One of the things I love most about classes at PYC is the Assistant you find participating in most classes.
PYC offers a program called the Art of Assisting. It is geared towards students who want to learn how to properly assist other students. They participate in intensives that teach them proper alignment and the anatomy of the perfect hands-on assist. It is a phenomenal way to give back to the community we love.
Proper alignment is key to a great yoga practice and the Assistants are an integral part of achieving things you had never thought possible. But, perhaps more importantly, it creates connections. Physical and emotional connections are vitally important to sustaining a lifestyle that prompts healthful living!
Every class I have attended with an Assistant present, goes something like this: the assistant gets introduced at the beginning of class, the instructors says something along the lines of “So if you feel hands on you, just go with it!!” And then the lovely assistant spreads her love and wisdom throughout the room.
The really great assistants get to you when you least expect it and take you further than you have been before or they can back you up and put you right where you need to be in that moment. They accomplish this with a motion that aligns with your breathing and a very light touch. That slight physical connection is sometimes met with a nervous giggle from some who are new to the community (especially when they go for your feet), but without fail they take you where you need to go. The first time I had an Assistant in my class, I felt so sorry for her. I was sweaty, she had to touch my feet, and I am pretty sure I forgot my deodorant that day! But none of that phased her, she increased my stance, helped the outer edge of my back foot connect with my mat and moved my front leg closer towards a 90 degree angle and all of a sudden my inner thighs and core “turned on” and my Warrior took on a whole new feeling. The ache was gone from my quads and I felt my legs being supported by my entire core section!! They were small corrections that I remember to this day. Now I even remember to make those corrections myself every time I find myself back in Warrior.
The emotional connections they make with people can be just as important as the physical ones. The Assistant has an outsider’s perspective of your practice and is completely unaware of the story you have spinning in your brain. They simply smile and adjust. For some it is the first connection with the community and it takes you out of just “attending” classes and throws you face first in the connection pool. Now you “know” someone at class, they made time to help you out, and more often than not, they chat with you after class about how the minor adjustment made you feel.
It is an Art Form. Count yourself blessed when you get some hands-on attention. Relax, turn off the worry and self-judgement, and allow your Assistant to assist you.
P.S. Don’t worry about the sweat; they come prepared with their own towels!
Next time you take a class enjoy the art!