Ecstatic Yoga Immersions
EY Asana II, Cue, Adjust, Modify Lesson
EY Asana 2 Cueing, Adjustments & Modifications
We will use our analytics model to help us master cueing, adjusting and modifying yoga poses. Setting the foundation, then moving the body into proper alignment, then engaging the lines of energy, bandhas & breath. In this class we will cover three areas for cueing, adjusting and offering some new yoga pose modifications.
-Personal Presence & Guidelines for Cueing Students
-Guidelines for Hands on Adjustments for Yoga Students
-Modifications of Yoga Poses
Personal Presence & Guidelines for Cueing Students
To begin this class, I would like to talk about our personal presence as a yoga instructor. Your personal presence as a yoga instructor is that unsaid energy of connection with your students that will allow them to feel safe with you. We all have a voice of self-judgment and a voice of personal power within the same one mind. Ongoingly strengthening the voice of personal power, self love and acceptance is a practice for yoga instructors as we step into leading others. The more we feed our personal power and starve self judgments, the more powerfully we can lead others.
Yoga is to yoke, to become one, listen to one voice, that voice of truth, that voice of peace, to know the deeper unchanging eternal aspect of what you truly are, is a part of one unified Mind, one with all life, as all life, for all life, with all life. It is a type of growing up, maturing into adulthood to let go of listening to the part of the mind that judges and distorts the truth and finally listen to only the voice of empowerment. A great way to determine if you are listening to the voice of Spirit or the voice of ego is to know that anything the mind tells you that upsets your peace coming from the ego, the past or future. If the voice within brings a sense of peace and alignment, truth about it… then you know you are listening to the voice of love, Self, God. It is time listen to ONE voice… the voice of truth, the voice of love, the voice of peace.
Some ways to connect with personal power with your students is to get to know them, to point out positive things about them, provide affirmations, be present, be ok with the process… BE WILLING TO EXPRESS YOUR AUTHENTIC SELF!
Becoming a yoga instructor you will find your unique style. Speak from your heart, teach what you know, what you love about yoga. You will allow a wisdom from within your soul to arise as you teach. Show your students your uniqueness and allow yourself to be as BIG as life itself.
Your Unique Voice as a Yoga Instructor
Setting the space
Creating a safe, inviting and comfortable space. Choose music you love, make sure the space is clean, maybe have essential oils or insence, and set the lighting to match the class.
Be sure to let students know about your studio, where the rest rooms are, where they can store their shoes and personal items, changing rooms, showers, and where water is available.
Build Rapport with Student
Show confidence by having your class prepared.
Common Ground; let students become aware that you share common struggles, desires, concerns and visions.
Be relaxed and authentically enjoy connecting with your students, they will feel it.
Share your story and personal style
Humor; use humor to create a sense of relaxation, bringing in fun and spontaneity.
Share new learning experiences and life lessons
Ask students questions about themselves
Invite students to think and connect lessons with their personal lives.
Listen to students, get to know them and do your best to fulfill their needs.
Make your students feel important and valued.
Use eye contact and good body language to make students feel welcome and safe.
Demonstrating a pose
As you teach in front of a class of students there are a few items that are helpful to ensure your class goes smoothly and the students get the best experience.
Make sure you are visible, preferably to all the students. Sometimes this may be difficult, in that case do your best to be visible to as many students as possible. You can also demonstrate a pose in the front of the room and later move and demonstrate the pose at another location.
Name the pose, try to give both English and Sanscrit when possible.
Demonstrate new or advanced poses first before inviting students to practice the pose. Invite students to watch your body rather than your face as you demonstrate a new pose.
Offer modifications or props for the pose.
Use the same steps and prompts for instruction as you used in demonstration.
Keys to Verbal Correction
Be sure you can see all your students and they can see you.
Watch for students’ response’s, are they getting into the pose correctly?
Observe body language, eyes, facial expressions, noticing their state of being as well as the structure of the pose.
Observe students from different angles without pacing the room.
Notice the lines of the body to catch anything out of alignment.
Use verbal corrections, with an approving tone.
Begin with verbal corrections for the foundation of a pose (Where their body is connected to earth) Kindly inviting them to adjust their body to move into the proper foundation for the pose.
Once they correct themselves add an approving statement “That looks great” “Your foundation is perfect” “Much better”
Offer verbal corrections for alignment, kindly inviting them to adjust their alignment.
Offer positive words for corrected alignment “You look great” “Beautiful alignment”
Invite them to engage the line of energy of the pose.
Inviting them to engage their bandhas and add the breath.
