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Hands On

Over the past two days my yoga experiences have run the gamut from taking an intense 100-degree class with three rounds of sweaty flow to teaching a small class consisting of two friends during my weekly class at Metro to subbing a very mixed-level class at the Y. The three classes couldn’t have been more different but each reminded me why I love to teach and practice yoga. Sometimes I wish I could just live in a yoga bubble and teach, take and be surrounded by students and friends all the time. I feel really good when I’m teaching and practicing. I’m able to get lost in what I’m doing and let the walls down a little bit.

One of the things that I enjoy most about teaching is having the opportunity to help people feel better. In addition to taking them through a practice that allows for physical release, I also love to hands on assist to help my students get into poses that may not be available otherwise or to help them get deeper/feel it differently. Learning how to assist was a big part of the curriculum in my teacher training and I don’t think I have ever taught a class without assisting…until today. I wrote this in my “Answers From A Yoga Teacher” post but I don’t mind touching my students at all. I know some people are self-concious about it but it’s such an important part of the teaching experience for me and I think it adds so much to the quality of my classes/instruction.

I received an email from the group ex director at the Y asking if there was any way I could sub some classes this week. I typically stick to teaching my one BodyPump class per week and leave it at that but from time-to-time I will sub yoga if there is a need for coverage. Recently, a policy was put in place at my Y that yoga teachers can no longer provide assists. I was a little worried going into class today about how I would handle that. I do not practice with my classes when I teach. I like to be up and walking around the room and seeing them move. Watching them helps me connect and know how to coach/cue them as well as when to push harder and when to back off.

It was difficult not to assist today (and I admit that I couldn’t help but give a few very gentle assist like the grounding of hands in down dog) but I still didn’t practice with them and gave them all of my energy and attention. I received many, “Class was great, when are you teaching again?” compliments at the end of class so I’ll take that as a sign of a job well done.

Do you like hands on assists in yoga classes? If so, what poses are your favorite to get a little extra help?

On the food front, I’ve been eating some good stuff lately. (Always! :)) Here is a look at “What I Ate Tuesday.”

I discovered the deliciousness of adding a scoop of coconut oil on top of my oatmeal. The banana/pumpkin butter/peanut butter combo is already my favorite but this really kicked it up.

Grilled cheese is always a good lunch choice…especially when you add heirloom tomatoes and basil along with cheddar, goat gouda and sourdough bread.

Fage Cherry Pomegranate with Bear Naked Fruit & Nut Granola for a snack.

And finally, a salad with salmon for dinner. I say this over and over again but it is easy to throw together easy and healthy dinners if you are prepared. This took me 10 minutes start to finish . I seasoned the salmon with Dizzy Pig Raging River and TJs lemon pepper grinder and then placed it in the oven to broil while I prepped the salad. Spinach, cucumbers, tomato, toasted pecans, goat cheese, avocado and dried cranberries with honey balsamic vinaigrette. The fish cooked for about 8 minutes and turned out perfect. It was a relatively thin piece of wild Alaskan salmon. This was one of the best salads I’ve made in a while.

Off to workout! I’m doing wall balls for the first time in months. 100 of them. We all know how I feel about them so this should be fun! Oh 100 pullups and double unders too. Triple the fun!

{ 42 comments… add one }
  • Kristy@RunTheLongRoad August 22, 2012, 6:23 pm

    i definitely like assists in yoga! i want to know what i’m doing wrong and i prefer if the teacher walks around the room and checks everyone’s form. too bad i don’t live closer to charlotte 🙁

  • Linda August 22, 2012, 6:28 pm

    Coconut oil, that sounds good! I will add that to my Coach’s Oats/PB & almond milk combo tomorrow! Since I don’t do yoga a lot I really appreciate assists and I think it’s important to learn how to do the moves correctly. Interesting that the Y isn’t allowing that anymore.

  • Kaleigh August 22, 2012, 6:33 pm

    It’s very helpful to me when a teacher provides assists/adjustments — often I am not even aware that my body is out of alignment on a pose. I just recently started practicing with a teacher who does adjustments, and I have made huge strides in my practice since then.

