great when your teacher draws your hips up, lessening the strain of gravity on your back and legs??? Or maybe that’s just me : )


Kelli Russell
join me
1 Comment
  • Jenny Harkleroad
    Posted at 19:56h, 02 February Reply

    I love them all, 1-4 but especially 1! Keep it up! All good stuff!

Post A Comment