Yoga Group Lessons
Occasionally in a yoga class you can discuss a yoga lesson either at the beginning or toward the end of a class. Below are some suggestions for personal power in group yoga lessons.
-Draw the group together and provide a short informative lesson.
-Encourage presence with eye contact and engaging in comments and questions after.
-Ask if everyone understands or if there are any questions.
-Listen sincerely to comments and questions, repeating questions so the entire class hears.
-Guide the class to learn from one another.
-Express gratitude and appreciation for sharing and exploring together, invite everyone to get involved.
-Some valuable comments; “Thank you for that question” “Has anyone else had a similar experience” “Could you share more about that?” “What a great perspective” “Can anyone else relate?”
In Patanjali’s yoga sutras Sutra 2.46 states “sthira sukham asanam” which means “Stability and ease in every pose”
Guidelines for Hands On Adjustments for Yoga Students
In this day and age I find it better to protect yourself as a yoga instructor and avoid hands on adjustments. However, with proper insurance, student permission both verbal and written and done gently, correctly and safely it can be helpful for students to be guided to embody the pose more deeply. The intention of a hands on adjustment can be to deepen the pose, align the pose, integrate and stabilize the pose, or even back off.
Correcting physical mis-alignment of a pose
Correcting and safety pre-cautions of a pose
Assisting body ease and correct posture of a pose
Assisting a student in deepening into a pose
Providing support for a student to engage the correct intention or line of energy of a pose.
Providing muscle memory for proper
Inviting a student to slow down and become more present in a pose
Creating connection and support
Helping a student to relax deeper into the pose
If you can get the result by verbally cueing the student, always do that first.
Golden Rule for hands on adjustments: Always receive the student’s permission to touch and adjust them both verbal and written. Never touch a student without permission to do so, and when they decline, honor that decision. Have it in writing, in their original paperwork they sign before class.
Opting In; “I will be providing hands on adjustments today, please raise your hand if you are wanting adjustments” students will raise their hands if they are ok with hands on adjustments… giving students the opportunity to opt in. REMEMBER who raised their hands and who didn’t. Also, even for those who raised their hands, it is important to know that students’ moods can change from pose to pose, so even for those whom raised their hands, or you recently adjusted get their permission again. If you see an opportunity to provide some hands on assistance before you touch them again ask “May I adjust you?”
Opting Out; Some yoga instructors find it easier to offer students the ability to opt out of being adjusting. This can often be easier because more students generally want to be adjusted or are ok with adjustments than not, less opt outers to remember. “I will be offering hands on adjustments during our yoga class today. Please raise your hand if for any reason you prefer to not receive assistance. I will respect your space.”
Know what to adjust
Don’t play any guessing games when it comes to touching student’s bodies. Know exactly what needs adjusting and how you will do that before you touch a student’s body. If you are hesitant or unsure in any way, don’t adjust. Not only could you hurt the student, also, they can pick up on our hesitancy and that would make them feel unsafe.
Combination of touch and cueing
A little goes a long way… you don’t want to do the pose for the student, you only want to offer very gently touch to guide them into the proper alignment or depth of the pose. A gently touch with a small amount of cueing will be of more value than a deep adjustment. Ultimately your goal is that your student’s gain muscle memory and natural knowing with only a small amount of cueing and adjustments. The body remembers far easier than the brain.
Keep communication open during adjustments
Also, as you are adjusting it is often helpful to let them know what you are doing and use verbal prompts. This will help the student you are assisting as well as the entire class. “Square your hips” as you adjust the hips helps remind all the students to square the hips. Invite the student to communicate with you (Often students need an invitation or otherwise wouldn’t communicate) Ask them “How does that feel?” “Is this feeling good?”
Be sure to not get too engrossed in helping one student that you forget the rest of the class. It wouldn’t work well if you were helping one student and the rest of the class was in an inversion for far too long. Keep mindful of the student you are adjusting as well as the entire class as a whole.
Be very positive and let students know it is fine, you totally approve if they opt out of hands on assists. Even if a student gave written permission to be adjusted and if asked at the beginning of class and they respond “No” don’t be offended, don’t take it personally. Give them full permission and full acceptance to choose either way. If it feels important you can always after class have a conversation with a student about their change of mind in an approving fashion.
It is best to adjust/assist students from behind as a general rule, however, always approach a student where they can see you. If their eyes are closed or down, verbally cueing the class is a way to let a student know where you are. Before adjusting a student always state “May I adjust you?” If a student doesn’t know you are there and you just touch them, it can startle them. Once you receive permission, then it is ok to stand behind them and adjust the pose.
