As part of my yoga teacher training (YTT) requirements, I must assist several yoga classes. When assisting, my role is to observe the students and provide assists or adjustments to help them refine their poses more.
Today, I assisted in a class taught by the lead trainer of my YTT program. He teaches a fast-paced class with minimal alignment cues. Most of the students are regulars.
One young woman in class was doing yoga for the first time.
In almost every pose, this young woman was struggling. Between my assists and the main teacher’s assists, she was getting a lot of attention.
I was mindful of the fact that when you’re getting too much hands-on attention, you can start to feel disempowered and defeated, like you’re doing everything wrong.
At one point I approached her to help her with her alignment in the more basic version of a pose, as she struggled to follow the instructions for the more complicated version.
As I assisted her, I whispered to her,
You’re doing great. Yoga is hard. And it’s perfectly acceptable to stay right where you are.
Her entire face softened. For the first time in class, she exhaled.
She had been trying so hard to keep up.
It was clear to me that what she needed most in that moment was permission to stop trying so hard. Permission to be where she was, and for that to be ok.
In teacher training we learned to look first at the feet, because everything builds on the foundation.
There’s also a foundation when giving assistance: reaffirm that the student is already doing well.
For the rest of the class, each time I went over to assist her, I reminded her that she was doing great. At times she caught my eye from across the room, as if she was looking for that reassurance. I smiled and nodded to affirm that she was perfectly great where she was.
By the end of class, I noticed that she was taking more ownership of her body in the poses. Her body might not remember the physical assists I offered, but the emotional assists were already sinking in.
As a coach, this is what lights me up: when my clients feel empowered to make their own choices, in alignment with their souls.
This alignment is what I aim to help my clients and students cultivate, on and off the mat.