Adjustments not, adjustments yes… a never ending discussion in the Ashtanga Yoga world and beyond!
In my years of practice with different teachers I’ve been to both extremes… rarely in the middle way (at least what I consider the middle way). And those extremes, in my experience, have two names: Sharath Jois and Kamal Singh. And you know what? I find both amazingly good and appropriate. How is it possible?
When travelling and practising in Mysore (India) with Sharath, on the first 2 or 3 weeks I usually tend to be a bit frustrated because he tends to adjust very little… For example, in primary series, he usually help in supta kurmasana, marichasana and final backbend, that’s all. That doesn’t mean he isn’t aware of other difficulties people have in their practices, though usually there are about 70 people practising at the same time! Try to skip one posture, and you will realise how present he is 🙂
But than, after the initial period, something happens… you know you can’t rely on external help and in some way you go and get what you need within you. It forces you to look for that internal intelligence that knows about alignments and wake her up, to listen to your body and rely on yourself… and that makes you stronger! Nonetheless, it takes time and I can fully see the process going on only when I spend at least 2 months in a row practising at KPJAYI.
Exactly 2 months ago, I had my first class with Kamal at Tattva Yogashala in Rishikesh (India) and, at the end of it, I was in awe!! The way Kamal adjusts you, his energy, his ability to have you face your limits without going beyond them, his ability to adjust you in whichever position or transition you’re in and in several different ways… and that is intense! In addition, adjustments you receive are different every day and sometimes he can ask you to do a difficult asana on your own… In this way, students get lot of help but still don’t get attached to specific adjustment (check my previous blogpost on that here).
So, how is it possible to cherish both styles?
Sharath’s approach prepared me for my own self-practice while teaching me to listen more to my body; Kamal’s approach was amazing in showing me what I could do and how to do it. So, I believe those are extraordinarily fitting into each others: the first one allows you to build on yourself and on the long time; the second one works perfectly for intensive and research periods as well as to get amazing hand tools as a teacher. And not to forget… that comes from the fact that both Sharath and Kamal have years of practice and teaching, equal years of experience.
Than, adjustments yes or not? I do believe it depends on so many different aspects, many of which only the student/practitioner is aware of (if he has started the path of listening to himself and be true to that). For a teacher, it is very difficult to know, especially is not so experienced… it requires knowing the student, a trustful relationship to be in place, be listening to silent signs in the student’s practice, and more… So, I do believe that in case all of those are not in place, it is advisable to skip the physical adjustment and talk the student through it!