To touch or not to touch . . . This is a big question in yoga studios around the globe, in particular for us in the Western world. I just wanted to take some time to bring assisting into the light. I have recently noticed at the studio some resistance to being assisted, which I have been wanting to address for sometime. In addition, I have also just returned from an advanced assisting training with my teacher and now felt like a good time to share.
What seems to one of the key factors in assists is that it really depends on how you are being approached, the energy behind the assist that is being offered and the confidence of the assist that seem to matter the most.
The primary question is: Do you, as the student want an assist from the teacher?
There are many reasons why someone may not want an assist. One reason could be that someone was poorly assisted in the past, where the energy of the assist was coming more from the fixing paradigm versus an assisting and enhancing paradigm. Poor assists can lead to injury or a poor experience with having a teacher put their hands on you while you are practicing. Another reason could be that someone has experienced some form of trauma and may not want to be touch. Another reason could simply be that the person does not feel like having any assists. And yet, another reason is that we, and I was once there myself, see an assist as a correction. Like we were doing something wrong and now we are being corrected and this does not feel good for our ego, our soul, or our heart, not to mention our practice.
It is always important to respect the wishes of the student and person. The above is by no means an exhaustive list of why someone might not want to be assisted, but it provides you with some common reasons. So if you are experiencing a lack of desire to have an assist you are not alone. You should always feel comfortable telling a teacher that you do not want to be assisted during class, just like you would inform the teacher about an injury that you are dealing with. The more information the teacher has, the more the teacher is able to provide you with what you need to stay embodied and to feel supported.
There are many reasons to provide someone with an assist or an enhancement and none of these reasons should have anything to do with fixing or correcting the pose that you are in. Assists or enhancements help you to find the ground and connect to yourself, and your breath, so that you are able to find little more expansion and awaken energetically in the pose. Although, sometimes assists take you deeper into poses, they should not be given in a way, that you feel that you are being “pushed” deeper into a pose. Rather, the assist should create a sense of space and connection, that allows you to find depth or even something as simple as a little more breath.
Types of Assists
There are the assists that most of us love to receive, the feel good assists in child’s pose, in sivasana and other resting postures where you are being massaged. These assists are intended to help soothe the nervous system and unwind tension.
Then there are assists in the more active poses – standing postures, seated postures, forward folds, heart openers (backbends) and twists. These believe it or not are also intended to feel good, to enhance your experience of a pose, to create ease in your body and connection to your breath.
The main thing that I would like you all to know is that when a teacher is offering an assist it is in no way a correction. You are not doing anything wrong. You are more than enough and you are doing more than enough.