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The Art of Observing and Adjusting: An Innovative Guide to Yoga Āsana Adjustment for Your Postural Type

by Vayu Jung Doohwa

listed in yoga

[Image: The Art of Observing and Adjusting: An Innovative Guide to Yoga Āsana Adjustment for Your Postural Type]


This book, by Vayu Jung Doohwa, aims to help yoga practitioners of all levels identify postural imbalances and correct them through the practical tools and methods he describes. Born in Korea, Vayu is trained in pharmacy and has been practising Ashtanga Yoga and teaching classes in his hometown of Busan from 2007. In 2008 he met John Scott, well-known, UK-based, Ashtanga Yoga teacher, who contributes the book’s foreword. Vayu has held over 100 yoga anatomy workshops in Korea and China, and contributed the insights of this book to Scott’s 2016 and 2017 training initiatives in London. Vayu established the Yoga VnA studio in 2010 and continues work on the contemporary scientific interpretations of Ashtanga yoga and is currently working on a second book about yoga adjustments for symmetric imbalance.

Vayu describes yoga as ‘the path towards true happiness, beyond the restless mind’ (p.11). His particular aim in this book however is practical, to help the reader understand, recognize and correct postural imbalances in Āsana. The book has three main parts, Observation; Postural Types, and, Adjustments.

In Part 1, “Observation of Body Imbalances”, Vayu explores what he calls ‘forward’ and ‘backward bending’ yoga Āsanas. Drawing attention to the front and back lines of the body, he identifies four sections along each of these lines where imbalances can occur. Vayu’s stated aim is to help practitioners ‘see” and “understand’ different spinal configurations according to particular postural types. He makes extensive use of varied diagrams and photographs to help the reader identify imbalances in the illustrated āsanas and consider methods to restore balance. Part 2 is where Vayu presents and examines more explicitly the “Four Postural Types” alluded to in the earlier sections. He refers to these as Anterior (A), Posterior (P), Complex (C) and Neutral, (N). He discusses his “Imbalance Model for the Upright Position” and identifies breathing patterns relating to section imbalance patterns in the spine. Part 3 progresses to Adjustments for Types P, A, and C including specific hands-on adjustments. The final sections discuss the importance of lower limbs, notably the feet and knees, primarily in the surya namaskar (sun-salutation) sequences so central to Ashtanga yoga, and also imbalances in the shoulders and upper limbs. Spinal Balance and Breathing are considered in relation to postural type and methods given to harmonize spinal-pelvic movements to facilitate healthy breathing patterns. Vayu discusses the connections between posture, state of mind and breathing patterns (pp.91-92) and flags up the dangers of forceful practice in terms of both causing injury and reinforcing, rather than changing unhelpful postural patterns.

Vayu’s focus on pelvic-spinal imbalance and postural type provides some helpful focus and lens with which to analyze the body in a range of āsanas. He provides useful tools that will help practitioners recognize body type and begin to correct particular imbalances. An appendix with photographs of different models, demonstrating different postural types in the same āsana, allows useful comparison. The extensive use of diagrams is generally helpful in showing imbalances and suggesting how to correct, but can be confusing, especially as there is no consistent use of arrows showing direction.  Surprisingly, it is not easy to locate a clear illustration of the Four Postural Types that enables easy comparison, from head to foot. Similarly, it is not clear why Vayu waits until Section 2 before presenting and exploring his Four Major Postural Types. If given from the outset this could provide a clear starting point for readers.

Some may wonder why Vayu does not start the observations in basic simple standing poses, for example Tadāsana. This pose is accessible to the majority and practised widely. Because the posture can be held easily for some time without strain and viewed without difficulty from front, back and sides, imbalances can be studied clearly. There are also sound reasons, when observing and adjusting, to observe and correct from the foundation, for example, in Tadāsana, from the feet upwards. Some of the āsanas Vayu presents are complex and, notably, all are performed by uniformly flexible, slim, similar looking young women, reinforcing the stereotype that yoga is for this sort of woman. This may make it less accessible to those with less experience and/or those who do not identify with such an ideal presentation.  