  • Jessica August 22, 2012, 6:38 pm

    The previous studio I went to didn’t have a lot of assists, regardless of the instructor. I loved the classes. My favorite instructor at the current studio I go to (I moved and had to change studios) does a LOT of hands on assists, and I absolutely feel like I’ve not only grown leaps and bounds in my practice but I’ve also gotten a lot more out of the classes. I think it may be one of those situations where you don’t know what you’re missing if you’ve never had it?

  • Kacy Pleasants August 22, 2012, 7:12 pm

    Love love love assists!

  • Caroline August 22, 2012, 7:13 pm

    I love assists – even a small adjustment can make a big difference in the feel of the pose, and I can take the “feel” of it with me when I practice on my own. Triangle and pigeon are probably 2 of my favorites to get assists on – I always hope the teacher is by me when we do them – hee! In pigeon I just can’t get my hips right without a little press, and in triangle it helps me to open through my side better than I can do on my own.

    Your salmon looks delicious! I put the TJ lemon pepper on everything. I still need to try your perfect eggs recipe – thank you for sharing! 🙂

  • Brooke @ sweats & sweets August 22, 2012, 7:24 pm

    I love when teachers help assist in pigeon pose. First, they really help me get deeper in the pose and push my comfort boundary. Second, they help “loosen” the tension in your neck with a nice massage. It just melts everything away. I love it.

  • Chrissy August 22, 2012, 7:41 pm

    I really like assists, though there have been a few times when an instructor has been a little too forceful – they don’t seem to believe my hips could possibly be as tight as they are, and yet! Mostly, though, I find assists helpful and really enjoy the physical contact with my instructor – it makes me feel more connected to my practice and my teacher.

  • Devon | the food bitch blog August 22, 2012, 7:51 pm

    I wonder if the “no assisting” is a country-wide Y thing because it recently happened at my Y… Interesting.

  • Cheryl @ happy is the new healthy August 22, 2012, 8:25 pm

    I really like it when instructors adjust me but I also find it helpful if they offer suggestions specifically to me or demonstrate what they’re trying to say rather than just saying it! 🙂 Showing what’s WRONG also helps. 😀

  • Amy August 22, 2012, 8:27 pm

    That’s too bad about your Y’s new policy! I love assists — I learn so much that way. What a disappointment — you and your students are both missing out!

  • Laura August 22, 2012, 8:31 pm

    Jen, I so wish I was local so I could come take a class from you! You should relocated to Boston 😉

    I love assists in yoga. They really help me. My favorite instructor often assists. Anything on my back/shoulders really helps me get into proper position. I always leave standing a little straighter!

  • jennyv August 22, 2012, 8:33 pm

    I’ve only done two yoga classes in my life (crazy, right?!) but I think I would like a hands on assist so that I know I’m technically sound. I do understand how being sweaty and whatnot might make people a bit nervous — good to hear that you enjoy correcting/assisting.

    Side note, I followed your perfect eggs instructions and created, get this, PERFECT EGGS 🙂 I was shocked how easy it was. No worrying about flipping the darn things either!

  • Miriam@Bellaspire August 22, 2012, 8:34 pm

    What a sad world it’s becoming. They must have put that policy in place because either someone did something inappropriate or they worried someone could. I personally LOVE to get assists, otherwise I’ll keep doing something incorrectly or I will forget that I can push further. One time I was doing bow pose and the teacher straddled me and literally picked me up. It was too cool.

  • Amanda August 23, 2012, 12:36 am

    Oh man! I love assists! One of my good friends is who I most often take yoga from, so it’s especially welcome when it’s a friend I already know and trust, but really I always welcome assistance. I have the WORLD’s tightest hamstrings, so I can always benefit from someone helping me push a little further or pulling my hips into the right place.
    I have, however, only ever taken yoga from women. I don’t know if I would feel as comfortable with a male instructor I didn’t know assisting me without warning.

  • Cath August 23, 2012, 5:54 am

    Shame your Y doesn’t let you do assists. I think they’re awesome! There’s nothing like being corrected and feeling how much more effective the pose can be. I’m looking forward to having more time for yoga soon – your blog always inspires me and makes me want to get to a class!