Adjusting and assisting students is NOT about doing a pose for them, rather to offer a very gentle and guiding touch to help them more deeply embody foundation, alignment and line of energy of the pose.
It is important to be highly sensitive to your students during an adjustment and if you sense any resistance physically or energetically it is best to back away and not provide any further hands on assistance.
As you guide your students into the steps of each pose, you will be guiding them first to set their foundation, then take the steps needed to move into the alignment of the pose, next engage the line of energy (If you are including that in your class), lastly the bandhas and breath as they hold the pose for a few breaths.
Before adjusting anything, you will want to check your student’s foundation. If the foundation is not correct, we don’t adjust the foundation, we only cue them verbally to correct their own foundation. This is important because the foundation is where their body is connected to the earth and if we barge into their space and move a body part connected to the ground it can be unsettling. It could cause problems to move a student at the location where their body is grounded to the earth. They may lose balance, stumble or fall, it could cause them to feel startled or feel unsafe.
This is where verbal cuing is appropriate.
Once your student’s foundation is stable and you have cued them into alignment it is time to check if their alignment is correct. This is where you can adjust their pose with a gentle touch (If you received their permission) However, there will also be many opportunities where it may be better to verbally cue the student to find the correct alignment rather than touch them. An example would be in virabhadrasana I or II or lunge and you notice your student has their knee forward of the ankle. This would be an opportunity to invite them with cues to move their knee back into proper alignment so it is directly over the ankle.
Obviously there are places on every student’s bodies where you will NEVER touch, private and sensitive areas, therefore it is always important to be sensitive and mindful as you adjust students.
Once you learn the analytics of poses and learn the alignment for each pose it becomes simpler to adjust.
Some hands-on adjustment opportunities
Mountain Pose/Tadasana, verbally cue student through the loops for perfect postural alignment.
Warriror I/Virabradrasana I or Lunge/Ajanasana; assist student in squaring their hips.
Triangle/Trikonasana; make sure the students body is in one plane, gently guide any areas into one plane. Providing a gentle pull to the sky with the extended hand and fingers is often enough to invite the body to come into one plane.
Virabradrasana II; sometimes students can move torso forward, you can gently guide their torso to neutral.
Pigeon; watch so the student doesn’t roll over onto their hip, gently guide the hip up so it is balanced and suspended in neutral position.
Bridge; if students move their knees out to the sides, you can gently guide them back into hip width distance.
Camel; If your students hips are not over the knees, using a very gently touch, you can invite the hips forward to move into alignment over the knees.
Lines of Energy
This is last to verbally cue or offer a hands on adjustment.
Each pose, especially the standing poses have very distinct lines of energy or intentions.
A very gentle verbal cue or touch can assist the student to engage the line of energy of the pose.
Example Adjustments for lines of energy (ALWAYS without taking the student out of alignment.)
Warrior II/Virabadrasana II; you can very gently guide your students extended fingertips out and away from the body.
Down Dog; you can gently bring quadriceps back and up
Side Angle; gently bring extended fingertips up, while opening the hip.
Backbends, Bridge, Camel, Fish; gently touch (gentle tap) the sternum, above the heart (Never touching the breasts) inviting them to open and expand their heart.
Modifications for Sun Salutation Poses
* Widen Stance for balance (Feet further than hip width)
* Micro bend Knees
- Bring arms to a block to raise floor.
- Clasp hands behind the calves.
- Hold elbows for hanging forward fold.
- As you hinge down and up variations for arms are to bring them to hips, out wide like angel wings or close to body. Never out in front.
- Low lunge by dropping to the knee.
- Arm variations; above head, arching back behind head, clasping behind back, hands to floor.
Down Dog-- Adho Mukha Svanasana
-Use a Chair
-Three Legged Dog (Lifting one leg to sky while in pose)
- Drop down to your knees for a low chaturanga
Updog-Urdhva Mukha Svanasana
- Thighs on floor
- Rise up only slightly
- Place forearms on the floor
Modifications for Warrior Flow
Warrior II-Virabhadrasana II
- Adjust feet closer together
-Come to knee for low warrior
Reverse Warrior- Vaparita Virabhadrasana
-Narrow stance by bringing feet closer together
-Bring a knee down to floor for a low reverse warrior
Side Angle-Utthita Parsvakonasana
-Bring back knee to floor
-Bring arm resting on front thigh to the floor, block or just above the floor by the shin
- Narrow stance
- Use a yoga block for lower hand
- Bring hand higher up your leg
Revolved Triangle-Utthita Trikonasan
- Use a yoga block for lower hand
- Bring hand higher up your leg
- Use a block
- Bringing arms behind back
Warrior I-Virabhadrasana I
- Narrow stance; bring feet closer together.
