It’s time to get touchy.

We’re moving away from the books and into the  hands-on portion of our training – anatomy, practice teaching and physical assists – the focus of this past Wednesday’s lecture.

Some of what I learned:

  • Human touch is vital. It can connect us to others, reduce anxiety, lower blood pressure.
  • Human touch is scary. For some of our students, touch brings up negative emotions or, even, trauma memories.
  • Knowing where and when to adjust will make the difference between good or harmful alignment.
  • Assists need to have an appropriate amount of pressure – we don’t want to tickle people, nor do we want to give them a deep tissue treatment.
  • Humans have private parts. We need to avoid touching them.

Within the eight limbs of yoga, we practice Ahimsa – compassion for all things. The word “Ahimsa” literally means not to injure or show cruelty to any creature or any person in any way. It means kindness and thoughtful consideration of other people and things. Ahimsa implies that in every situation we should adopt a considerate attitude and do no harm.

Seriously? I’m not supposed to swat a mosquito? Or kill the spider hanging from my bedroom wall? (Don’t judge me for having cobwebs in my bedroom.) Yeah. I’ll need a lot of growth in this area. Teaching’s a good place to start.

At the beginning of class, we give students the chance to opt out of being touched. For students wanting assists, we have to make decisions about who to touch and who not to touch. We might choose not to touch a first time student, for example, who may perceive it as criticism. We may choose to do a closer, more personal assist for students we know well.

When I registered for teacher training, a friend said, “200 hours? What’s there to learn? Isn’t yoga just a bunch of stretching?” Ummm…yeah, no. There’s a lot for us to consider –  scan the room to see who might need assistance, give verbal cues, maintain the rhythm of breathing, don’t get in the way, practice Ahimsa.

Perhaps I needed extra learning from Wednesday night, because yesterday the Universe sent me an instructor who forgot I had opted out of physical assists, and adjusted me anyway. That was awkward. I didn’t want to make a scene in class, but I’m nursing a tender knee and it hurt to have it moved. Big picture message: Elen, when people opt out, Do. Not. Touch. Them. That’s icky.

Todays intention: May my touch and interaction with others be guided by the practice of Ahimsa.


P.S. If you’re unfamiliar with the eight limbs of yoga, I encourage you to read about them.


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