  • Emily August 23, 2012, 6:10 am

    It looks like everyone likes assists – I do too. It’s what I really miss now that I mostly only practice at home. Sometimes my boyfriend will point it out to me if I’m kinda crooked or my back isn’t as straight as it could be, but usually I am home alone when I practice so have to really feel in to the position. Sometimes the teacher (dvd, online etc) will prompt me well enough to notice too, but I definitely miss that aspect.

  • Jen August 23, 2012, 7:21 am

    I love the assists too! I’m disappointed if I don’t get an assist in class. Half moon if my favorite assist, but I need help in all of the revolved poses (revolved triangle, half moon, dancer, etc.). That’s an unfortunate policy at the Y – one reason I don’t do yoga at gyms (though there are obviously good teachers like you there sometimes, I know some other group exercise teachers that teach yoga at the Y but have no formal training in yoga).

  • Kendra August 23, 2012, 8:18 am

    The standing pose, dandayamana dhanurasana, was always more beneficial when I had assistance. It also helps me feel the correct way of doing it so afterwards when I am doing it solo, I am doing it right!

  • Erica R August 23, 2012, 8:18 am

    Yes to assists please! I’ve very recently (with thanks to you and your blog!) started taking yoga, and the assists and pointers are the main reason I’m there and not practicing from a DVD. I love to be and need to be guided into the correct and/or deeper positions. Thanks so much for all of your informative posts!

  • Holly August 23, 2012, 8:43 am

    I respect the Y’s conservative values but sometimes I wonder where their rules come from. I have had two very different Y yoga experiences but in both classes there were no assists.

    Overall I like assists except on the days when I’m really tight. Sometimes I know my body is really tight and I don’t want any extra pressure or push. I’m not sure how to politely say “no” during those times.

    Another example is if I don’t practice for several weeks, the return to the studio and the teacher is all over me. I like to ease back into my yoga routine on my own.

    Hope that made sense! I do tend to always like a gentle neck massage or pressure on the shoulders during savasana. No complaints there.

  • Elisse August 23, 2012, 8:58 am

    I love assists! My favorite teachers are the ones who physically help you into poses, getting deeper or correcting. It truly makes your practice that much better, in my opinion.

  • Dominique @ FreeToBeAthlete August 23, 2012, 9:01 am

    I appreciate gentle assists while practicing. I found your assisting to be perfect, taking me just that extra little bit. I’ve had aggressive assists, though, and didn’t like them at all. I’ve also had classes with little to no assisting, and it lacks connection sometimes. Lately in Ashtanga I have been receiving more one-on-one assistance in the form of demonstration, talking it out, and guidance, which I also find to be a helpful methodology that works for me.

  • Amy August 23, 2012, 9:02 am

    I love love love assists. My personal favorite is during child’s pose, but I also find it very helpful during any sort of twists. My body locks up at a certain point, but I am always able to find so much more room when the instructor gives me just a little push. Is there a way to know when you are subbing at the Y’s? I’d love to come to one of those classes.
    That looks like the best grilled cheese ever!

  • annMarie August 23, 2012, 10:58 am

    I have to say that I have never taken a class WITH assists. How wonderful that would be. I feel like I spend more time trying to see what the teacher is doing than actually doing the yoga. All of the teachers I have had do yoga with the students. I do live in the rural Midwest so maybe things are done differently here. I would definitely do it more if I knew more or felt confident in what I was doing.

  • Sierra August 23, 2012, 11:00 am

    My yoga place has a great policy for assists. As we begin each class in child’s pose, we are asked to close our eyes, breathe deeply, etc. Then, the instructor asks that anyone who would prefer not to be assisted to raise their hand briefly. That way, it allows assists for those who really like and benefit from them, but respects those who do not wish to be touched.

  • Jen@HealthyFoodandFamily August 23, 2012, 11:50 am

    That salad looks so good!!!! Did you make the dressing yourself?

  • Jaime D. August 23, 2012, 12:21 pm

    I do like hands on assists in yoga classes – it is so helpful to me since I am a beginner. A teacher helped me get into a “true” shoulder stand the other day and it felt so good!

