The word ‘Alignment’ is used a lot by Yoga teachers. Alignment simply means to position the body in a way to get the full benefit of the pose while avoiding injury.
The purpose of Asanas is to maintain the health of our muscles, joints and internal organs, stretching these parts within limits and slowly building strength and flexibility.
Everyone’s anatomy is different and it mostly determines how they do different poses or asanas. In a group you will find each person holding a pose slightly differently depending on their strengths and limitations. It’s important to have the basic rules of alignment right while doing a pose but it is impossible for every person to hold it exactly in the same way.
Many a time, some teachers have fixed ideas of how a Yoga pose should look and when they try and enforce it on every student it might lead to injury. Thus the basic alignment principles should be adhered to while doing a pose; for example, keeping the spine long and straight in a forward bend and bending from the root of the back instead of the mid or upper back. In backbends, it’s important to not stress the neck and lower back. While doing balancing asanas one must engage the core and focus the eye gaze etc.
But it’s important not to overstretch the muscles and joints. Improper alignment can injure the knees, ankles, wrists, shoulders, neck and spine. Awareness of one’s limits is key, as over-stretching can cause a micro tear in the ligament and continuous strain can result in a chronic injury.
The human body is amazing and can achieve wonders but requires focus and daily efforts. Most importantly one must remember that mindful asana practice is just a tool to find your balance in life which is actually the true essence of Yoga. Hence knowing your body and doing the best you can with it is far more beneficial than pushing it to uncomfortable limits in the name of alignment!
Try the asanas at your own pace and a little shift of the leg here or there doesn’t matter so much as long as you are not over stretching or stressing the muscles. ‘Too much too soon’ can backfire at times so it’s essential to follow the alignment rules within your limits.
More on the correct alignment for various poses, next week onwards. Till then, stay aligned in body, mind and spirit!
Neelanjana Bharadwaj – Yoga Expert