Adam Keen Primary Series Assists Course
Primary Series Assists Course:
Saturday April 1st & Sunday April 2nd
8.00 am to 10.30 am UK (recordings available)
Having taught Mysore-style Ashtanga yoga for the past 20 years, an approach to yoga qualified by its use of physical assists as the primary method of instruction, I have come to develop my own understanding of how to offer physical assistance most effectively. This is through a better understanding of why I’m giving one in the first place.
No Pushing Adjustments
This has nothing to do with pushing people to deepen their posture or opening their bodies. There is no intent to exert a degree of force upon them, of taking them further into a posture than they can naturally take themselves.
Adam firmly believes that the body doesn’t open in this way. Instead, it opens in its own time, from the inside out. This is underpinned by an emotional/energetic opening that is the deeper root of a system of constraint or holding that finds its outer expression physically.
The shapes of tension we form to hold ourselves steady in the ever-changing outside world are imbalanced and uncomfortable, they are also our best attempt however limiting and malfunctioning they can seem.
We need to acknowledge that whatever shape someone’s body takes is an adequate and satisfactory starting point. We are not trying to immediately change their experience of their body.
The outdated view is that the shape you are making is inadequate and this shape I am putting you in is better. This sets up an inner and outer battle based in conflict, challenge, and non-acceptance for the student of both the teacher and themselves as they internalise this dialogue.
Injury-Free Ashtanga Adjustments
This results in students allowing themselves to be pushed too hard by teachers and, pushing themselves too hard too. It culminates in endemic injuries in the Mysore ashtanga room.
Can we do any good with physical assistance if we cannot deepen a student’s posture in the way we thought we could?
My answer is unequivocal. Physical assistance is still the thing that makes Ashtanga Mysore special. However, I have come to radically reassess how I do this.
Reasons I physically assist a student instead of giving a verbal cue
1. Radical presence: really being with the person and breathing together.
2. Helping them connect their body together as one.
3. Conveying the technique of learning to actively stretch as opposed to passively be pushed.
4. Giving the student (if safe), a taste of the full-posture.
All these can be done, at certain (not all) times, better through the modality of touch than through language.
This list is also graduated; 1 being the most common assistance I offer, to 4 being the least. And, you might note that 4 is also the closest to the conventional ashtanga adjustment.
I suggest this should further be guided by the depth of the relationship we have with the student. In other words, sticking with level 1 adjustments until we know the student better. Gradually moving down the list until we are sure enough of their bodies to assist them (now and again) in 4.
Assessing Students for Primary Series Adjustments
There are many other tools for assessing a student in terms of offering the right level of assistance that we might use. Here are a few examples that we shall discuss further over the course along with others;
1. Looking for signs: how fluidly is their body moving?
2. How does their body respond to touch - how does it feel?
3. What is their temperament like? How do they respond in relationship to our help?
4. How have they progressed/how has their body opened so far?
5. What is their daily life like – work, life responsibilities?
5. What is their past background/injuries/illnesses?
Errors of Ashtanga Adjustments
When adjustments are normally taught they’re given 'one size fits' for all students - this is a fundamental error. Mysore Ashtanga is a person-centred modality. It takes the person as the starting point then and works outwardly from there.
We have to understand the mechanism of assistance rather than learning standard assists. It’s only when we have done this that we can really teach yoga effectively to the individual using our physical touch.
This takes a shift of mindset. We need to relate to individuals as they are, as opposed to trying to bend bodies to fit an apparently ideal template. This way is no less profound and effective.
Indeed, even though I never exert more than two-fingers pressure on a student, it produces better results in gentleness than pushing against a body, one that will instinctively push back. Furthermore, there will never be a risk of injury here. Nor, will your style of touch encourage a precedent of your students pushing too hard and injuring themselves.
Primary Series Adjustments Course Format
There are two workshops as well as a detailed video to watch.
We will go through the whole of the Primary Series as a group - either verbally adjusting each other, or, if you have a partner, you can also practice on them and get feedback from me also.
We will be learning the action of each posture. This means that the course is suitable for those that really want to gain a deeper understanding of the technique of the Primary Series, as well as teachers wanting to learn better how to assist their students.
If you wish to simply spectate you can watch with your camera off, as well as simply watch the recordings if you cannot attend in person. You can also arrange a 1:1 follow-up with Adam if you have questions you wish to discuss further.
Saturday, March 18th (8.00 - 10.30 am UK)
8.00 – 9.00 am: Introducing the course and basic principles
9.00 - 9.30 am: Introducing ourselves9.30 - 10.30 am: Applied fundamentals in the standing postures
Sunday, March 19th (8.00 - 10.30 am UK)
8.00 - 9.00 am: Primary series assistance demonstration: adapting fundamentals to individual bodies
9.00 - 10.30 am: Practice session and Q&A: applying what we’ve learnt so far in verbally conveying the physical assists we might offer as a group teaching each other and clarifying any doubts and uncertainty here.
Cost for the Primary Series Adjustments Course: €100