Vayu’s choice to focus on the spine and pelvis brings clarity to some areas but risks oversimplification by overlooking the complex intrinsic networks of connections within the body. Vayu acknowledges the limits to restoring proper function by only correcting the spine and pelvic imbalances; nevertheless his discussion of the limbs, and their effects on posture, only appear towards the end of the book, in somewhat semi-detached fashion. His focus on spine and pelvis therefore sits somewhat oddly within a book on postural yoga, often understood as bringing unity to fragmented aspects of the embodied self.

Vayu’s aim is ambitious:

“Just as a doctor would prescribe the relevant treatment after a thorough examination and diagnosis, you will be able to recognise unbalanced postural patterns through observation, and “prescribe” the most appropriate alignments or adjustments in order to restore balance to your body’ (p.10).”

The key point here is surely that a doctor’s skill takes years of study and experience. The art of observing and adjusting also develops through years of experience, experimentation, ongoing study, practice, feedback, and sensitivity to appreciate what can be subtle imbalances, within real people in the subtlety of the flesh. It involves consideration of a host of things: movement with breath, alignment of feet, arches, ankles, knees, chest, hip rotation, shoulder and arm alignment, head position; movement and direction of energy, and of skin, distribution of weight, stability and so on.

The transnational yoga boom from the 1990s and into the 21st century has been accompanied by increased scrutiny and greater concerns about safety of practice (Broad) and Vayu’s book supports safe, reflective and well-informed practice and teaching. Scott’s preface declares “Now that most of the great gurus have passed to the after-world, it is time for INNOVATION!” (p.6); however, the historical record shows yoga has always changed and innovated in relation to its particular context (see Jain, Mallinson). Vayu’s focus on the spine and pelvis, four postural types and his prolific use of diagrams shows innovation in method, rather than new content. His book makes a useful addition to other work on observation and adjustments, including Stephens, Pappas, Schatz, YouTube videos, articles in Yoga Journal and of course the attention to alignment in established teaching traditions, notably the Iyengar school. What is troublingly absent in this book, addressing correction and adjustment, is any reference to the scandals and current issues about abuse of power and specifically touch, within most of the major yoga traditions (see Remski). The current debate in yoga circles about ethics, consent, types of touch, guidelines and the role and power of the teacher is notably absent. This omission, is perhaps reflected in the absence of any bibliography.

Overall however the book achieves its aim of providing some “know-how” about diagnosing postural imbalances and restoring balance according to the postural type of the practitioner. It comes recommended as a welcome, practical addition, to the growing literature on postural yoga-practice. It may be of most interest and value to those practitioners and teachers who wish to further develop their knowledge and skills, through self-experimentation, individual and group observation.


Broad, William J (January 5, 2012). "How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body". The New York Times.

Broad, William J. The Science of Yoga: The Risks and the Rewards, New York, Simon and Schuster, 2013.

Jain Andrea. Selling Yoga, New York, Oxford University Press, 2015.

Mallinson, J and Singleton eds., M, Roots of Yoga, Penguin, Random House, 2017.

Pappas, Stephanie. Yoga Posture Adjustments and Assisting: An Insightful Guide for Yoga Teachers and Students, Somerset NJ: Trafford, 2006.

Remski Matthew.  Practice And All Is Coming: Abuse, Cult Dynamics, And Healing In Yoga And Beyond, New Zealand, Embodied Wisdom Publishing, 2019.

Schatz, Mary Pullig, Back Care Basics, Berkeley, Rodmell Press, 1992.

Stephens, Mark. Yoga Adjustments, Berkeley, North Atlantic Books, 2014.

Further Information

Available from Lotus Publishing   and

Helen Clay
Lotus Publishing
£14.99 / $19.95
978 1 905367 94 8

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