I like assisting yoga.
I’m halfway through my required 15 hours of hands-on assisting and (in the least creepy way possible) I really enjoy touching people.
It’s kind of weird considering a few short years ago I didn’t even want to be hugged much less sweat all over by dirty strangers. But this yoga thing never ceases to amaze, as we know.
I’m sure I don’t have to tell you there’s something so powerful about physical touch, and I’m not even talking in a romantic way. In a world where we text more frequently than we call, wave more frequently than we hug and stalk photo albums more frequently than we stop by to say hey, there is something to be said about actual hand-to-human-body contact.
It’s no surprise that I love receiving a good assist in yoga. In fact, I am referred to as the “assist whore” in teacher training because I volunteer to be the demo dummy all too enthusiastically… every single time.
That I would so enjoy giving assists as well came as a pleasant surprise. I mean, it’s sweaty in there. (So sweaty.) I had my doubts. Turns out, the potential gross factor doesn’t even cross my mind. In fact, I equate touching sweaty yoga bodies to the way gynecologists must feel about vaginas. Indifferent.
(You’re welcome for that.)
That might be the wrong analogy. And indifferent is definitely inaccurate. I actually feel great touching sweaty yoga bodies. (I will assume gynecologists feel great about vaginas sometimes, too.)
There are lots of different kinds of assists:
- The “You’re Doing This Completely Wrong So I’m Going to Fix You, You’re Welcome” Assist
- The “You’re Doing This Completely Right and I’m Going to Take You Deeper, You’re Welcome” Assist
- The “It Is Physically Impossible for You to Get in This Pose Alone So I Will Cram You in It Now, You’re Welcome” Assist (See also: supta kurmasana)
- The “I Kind of Just Need Some Practice and You are My Guinea Pig, Thank You” Assist
But there’s only one way to receive one:
Just take it and trust.
Trust that we will not drop you. Trust that if we do drop you you’ll be fine. Trust that, yes, you can and, no, we’re not kidding. (My foot goes where?? … Correct.)
Most surprising, I think, was the realization that assisting is not as easy as it looks (or feels). We’ve spent a solid six weeks in training just learning how to approach your mat without knocking you over, how to not look you in the eye (because it’s weird), how to touch you without violating you, how to be firm (because a light touch is creepy), how to hold a man twice our size, how to ground you and lift you and show you how far you can go and walk away without you even knowing we were there.
I love it.
It’s a delicate thing to step onto something so private (and to some so sacred) a space as a yoga mat and get all up in someone’s business. Yoga is, after all, largely a solitary practice. But offered lovingly and accepted gratefully, an artfully delivered assist can be just what you need to go deeper into your own practice.
Plus, it feels good as hell.