- Arms can be straight up, arched bending head slightly back, fingers clasped or holding elbows behind back.
- Lower knees to floor
5 Pointed Star- Utthita Tadasana
- Narrow stance (Feet closer together.
- High squat
- Bring feet closer together
- Hands in toward self
- Come up onto toes
- Pulse in and out of squat
Wide Leg Forward Fold-Prasarita Podottasana
- Use a block to bring floor up
- Narrow stance
- Grab the elbows
- Stretch over to each foot to stretch inner thigh
Modifications for Floor
* Blanket under knees
* Tuck toes for height
# Pregnancy spread knees wider
# Knees together
# Rest arms out or along body
# Blanket under knees
# Bolster under stomach
# Rest head on block or fists
# Curl toes under
Single leg forward fold -Janu Shriasasana
# Folding forward with arms extended over head
# Block under folded knee
# Resting hands on upper leg
# Blanket under knees
# Bend knee back
# Bring hands under feet
# Cushion under outer thigh
#Place elbows on thighs and press thighs down to floor
# Raise one leg at a time
# Hold longer or shorter
# Hold the breath
# Bend knees as much as need
Boat Pose-Paripurna Navasana
# Half boat (It is more important to maintain a straight spine than straight legs.)
# Hold backs of thighs to maintain straight spine
# Place a strap under the soles of feet. Grip the ends of the strap with hands while raising legs. Press against the strap with your flexed feet.
- Roll back to upper back not all the way to the back of head
Bridge Pose-Setu Bandhasana
# Use a block between the knees to keep hip width apart
# Half bridge to warm up back
# Supported bridge with block under sacrum
# Arms to the side or Roll shoulder blades together and clasp hands underneath body
Knees to Chest Pose-Apanasana
- Hold the hamstrings if knees are sensitive
Half Shoulder Stand Pose-Ardha Sarvangasana
# Simply lay on back and elevate legs
# Use folded blanket for shoulders, rest head 2"-4" below (Lower than) shoulders.
# Use block or blanket for feet to land behind the head.
# If feet cannot reach the floor bend knees or widen legs to create a V.
#Bring hands to feet and grap toes with peace fingers.
# If feel strain in neck put a pillow under neck.
# Blanket under shoulders or hips
# Bring arms up in front of chest palms touching.
# Knees up, Crossed legs or from hero pose
Supine Knee Down Twist-Supta Matsyendrasana
# Use a block under knee while in full twist
#Eagle twist with one foot crossing over the other
Happy Baby-Ananda Balasana
# Use peace fingers to hold onto big toe when legs raise.
# Use blanket under head
# Place a strap under the soles of feet. Grip the ends of the strap with hands and gently pull down knees to arm pits, never pulling hard into ribs
Some modified poses
Every student’s body is different, and therefore modifications for yoga poses is a valuable tool in teaching yoga classes. It can be the difference between a student doing a pose or not. Using blocks or other props, widening or narrowing stance, using a blanket under the knees are all very simple ways to modify yoga poses so students feel more comfortable and move more easily into a pose.
We have talked in a few lessons about using modifications with props like blocks, cushions, straps etc. And also using the body adjustments like widening or narrowing stance in a lung or warrior pose, bending the knees in a forward fold. Coming to your knees in plank or lunge, etc. In this class I wanted to share a few modifications for some new poses.
Seated or supine cat-cow
Rather than cat cow in table you can practice in a seated or supine position.
Eliminates weight on your wrists, takes pressure off your knees and low back, elevates your hips. Pelvic contact with floor helps spinal movement happen from the tailbone up.
Supine childs pose
Takes pressure of the knees, protects those with herniated discs, takes pressure off the ankles.
Seated pigeon pose
Creates stretch in the hips that is less intense than traditional pigeon pose. Takes pressure off the knees and rotator muscles of the legs by elevating hips.
How to; From supine tabletop, slide your left knee toward your left wrist and bring your right knee back behind you so that your thighs are parallel to the long sides of the mat. Your shins can be either perpendicular to your thighs or you can bend your knees and bring them to approximately 45-degree angles. If you feel any tension in your knees or hips, place a blanket under your sitting bones. Work your left hip forward and down, moving in the direction of squaring your hips to face the front of the mat. Your torso can be upright or slightly forward. Stay here for 5–10 breaths. Repeat on the other side.
Supine crow or crane pose
Takes weight off the wrists, reduces chances of pain in shoulder and rotator cuff for those with shoulder injuries. Develops core and upper body strength without the fear of falling out of the balance.
