The Art of Assisting

All week, I kept seeing the flyer in the Heart of Yoga School bathroom for certified advanced Jivamukti yoga instructor Jill Abelson’s The Art of Assists workshop at Carrboro Yoga Company this past Saturday afternoon.  I felt like I needed to brush up my assisting skills and learn a few new tricks, but I am on a tight budget these days and parting with $50 might not be the best financial decision.  I also had two classes to teach that morning, ending at 1:30pm, so getting to a 2:00pm three-plus hour-long workshop (not sure about the correctness of my punctuation here–grammar geek friends?) might make for a very long day.  At the last minute I decided to just go anyway, and I’m so glad I did.

When I think of a Jivamukti Yoga teacher, I think hard-core veganism, overtly political statements in class, crazy gymnastic poses, and forceful assists.  Jill definitely embodies the essence of Jivamukti–a dedication to ahimsa (non-harming), a desire to use physical assists to help students deepen their experience of a yoga pose, and a very strong physical practice–but she’s not afraid to disagree with some aspects of the Jivamukti method–for instance, she thinks it’s perfectly okay to use a block for support in trikonasana (triangle pose) or parsvakonasana (extended side angle pose)–and she has a gentleness, playfulness, and precision in her teaching that is really beautiful.  She also honors other traditions, particularly Kripalu Yoga, and integrates additional methods and modalities in her work if she thinks that might help her students (e.g., she does some Thai massage assists).  In my opinion, one sign of a really good teacher is refraining from being absolutely dedicated to only one way of doing things, and open to at least the idea that other methods and ideas can be helpful.  (This is a good way of being in general, not just as a yoga teacher, obviously.)

The workshop was an intense review of the Jivamukti assists I already know, an introduction to some I’ve never done or received before, and an opportunity to hang out with other yogis, which is always a good time.  One of the nice things about this group was that a lot of teachers from different lineages (Anusara, Astanga, and Baptiste Power Vinyasa to name a few I noticed), studios, and geographical locations were present.  My main impression from the workshop is that I’d like to practice assisting more while I am not talking, so my teacher Allison Dennis has been kind enough to agree to let me assist some classes that she teaches.  So, if you’d like to experience some extra love in class, come to Heart of Yoga for Veda Vinyasa at 10:30am this Sunday, 6/10.  I’ll be there ready to massage you, help with alignment details, and hopefully enhance your whole yoga experience.

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