Alignment and movement
“There is no universally correct alignment, there is only correct alignment for an individual in a specific asana.” – Leslie Kaminoff
Alignment – The precise way in which the body should be positioned in each asana in order to obtain the maximum benefit and avoid injury. An example: The proper alignment for cat-cow stretch is to have the shoulders over the wrists and the knees over the ankles.
Alignment is important. It keeps the body safe, it improves balance and freedom of movement of joints and muscles. Yogis would say it allows the energy to flow within the body. Alignment enables us to enjoy our practice with fluidity and ease. Poor alignment can lead to yoga injuries; good alignment prevents injuries.
Although some alignment principles are universal, they can be adapted. Yoga styles have minor differences in asanas, flows and focus and this can be confusing for students. If you are new to yoga, it can become overwhelming when you are told one thing by one instructor and something completely different from another. Understanding how alignment affects your own body will allow you to decide what works for your body best and to develop a practice that suits your body.
In my classes we practice Hatha yoga and the flow variation of Hatha yoga, Vinyasa. General principles of alignment in Hatha yoga are:
· Align the base of the posture first. For example, placing the feet properly in standing asanas will prevent placing undo stress on the knees and hips.
· Stack and stabilize the joints, keeps these mobile places in the body safe and supported.
· Always utilize the breath when entering and exiting the poses. It is during our transitions that we are most likely to get injured. When we hold our breath, the tension/pressure in the body builds and there is no release valve other than physical locations in the body, which is a recipe for potential injury.
Alignment is important – but not alignment for alignment’s sake. Alignment is a tool that we use to produce particular results. Remember, it is the results that we value, not the tool. Trying to perform asanas the “right way” is confusing the ends and the means of the practice. Every body is different, understanding the principles of alignment is a tool to use as you approach asanas. Alignment should free you, open your body to movement and enjoyment. You may have had a powerful experience or resolved a postural issue as a result of aligning an asana in a particular way, but that specific alignment may not be the most beneficial way for everybody to practice the asana.
I focus on alignment in more detail in lesson to promote development of physical awareness, concentration and mindfulness and to encourage students to confidently develop their own home practice.
“Yoga is the art of right living and is intended to be incorporated into daily life” Swami Satyananda Saraswati
My goal is to make it possible for my students to include yoga in their lives for the whole of their lives.
Yoga is a path of self discovery. May we all enjoy a journey as individual as we are.