extra love: the art of hands-on assists, volumes 1 and 2

My teacher Rolf Gates has said, “Deep within ourselves, we know the truth.  We know that we are all connected, part of something larger than ourselves. As we practice yoga, we become integrated again, in tune with our body’s intelligence.  We can feel that deep connection once again.” That connection he speaks of is love, both the genesis and result of the practice of yoga. The work we do on our mats brings into being a physical manifestation of the love and connection we feel. New, skillful ways of moving through our lives are established through practice. Yoga is thus a powerful tool for bringing what’s inside of us, outside. What has always fascinated me, as both a teacher and a yogi, is this power of connection.  I work with students one on one, and have found great value in choosing poses together, talking about what different assists feel like and how hand (and other body part) placement affects the student’s experience. It has deepened the dialogue between student and teacher, which is always a welcome result. The student-teacher relationship is a valuable partnership that helps facilitate the transformative power of yoga. I have greatly enjoyed both Volumes One and Two of Extra Love: The Art of Hands-On Assists.  In these books, Jill Abelson brings together clear, concise instructions combined with beautiful photography, which have helped me apply what she has so carefully laid out. Volume One of the series covers Hip Openers, Twists and Forward Bends.  Volume Two continues with assisting techniques for Surya Namaskar, Standing Poses and Back Bends. The books are a tour guide to illustrate in very simple ways what the major yoga postures are supposed to look like, how to achieve those postures, and their significance and meaning – physically or deeper.  She includes an overview of each pose, common misalignments, and multiple options for fine-tuning for beginners through advanced yogis.  The information presented draws from several styles of yoga, reflecting her diverse training, ranging from Kripalu to Ashtanga, vinyasa and Jivamukti.  She also tackles, in precise detail, multiple variations of enhancing and assisting Sun Salutations, an area I found especially helpful and inspiring. The books were first written for teachers as a training manual, and in fact that is how they are being used in many studios around the U.S., Canada and elsewhere. These insights help us become stronger teachers, filling in gaps through further study, while allowing us to skillfully and more deeply guide our students’ practice.  But the books are also an important and accessible resource for yoga practitioners who want to work safely and sustainably. Extra Love is written straight from the heart.  All yogis will feel embraced here, as Jill’s experience is grounded in several traditions, along with a passionate connection to yoga communities on the West coast, East coast, and many places in between. Read next >> yoga in action