Basic Principles Of Alignment – No Matter The Yoga Style
As both a yoga teacher and a anatomy/kinesiology teacher of other yoga teachers, I’m often asked questions regarding alignment. Various schools have specific ways they encourage alignment in postures.
Some are quite rigid in their systems, others are more flexible. Regardless of style or specific methods, I find that the following four basic principles are applicable when it comes to assessing appropriate alignment in a pose.
They are important concepts to explore whether you are a teacher and/or a student. Together they create an organic process with one building on the other.
What is the intention of the pose? What is the pose seeking to accomplish? Different poses can be taught with slightly different intentions (And different schools can teach entirely different intentions within a pose), which would change the various actions and alignment of the body.
So understanding what the pose is looking to accomplish is paramount in deciding how to structure and align the body.
Now that you’ve assessed the intention of the pose, you can create the particular foundations of alignment that support what the pose is looking to accomplish. The foundation, of course, is not the complete picture however.
Understand the unique body that is engaging the posture, and how that body must adapt to achieve or move towards the particular intention of the pose. Different bodies need different cues and muscular engagements in different parts of the body. No one body is the same, therefore we have to leave room for adaptation.
The poses will NOT look the same (or feel the same) for everyone.
What can be done in the pose to create more efficiency of the posture and/or movement as well as cultivate sustainability of the pose. These are the various refinements that can helpful in supporting a student in the posture. Like various adaptations, they tend to be very therapeutic adjustments in the pose.
Together, these principles create a picture of a safe, supported, healthy posture practice in yoga. Understanding what the pose is looking to accomplish, allows you to set your foundation. Once the foundation is set, you can find the particular adaptations that fit one’s unique body, and once you’ve honored those differences you can find areas to refine and optimize the posture even further.
They really do build on one another, however. Optimization is compromised if you haven’t yet adapted the pose to one’s unique body. Adaptations are less successful without a proper foundation. A proper foundation isn’t possible until you understand the intention of the pose.
All in all, I find that you can apply these principles to any style of teaching and practicing yoga and they will still be beneficial for student and teacher alike.