“You’ve got to align your body properly”, is probably what you’ve heard every now and then in your yoga class. And at times it might have felt that you really didn’t know what they were talking about!
Well, don’t worry about it, you are definitely the only one. We’ve all been there at the beginning of our yoga life.
In this article, we’re going to have a look at what it actually means to align yourself and also what the importance of alignment actually is!
What is alignment within yoga?
Before we have a look at the benefits of alignment within yoga, it might be good to see what it actually means and what alignment is.
Let’s take it back to the basics and have a look at the definition in the dictionary. There are about three definitions about them that I will put here, but there are a couple more.
- an adjustment to a line; arrangement in a straight line.
- the line or lines so formed.
- the proper adjustment of the components of an electronic circuit, machine, etc., for coordinated functioning:The front wheels of the car are out of alignment.
So, the first two reasons are about forming a line. And having this line adjusted or straight. The third reason is about machinery, but also a very important one to look at. This is due to the fact that you have to put the pieces in a certain way for them to function properly.
Thus, we have two things here, forming a line and putting the pieces in the right place. So, that’s what it is about! See you next time!
Alright, just kidding of course. Let’s go take another look closer.
But it does already give a bit of a better understanding of what alignment actually is. And it has the exact same explanation for the meanings above. Basically, it is about putting your body in such a way that it forms a proper line. Or in such a way that it can function at its best.
Whenever you are in a class and the teacher tells you to form a straight back. That’s with reason. As our spine is formed in such a way (muscles, tendons, etc.) that it wants to stay straight. And I do have to say that you will never get it upright as you actually want as there are natural curves in our spine. Please don’t straighten them!
This way we can work on those muscles to keep them as they were meant for our body! Which is another thing we wanna get from our yoga practice. Getting our muscles in such a way that they are going back or stay in their initial state.
What I’d also like to mention, if you know about anatomy, you know that our bones are also made in such a way that they can make certain movements. Like the hip socket for example. The hip bones fit perfectly together into it. This also means that we can’t do just whatever movement we want to do. It might prevent you a bit from putting your leg up your … Head.
And because of this, we have to align our bodies as well. To make sure that we don’t do movements that are not meant to be. Or to make our movements more beneficial.
Test it out yourself, if you need to go into Triangle pose for example. Not that it might be harder to do when you don’t have a straight back. Within Trikonasana it’s quite of vital importance to get into the right alignment.
To end this functional part of alignment. Please be aware that you can and would want to use props if you feel that you can’t align properly! Don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed that you need to use them. Even experienced yogis need to use them every now and then. And they are really a great help for you yoga practice.
Aeshtetic reasons for alignment
We’ve talked a bit about the anatomical reasons for alignment. But there’s also an aesthetic purpose. It doesn’t have a lot to do with your body, or any other internal motivations. This one is just purely external. And many yogis are still not sure if it’s important or not for your yoga practice.
This is because this concerns more the picture worth for your Instagram. Of course, when you do the alignment properly because of anatomical reasons, you’ll also get that perfect position in your picture. This is why this is such a grey zone.
How the pose looks normally doesn’t do a lot for your yoga practice except that others might admire how you look.
So, I’m not going to talk about it too much. As if you look into the scriptures, there were some yogis that were looking for the perfect alignment, but this was more focused on energy lines and flow (the flow of prana). This is a whole different subject, which we’ll discuss next.
Why it is important to align within yoga
You probably can already see a couple of reasons from the text above why alignment is so important within yoga, but let’s just zoom in on them a little bit. Just in case if you haven’t read the piece above.
Doing yoga safely
As you might have thought already, aligning yourself within yoga is for your own safety! All of your bones, muscles, tendons, fascia, etc are made in such a way that you are kept safe. But as you might have had before, if you are in a certain position that’s not meant to be, you’ll feel it!
That’s why it’s always good to practice yoga with a licensed trainer. They’ve learnt how to get in and out of asanas safely.
Going into the proper alignment means that you will reduce the risk of injury, which can REALLY happen within yoga. Especially if you are doing quite some vigorous yoga styles, it might be good to really listen well to the queues of your teacher, but also to listen to your body!
Alignment for prana flow
In ancient times prana was a hot topic. Well, now it is too, but there are many ways of describing it and it’s also more of an invisible thing where people who are not really into energy channels will roll there eyes with.
If you are not that kind of person, you can just continue reading. Otherwise I’d like to thank you for reading as this is the last part of this article!
Prana stands for “life force” and therefore it’s a very important component within the human body. Without prana, there wouldn’t be life.
It’s a bit like the meridians within TCM, there are channels in your body that want to have a lot of flow.
Within yoga we’d want to make sure that these channels aren’t blocked, to keep everything flowing. And to make sure that everything gets the same amount of energy.
And this you do with alignment. It can even be visualised a bit. You remember when you have a numb foot because you sat on it? When science wasn’t so advanced yet, people thought this was because our blocked energy channels retained our prana flow.
Alright, I think that’s about it for now. I hope this was all a bit clear. But of course, if you feel like you need more clarification, make sure you put a comment in the section down below!