Compassion For Humanity Manifested Through Touch #ArtOfAssisting #BaptisteYoga #JourneyIntoPower

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The Art of Assisting - Hot Spot Power Yoga - Jacksonville, FL October 22nd & 23rd 2016

Since starting down the path to becoming a Baptiste certified yoga teacher, I've achieved my 200 hour RYT, attended Level One training (Menla 2016), and most recently completed The Art of Assisting at Hot Spot Power Yoga, Jacksonville FL with Brooke Hamblet from Indigo Yoga, Fort Worth TX.

The weekend intensive training began at 9 am Saturday morning, once all of us came to our mats. Brooke covered the information we would learn as well as outlined the promises she was making with our group and asking us to hold her accountable to these promises.

  • You will be taught and will practice an assist for every pose in Journey Into Power
  • You will assist a full Journey Into Power practice using the Baptiste yoga techniques for team assisting.
  • You will have a new experience of connection with others and being of service.
  • You will have a rich understanding of True North Alignment and how to put it into action through hands on assists.
  • You will discover that using the Art and Master of Baptiste yoga (Look, Listen & Give Tools) can effectively make a difference in a pose and the practice.

We learned that there are three types of assists:
  • Directional
A light touch, usually performed with fingertips on skin to indicate direction and impact form.
Examples - running finger up the spine in Mountain, sparking fingers in Thunderbolt, hand to thigh to ensure muscle engagement in Upward Facing Dog
  • Deepening
A partnership to change the bone structure of the pose, usually performed with a C-shaped hand and can include other body parts lending support to impact alignment.

Examples - C-shaped hands providing support and structure for Downward Facing Dog, guiding the knee toward the pinky toe in Warrior Two, encouraging a deeper seat in Thunderbolt pose
  • Empowering
A light to firm touch offered as resistance, used to offer proprioception (teaching a body where it is
in space) for the end result of new training in the muscles of a body. It can result in added stability.

Examples - Bracing student's hips in Revolved Crescent Lunge, side to side assist in Half Moon, pressing the outer edge of the student's foot down with your foot to ground their foot in Warrior One, Warrior Two, Triangle etc.

As a group we were led through the Journey Into Power sequence by Brooke while the Assisting Team from Hot Spot provided us all with assists throughout our practice. Brooke called on us to observe how the assists were being given, how the assistant held their body while assisting and observe how the assistant entered and exited each student's personal space. Yoga students don't typically directly observe the process of assisting, instead the student is focused on setting their drishti (gaze) on something that isn't moving and maintaining a smooth, even ujjayi breath. This first practice gave us all the opportunity to come to our mats as beginners again, as we were now observing and participating in a yoga sequence in a new way.

Immediately following the JIP flow, we then broke up into pairs and then observed Brooke as she showed us an assist for each pose in the first two sections (Integration, Awakening). We'd switch places and give each other several tries at assisting each pose, providing feedback to our partner on how the pose landed with us (not enough pressure, too much pressure).

Art & Mastery of working with the pose:
  • Look & listen for the FORM of the pose
  • Look & listen for the ALIGNMENT of the pose
  • Look & listen for the ACTION/PRINCIPLES of the pose
  • Look & listen for the POSSIBILITY of the pose
  • Look & listen for what's missing and find the access to give the tools that make a difference right now

We'd practice a section of JIP assisting with our partner and then switch to a new person we'd not met and then continue learning the assists for the next sections of the JIP flow. 

Sunday morning we began our practice in silence and were led through a guided meditation. Following the meditation practice, we had the opportunity to share with the group our experience during the meditation practice and what came up for us during the practice.

We moved on to the final sections of the JIP flow, learning more assists and seeing how the basics of observing/assisting the feet, hips, hands carried over into many of the final poses of the JIP sequence.

OUTCOMES of Art of Assisting
  • Knowledge of the basics of assisting including
  • 3 types of assists: directional, stabilizing, deepening
  • Actions of artful assisting (Maintaining True North Alignment while assisting, establishing one's presence on the student's mat, entering and exiting the student's space gracefully.
  • The basics of assisting a Baptiste Institute Program
  • An assist for each pose in the JIP sequence
  • The ability to use True North Alignment to observe, listen & give tools when assisting
  • Practice assisting a 60 minute class

For our final "test" we paired off into 1s and 2s. When we returned from lunch break, the 1s had placed their mats in the center of the room, within the taped boundaries on the floor (read: really close together) as instructed by the Assisting Team. The 2s were instructed to find a 1 and join them standing at the back of their mat (the student standing at the front of the mat). The students (the 1s) were then led by Brooke through the JIP flow. Brooke would call 'switch' for the 2s to switch to the next student in the row. Once the 2 reached the last student at the end of a row, they moved on to the first student at the beginning/end of the next row. This way of moving from student to student assisting their practice is called 'typewritering' so that each student receives an assist during the class and the flow from student to student is orderly and fluid.

When the practicing students (the 1s) reached savasana, the 1s then became the assistant team and worked with the new students (the 2s) on their mat so that each of us had the experience of assisting one another and each of us had the experience of being assisted through the JIP flow.

When the teacher presses their hands into the hands of the student in downward facing dog to ground them in the pose, this is considered an empowering assist.

The final practice was designed to be stressful for us who were learning the typewritering method and navigating closely placed mats all while listening for the key word "switch" to move to the next student's mat. Diving right in and putting a new skill to practice in a safe environment where it is ok (expected even) that you'd make mistakes is a wonderful way to learn. The point was to allow us to make mistakes in a learning environment rather than having our first mistakes be in a classroom with actual students.

Attending a weekend workshop like the Art of Assisting gives one the opportunity to make mistakes and be messy with learning new skills in an environment that is safe, non-judgemental and empowering. Each of us had many opportunities to learn, practice, offer feedback and receive guidance in a group of people who went from strangers to champions for each others' success in a matter of a few hours.

This is the power of the Baptiste yoga community. We are each others champions, cheerleaders, support group, foundation of stability, encouragement and growth. We learn from one another, encourage one another and grow together to bring our true selves forth into the world as a force for freedom, love, compassion, acceptance (I could go on and on)....

Many thanks to Jon and Leah Hansen (owners of Hot Spot Yoga) for holding this workshop at their studio and for having Brooke Hamblet to lead our group through learning the Art of Assisting. I now have the ability to confidently give assists to my students while leading them through the Journey Into Power sequence and I made dozens of lifelong friends in two days' time!

(updated verbiage to 2018 assisting terminology)