By Gopi Rao
When taking yoga classes, you will often hear unproven tales about proper alignment. What does it really mean? The word “alignment” floats around with no real guidance attached to it. Here are a few stories and reality checks about alignment.
Tales vs. Reality: Yoga Posture Alignment
1. When you do poses with proper alignment, energy flows freely throughout your whole body.
Well, most practitioners believe when you do a yoga pose with perfect alignment, your nervous system lights up. Energy, or prana, flows through the entire body. All obstacles that are blocking any energy are removed. However, the idea is to create a blockage with the pose so that you can have large amounts of energy flow through you after a few minutes of doing the pose. Whether you twist your spine or do a triangle pose, the idea is to test the ability to continue breathing and remain calm while doing difficult poses.
2. You were born with perfect alignment, but you lost it due to environmental conditions.
This story is very common in yoga, but it is also very wrong. The truth is that we are all born imperfect. That means one arm is longer than the other, one breast may be bigger or smaller than the other for women. Everyone has a dominant side as in the hand you write with. Me being a righty, I am more comfortable doing things on the right side of my body as opposed to the left side. Life experiences, mood, and behavior do affect the tone of your muscles and your posture whether it is for the good or bad. Once you realize that everyone's body is unique, you will be able to get the pose into your body rather getting the body in to the pose.
3. If you are not in proper alignment, you may injure yourself.
When it comes to a machine, alignment is very important. Like aligning tires for your car. The thing is, bodies aren't aligned like cars or machines. Bodies are constructed in curves. Not straight lines. So while some yoga teachers will make this comparison, it isn't completely accurate. Now, injuries can occur in yoga, but it's unlikely that the result is from improper alignment. The reason why people injure themselves in yoga is because they do not pay attention to the signals their body is trying to send them. They push themselves to reach some goal that they are not ready to achieve just yet. They don't look at what is safe and what is unsafe for their body.
The real truth is that there is no perfect alignment in any body. All bodies are individually unique. Your body is born the way it is and all you can do is use it properly. In order to make it better, you have to test yourself carefully to see where you can go, realize that your body may not look like someone else’s' and that is okay. Also, realize that you should not push yourself farther than you can go in order to fit your body into a preconceived mold.
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