Why would yoga alignment be so important that it would inspire a yoga mat? It inspires more than that. Entire styles of yoga, such as Iyengar yoga for example, are based on alignment. Other styles of yoga will teach you to focus on movement and breath, and not so much on alignment. But is that the right way to practice yoga?
There’s no definite answer on the “right way” to practice. Alignment, however, is certainly beneficial. When you’re in yoga class and the teacher gives you hints on how to adjust your posture, it’s important not to neglect them.
Let’s focus on that matter, shall we? We’ll discuss the importance of alignment, so you’ll decide if it’s time to start paying attention to it.
Alignment in Yoga Classes: Why It Matters
- Focus on Alignment Helps You… Focus
Many practitioners perceive yoga as “something that makes you flexible.” Flexibility gives you the impression of freedom, so you’re not willing to accept any structure. But let’s remember: yoga is a discipline. There is a right way to practice, and it has to do with structure, discipline, and focus.
When you set your mind on proper alignment, it’s easier for you to focus.
Let me share a personal experience. During my third year at college (that was the time I started practicing yoga), I had to write an macbeth essay for literature class. I was never the one to like structure, so I simply ignored all essay writing rules and delivered a free-form paper. It was great, but my professor requested to rewrite my essay. He was all about the structure, just like my yoga teacher at that time was.
So I rewrote that paper and you know what? It was way better than its first version. It was time for me to tame my ego and acknowledge the fact that people who knew better than me developed that structure. I started doing something else, too: paying more attention to the alignment cues in yoga class. It took some time for me to adjust the focus there. But you know what? It made me better, too.
- Proper Alignment Prevents Injury
Honestly, this is the most important reason why you should pay attention to alignment.
When your teacher tells you to lock your elbows and “spread” your shoulders in a particular position when attempting a handstand, you’ll be placing less pressure on the ankles. With that, you directly prevent ankle injury.
When you’re told to straighten your back and keep the feet flexed during Halasana, the point is to prevent overextension and neck injury. You get the point, right?
When you get more flexible by the day, it’s easy to ignore all cues and just achieve as much as your body allows you to achieve. That’s dangerous. Yoga is all about strengthening the body and soul. Injury shouldn’t be part of the process.
- It Enables the Energy to Flow
Are you practicing kundalini yoga? If you practice yoga, then kundalini is part of it. All styles of yoga are based on traditional principles that involve the energy flow throughout the body.
If you were wondering why the back should be straight in Halasana, preventing neck injury is not the only reason. When the back is straight, the energy can easily flow through the Sushumna Nadi – the energy channel that runs in the spine’s core.
Each asana has a specific effect on the energetic system. You don’t need to know too much about chakras and energy channels. If you don’t like to get into ancient texts, you don’t have to. Just pay attention to the alignment hints your yoga teacher gives you during class, and you’ll still benefit from yoga on an energetic level.
- Through Alignment, You Achieve More
When I first tried Bakasana as a beginner at yoga, I thought it would be impossible for me to get into it. “I’m just not that strong,” I thought. But I was doing it all wrong. I would just hop several times, trying to get the knees close to the armpits and attempting to balance on my hands just like that.
It’s not the right way to do things.
Each asana holds more potential with proper alignment. When I started positioning my knees at the right spot and I started engaging the core muscles, Bakasana became possible. Moreover, it got easy.
Alignment Is Not Fixed, So It’s Not as Scary as You Assume
This is the main argument against alignment in yoga: “I have an injury and I can’t follow all alignment cues. That doesn’t mean I can’t do yoga. Anyone can do yoga; alignment is not that important.”
Oh; but it is important. When you cannot follow specific instructions because your body is limited, you can always adjust the pose to suit you. Of course, everyone can practice yoga. But even if you adjust a pose, the modification should still be proper. Even with proper alignment, yoga is still a very personal and flexible practice. So why don’t you try it?
A professional writer with over a decade of incessant writing skills. Her topics of interest and expertise range from psychology, to all sorts of disciplines such as science and news.