Align to Thrive | Importance of Body Alignment
We hear the word “alignment” in our everyday conversations, starting from a very simple car alignment to a complex subject of aligning our actions with our values.
What is ‘alignment’?
In simple terms, alignment is the proper positioning of parts in relation to each other. Alignment could also mean a position of agreement to a cause, situation or a person. In essence, when we align with something, we are in agreement with it.
‘Alignment’ in Yoga asanas
From a Yoga asana perspective, alignment primarily would mean the way we position our bodyparts anatomically in relation to each other while doing a Yoga asana. Stacking knee joint over ankle is an example of such alignment. It is not just physical alignment which exists in Yoga. But aligning our body movements with our breath is key to any Yoga practice. Moreover, on a deeper level, it is important to align the Yoga practice with our intention and values. In this article, we are discussing more about physical alignment in Yoga.
Importance of body alignment in Yoga asanas
Now that we have discussed what Yoga alignment is, it is important to discuss why it is so valuable to include it in our Yoga practice. Let us understand some of the key reasons here:
Lesser pressure on joints – It is so commonly seen, that improper posture (not just in Yoga but in our everyday life too) may lead to or aggravate joint issues. Proper alignment in Yoga asanas like avoiding locking of joints, keeping shoulders in depressed condition, lengthening of the spine, etc., reduce the abnormal wear and tear of joints in the body, therefore, helping us avoid conditions such as arthritis at a later stage.
Reduces risk of injury – Doing Yoga asanas with wrong alignment may not always result in an immediate injury, but, repetitive wrong alignments could definitely increase the probability of injuries. Thus, to ensure long term health and mobility of body, it is imperative to follow proper alignment while doing Yoga asanas.
Maximises the benefit of Yoga asanas – Proper physical alignment helps engaging and stretching the right muscles of the body. This helps to maximise physical benefits of Yoga practice like increase in strength, flexibility, circulation, and balance. Since alignment helps build a strong foundation, progress towards more difficult variation of the asanas becomes faster. Beyond physical benefits, energy flow also becomes efficient with proper alignment.
Reduces fatigue – Alignment allows increase in blood circulation. Also, since the right muscle and body-part are engaged in the asanas with proper alignment, fatigue is less.
Creates body awareness – While ensuring the right alignment, we start to foster a connection with our body and start learning our body signals. Body connection may take some time to develop but it goes a long way in deepening our Yoga practice.
Helps to stay in the present – It is usual for the mind to wander, thinking of random things outside of the mat, during practice. But as we focus on listening to, and implementing the cues, given by the instructor, for a particular Yoga asana, or, we focus on our own instructions to ourselves, the mind automatically starts looking inwards. Furthermore, once a posture is attained, focus remains on maintaining the same with proper alignment instead of deviating to other thoughts.
Alignment in Yoga can be tricky and confusing sometimes. Have you ever wondered in a Yoga class if you are doing the posture correctly or not? Also, while looking at other practitioners, you sometimes tend to be doubtful about your own alignment. If yes, you need to remind yourself of these points:
Sometimes different Yoga styles or Yoga classes may convey different alignments for the same asana. In such cases, it is recommended to follow what is being told in a particular class. Eventually, you will find the alignment and technique that is most suited to you, and you can then implement that in your self-practice.
In order to strive for a perfect alignment as demonstrated or explained by the instructor, students push themselves more, while their body is signalling otherwise. It is more important how a Yoga posture feels than how it looks. It is critical to keep listening to your body in all circumstances. In poses like Warrior A or B, rather than targeting that knee at perfect 90 degrees, it is fine to do little less as your body permits. And of course, never shy away from using props or adopt some modifications for the better alignment. Remember, alignment is not about perfection, but it is about what works for each individual’s body.
Overall, alignment is a good thing. Aligning body properly based on your own anatomy, strength and flexibility is the best way to have a safe and effective practice that will give you optimal and long-term results. Moreover, the benefits of alignment is not restricted to the mat. Once you start getting totally captivated by the right alignment of your body (breathe, mind, and spirit, too), it may start having an influence on your daily activities like making sure you keep the neck in line with the spine while working on a computer, and keeping your back straight when you bend your knees to pick something up, etc. This ultimately goes a long way in enhancing good physical posture and appearance.