Exercise 2. Gross/subtle points

Guruji indicates:

Instructions should move from the gross to the subtle. See that the “gross” pose is performed correctly. Never try to teach subtle adjustments when the gross pose in incorrect. Do not start teaching the subtle points to beginners while there is no need to spend too much time on the basic instructions for students who are already aware of the basic pose.

BKS Iyengar

While teaching any class, always start with general instructions so that all the students manage a pose which is “grossly” correct. Further instructions should be such that most of the common mistakes being made by the students get corrected. Then, if need be individuals can be specifically corrected. Only after this, one should delve into subtle points to improve the posture further.

Gross points can be applied/acted upon. They are observable, objective and external by comparison. For example, turn the L thigh out, press outer L heel down.

Subtle points are more internal, subjective and internal by comparison. For example, lengthen from the back heel to the crown of the head.

Remember that beginning students first learn the gross points (see Appendix 1) so practise this exercise initially with strong emphasis on gross points and if you are working with more experienced students, add the layer of subtle points.

Identify a number of gross points in a pose and practise teaching those points. Observe the students. What was the outcome of your instruction? Are your points clear to the student?

Remember that basic instruction of how to go to a pose, such as bend the knee, is not gross. It is necessary to get the student into an asana but it is not a gross point.

Exercise for trainee/apprentice group session
Work in groups of three. Through discussion, define your points. Return to the large group. First person teaches the pose from on their own mat to the second person. Moving from tadasana and returning to tadasana. The large group is asked what the points were. If clarification is required the third person answers/provides clarification.
Learn to distinguish between what is gross and subtle. Practise delivering points and demonstrating in mirror. Assess the effectiveness and clarity of points.