Maybe you are a student in a Vinyasa class that likes the flow, the dynamic, the movement. I am with you, I am that yogi. I practiced yoga without alignment for a long time and absolutely loved my practice. In fact, when my yoga teacher, a Vinyasa teacher, started to teach some basic Anusara yoga alignment techniques in her class years ago, I was slightly put out. To me, it felt dry and frankly, a little boring, to be focussed on the arches in my feet or where the head of my arm bone was. I don’t quite remember when I was won over exactly, but I do remember that one day, with a few technical instructions, I was able to move into a pose with more ease than before. Later on, when I had my first yoga injury (overstretched hamstrings) I was more interested,and eager to find out how I could prevent that from happening again and became more serious about the technicalities of the practice.
Good alignment in yoga asana constitutes the bio mechanical dynamic organisation of the body. To move bones and muscles in such a way that joints become more stable and energy flow moves more freely in the body. It is important for many students of yoga to know a bit about how their bodies are structured, and what to do in order to not only keep their bodies safe, but also to find more space and peace in their bodies. When the body is in good alignment, energy flow is optimised and there is more opportunity for stillness in the experience. There is a sense of awareness that is cultivated by shifting the attention deep into your bones and muscles and joints.
There are many benefits to good alignment to the physical body. But alignment also encompasses something other than bones, muscles, tissue and nerves. The alignment with your nature, your body and with life itself. The attitude that it invokes when you start by listening instead of commanding. Your body, like nature, is deeply organised. You may not understand exactly how it works, but by listening to the signs in your physical body, breath and energy, you can come a long way. Our world is dominated by the head, the mind. Anything that cannot be explained by the mind, any mystery, is often dismissed straight away. The mind is king in our culture. But by not paying attention to the sensations and feelings that come up in the body, you will likely cut off from your body. In this world, we are constantly encouraged to go beyond our limits, to ignore internal signs and cues, to push forward in spite of listening. This culture of “Mind over body” is even present in yoga! This type of practice creates a disconnect from the physical and energetic body. Because the body is a part of nature, to ignore signs and sensations, we largely ignore the flow of life. A yoga practice that starts with listening and with the intention of aligning with the flow in the body and the breath, is a practice that connects us not just to ourselves, but to that of which we are all a part of. The very essence of life, of the sacredness of creation. This is a key in the practice of yoga that is based on tantric philosophy; to experience something that is bigger than ourselves through the experience of the body. The body is the vehicle, the means, to the experience of something more than the body.
By listening to yourself, your breath, your body, you are setting the intention to aligning yourself to bigger things. You bring in the opportunity for mystery to work out itself, through you. In that sense, Alignment is sacred, the flow of life itself. I bow to that, Namaste!