How to: Start on your back with both of your feet firmly planted on the ground and your knees bent. Draw your tailbone toward the backs of your knees and hollow through your abdomen and fire up your core. Come into a supine tabletop position by lifting your shins parallel to the mat with your knees stacked directly over your hip points. Reach your arms straight up.
Flex your wrists as if you were pushing the ceiling away. Take a deep breath in. As you exhale, draw your knees to your triceps (or as close as you can get) and press your arms straight up to the ceiling. As you reach your arms, protract through your shoulders by trying to lift your shoulder blades off of the mat. Inhale and return to supine Tabletop. Repeat for a total of 5–10 repetitions.
Reclined bound angel or baddakonasana with blanket
Ankles are protected and neutral with soles of feet together, less stress on knees and hips and elevates knees and shins.
How to: Start in a seated bound angle or baddakonasan, (option; have one rolled or narrowly folded blanket within reach. Place the center of the blanket on the inner edges of your feet, then wrap it around your outer ankles and draw it under the ankles and calves to support the opening of your legs.) Walk your arms behind you to slowly lower the spine onto the mat. If you feel any pinching in your low back, come back up and adjust by sliding your ankles further away from you. This will alleviate the pressure of the pull on the psoas on the low back. You can bring the rolled edge of another blanket behind your neck to support your cervical spine. Stay here for up to 5 minutes.
Supported wheel pose
Lessens the intensity and challenge and potential for back strain, allows for more ease, stabilizes the knees and prevents them from spreading. Elevates the hips, supports lengthening, creates space in the lumbar, takes weight out of the mid-body.
How to: Start in supine tabletop with a bolster on the ground, just behind your wrists. From there, lower the front of your hips down onto the bolster and lift up through your chest. Engage through your hamstrings and begin to bend at your knees, drawing your heels toward your glutes. Reach back for your ankles, one hand at a time. If you are able to capture your ankles, kick into your hands to press your thighs down into the mat and lift up and open through the chest. Stay here for 5–10 breaths.
Side angle while kneeling
Kneeling creates more ease in the pose, supports balance, stabilizes legs and hips. Holding ankle helps knee alignment over the ankle. Equal lengthening of the torso on both sides.
How to: Stand on your knees. Bring your right foot to the mat and start to bend your right knee until it is directly above your right ankle and your shin is perpendicular to the mat. Level your hip points so they face the left long side of the mat and are equal height from the mat. Rest your right elbow on your right thigh and begin to open the body to the left, left arm reaching up, taking a lateral stretch with your torso. Play with grabbing your right shin or ankle with your right hand. Note that you can have your arm in front of your thigh, using it to nudge the right knee back so it stays stacked over your ankle or you can extend your arm behind your right thigh and use your muscle strength to press your outer right knee into your arm. Either extend your left arm towards the sky or place your left hand on your left hip and roll your left elbow open. Let your right ribs encourage the left ribs to roll open so that they move as a barrel and twist with the spine. Reach your low ribs away from your pelvis, lengthening through both sides of the body. Stay here for 5–10 breaths. Repeat on the other side.
Revolved chair pose with block
Helps eliminate rounding of the spine by raising the ground to meet you with a block. Using the block rather than the elbow into the knee, supports core engagement, protects SI joint.
How to: Begin in Chair Pose with a block half a foot in front of you and a little to the right on its tallest setting. On an exhale, begin to twist your torso to the right and reach for the block with your left hand or fingertips. You can place your right hand on your lower back to encourage lengthening (as opposed to rounding) in the lumbar spine. Roll your right elbow up toward the sky and open your chest. Press into your left hand or fingertips to draw your shoulder down and away from your left ear. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and broaden across your collarbones. If you are twisting right, allow your left knee to come slightly in front of the right knee. This is OK. Stay here for 5–10 breaths. Repeat on the other side.
Over time, you can move the block further to the right of you as you feel more comfortable deepening the twist. It’s important to keep pressing your hand onto the block. This helps increase your active range of motion in the twist, whereas the passive range of motion that we often use to push or strain as we try to deepen into the pose can lead to injury.
Remember teaching yoga is a journey, take it step by step. Gaining your voice of empowerment comes with practice. Learning how to adjust poses is best done one pose at a time, mastering poses one by one. Modifications in poses will always present themselves and be helpful to your students. Before long you will have many poses you can masterfully cue, adjust and modify. Be kind to yourself on this journey and know you don’t need to have it all mastered to be an amazing yoga instructor. Enjoy the journey.