Alignment: The Secret Sauce
To obtain the maximum benefits associated with your yoga practice, posture alignment is essential. Alignment is defined as the precise way your body is positioned along with the refined movements and dedicated energy flow through each sequence. Proper alignment willreduce the risk of injury and promote a safe, enjoyable practice.
Your teacher can assist in alignment through both verbal cues and physical attention. At first you may not fully understand the cue or be able to feel the proper alignment. You may even hear conflicting cues from different styles of yoga. But continued practice will help you better understand the cues and move appropriately.
When a teacher notices that you are note safely aligned, she/he may move your body to the appropriate alignment. That may include pulling up on your hips, pushing your spine closer to you thighs, lifting your arms or even gently stepping on your feet to drive the edges to the map. The instructor may often times use his/her body to hold your stance or manipulate your movement. Whatever it may be, allow your body to move to the instruction and concentrate on the feeling at that point to ensure recognition next time you perform the pose.
You as a practitioner have the most responsibility to keeping aligned. An understanding of some universal principals may help. One such alignment belief is to start from the foundation and work your way up the pose. This refers to setting your foundation and ensuring that the body part that is in contact with the earth is releasing down and grounding. Energetically you realize the grace and goodness that surrounds you and you blur the lines between your individual body and the world around you. As an example, the ability to set your pose appropriately will allow you to reduce undo stress on the hips and the knees.
Some examples of additional alignment cues may include references to muscular energy (“Hug your midline”), spirals (“move your inner thighs back and wide”), or loops (“lift and spread the toes”). If you are ever confused about a cue, do not hesitate to ask your yoga instructor!
Remember that perfect alignment is simply the best posture, for you, in the immediate moment. Understand what a specific alignment cue intends to produce and you will be able to adjust and experience maximum benefits.