Yoga cues and alignment. Remembering the goal of Yoga.

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The Yoga community seems to be alive with discussion and debate around the word Alignment.

It all makes perfect sense to those in the business, but what does it mean to the public that just want to do what is good for their body?

There are differing levels of understanding about Alignment and it’s application.

It depends on the amount of training and experience the Yoga teacher has had, and their understanding of Anatomy, Applied Anatomy, physiology and Bio mechanics.
In the realm of Yoga, and my personal practice that focuses on helping people out of pain I do not prescribe to the idea that a body needs to be ‘brought into alignment’.

And here is why.

Whether it’s the rib cage you are hoping to ‘align’ over the pelvis, or the low back you are ‘bringing back into alignment’ the REAL reason for the misalignment HAS to be taken into consideration FIRST.

The underlying movement patterns of the individual are what is being expressed in the posture you see. And there is a story behind them.
It may be a ‘sway back’ in Trikonasana, a ‘flared rib cage’ in Utkatasana or shoulders forward in Tadasana – it doesn’t matter. It is the ongoing contraction and release of muscles and their subsequent dysfunctional movement patterns that result in the posture you see as out of alignment.

The way to bring about a more balanced posture, and one with increased stability and mobility is to work with the movement patterns.
When the muscles that are compensating (over achieving) feel support through the waking up of the underachieving muscles, movement patterns start to shift.

As the movement patterns start to shift, the relative tension on the bones also shifts.

The muscles through the front of the body find more balance with those at the back, and the shoulders start to sit in less of a rounded position.
The muscles through the front of the trunk and the back find more balance, and the spine begins to settle into a place of greater ease.

And on, and on it goes.

To ‘draw the low ribs in’, ‘tuck the tailbone’, ‘pull the shoulders back’ etc WILL NOT change the persons posture or alignment. It WILL however result in the individual holding a new layer of tension on top of the one that already exists.
We could do a lot for the pursuit of Yoga if we replaced a lot of these Yoga cues with the invitation for our students to explore and allow the pose to nourish them.

Because the goal of Yoga is not, and never has been the execution of a particular pose. It is to come to discover for yourself, in your own body home a deep place of peace. This is a worthwhile practice, and one that’s benefits far outweigh the architecture of a pose.
What beliefs need to change? What will it take for you to accept what does not serve you, and what attitude needs to be shifted or adopted for you to get where you truly want to be?

I can honestly say that there is not one student that I am currently working with that would benefit physically, mentally or spiritually from the right versus wrong belief of aligning themselves into the posture.