  • Tiffany August 23, 2012, 12:36 pm

    I’ve never tried yoga but I am interested in taking a class. I hope the class I take offers hands on assists because as a beginner its nice to have the instructor help you with form.

    Great idea about adding coconut oil to oatmeal. I stirred mine in during cooking and it left the oats silky soft with a slight coconut flavor. it was delicious! Next time I will try adding it on top like you did 🙂

    Have a great day!

  • Erica { EricaDHouse.com } August 23, 2012, 1:02 pm

    I’ve only been to one yoga class but I absolutely needed the assists from the teacher! My form was so off since I was’t familiar with the yoga terminology – I don’t know if I’d want to take a class where the teachers couldn’t help me that way!

  • Lara August 23, 2012, 1:37 pm

    LOVE assists! I’m still fairly new to yoga so I really appreciate it. I took a class a few weeks ago and the teacher didn’t come over to me – I was so sad – I look forward to them helping me find the position as well as get deeper into a stretch as I am so not flexible -Yet.

  • Jess August 23, 2012, 1:43 pm

    I’m really quite self-conscious about being touched by anyone else, but that’s a problem for me in other areas besides yoga – even getting my hair cut is difficult because I always want to apologise for anyone having to go anywhere near me. I feel like I’m a horrible person who no-one would want (or should have to) be in close contact with. That said, I do love to be helped into a headstand because otherwise I would never get to do the pose at all. That and crow are my two biggest failings when it comes to yoga!

    • Ali @ Around the VeggieTable August 29, 2012, 2:02 pm

      Jess! I just happened to see your comment and it made me so sad. I don’t know anything about you so I’m sorry if I seem like a crazy person, but I just had to let you know that you are more loved than you could ever realize! You are fearfully and wonderfully made in God’s image. I will be praying for you to realize how special you are and that you can feel how loved you are <3

  • Mary Beth August 23, 2012, 1:46 pm

    I needed help settling into pigeon today. The first time I did that pose I was weeping quietly on my mat, and it still is a pose that ‘hurts so good’ and challenges me. My instructor helped me to relax my shoulders, square my hips and she always breathes alongside me. I am always so thankful for the wonderful assists from my teachers!

  • McRae August 23, 2012, 2:30 pm

    The more assists, the better. Even after taking yoga for 4 years, you can always learn so much more about a pose when a teacher twists you that extra inch, etc.

  • Ashleigh August 23, 2012, 2:45 pm

    What’s yoga without assists….

  • Brittany August 23, 2012, 3:25 pm

    I LOVE hands-on assists. In fact some of my favorite teachers are also massage therapists (helloooo goodness). As a yoga teacher I love to assist and help my students for the same reasons you talk about. I do however always ask the class beforehand if they would prefer to not be touched to raise their hand (in a pose like child’s pose so they aren’t intimidated or embarrassed).

  • Joanna August 23, 2012, 3:59 pm

    oooh please do cover today’s workout in tomorrow’s post! eeek! I am sure you will do awesome but maybe.. blisters from the pull-ups?
    P.S. I have sandwich envy of EVERY sandwich you make. seriously, the bread always looks perfectly grilled 🙂

  • Lea @ Greens and Coffee Beans August 23, 2012, 4:35 pm

    I love assists in yoga class, I usually don’t like being touched but yoga is my one exception. I especially love in child’s pose when the teach presses down on my hips, it feels amazing on my lower back, which is usually such a tight spot for me.

  • Kendall August 24, 2012, 1:32 pm

    as a hot, power yoga teacher, I love TO assist and I love BEING assistED. I think it’s the best part about yoga! And I agree with you completely, that also as a teacher who also does not practice with the class, it’s hard to NOT assist when you’re teaching.

  • sayre August 26, 2012, 10:37 pm

    I love assists in yoga (of course if it’s okay with the student). It really helps me to experience poses in new ways and find new openings. One of my favorite simple assists is when we are seated cross legged with our eyes closed and our palms face up on our knees, and the instructor comes around and gently guides our shoulders back and down, opening our chests up a little more to the sky. It’s simple, but a great opening. Love reading your blog! -sayre

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