In yoga, we are working towards alignment of the mind, body and breath to arrive fully in the present moment. But compromised physical alignment, where we force our bodies, can be counter-productive leading to over stretching some areas or reinforcing structural imbalances.
By working with the principles of alignment, we can work to stretch and strengthen the entire musculoskeletal system in a healthy balanced way, so we can feel comfortable in our own experience of each pose. This can look different for each person, so it’s helpful to look at what the basic principles of alignment are, although obviously for some poses, we will be moving from here as a starting position:
1. Begin by building each posture from the ground up: pressing the weight-bearing parts of the body firmly into the ground for support.
2. Next, stabilize through the core: for standing postures, reach the tailbone down and draw the pubic bone forward, leveling the pelvis and creating a strong foundation for the spine to lengthen. Draw the belly button in towards the spine. For supine poses, keep the sacrum level on the ground and draw the hipbones up slightly towards the ribs.
3. Elongate the spine by lifting the spine up out of the waist, lifting the sternum to return the chest to its natural open position, tuck the chin slightly and then extend up through the crown of the head.
4. Keep the neck an extension of the spine: the neck remains aligned with the rest of the spine to avoid straining and injuring the cervical (upper) vertebrae.
Keeping this in mind, move with awareness to find your own best alignment and always release with awareness to come out of each pose safely…. and remember to breathe to connect with the sensation of what feels right for you.