I must say that, the first word that brought me to yoga (I mean the real yoga) is Alignment.
The first time I heard this word “Alignment” is in November 2014, in an yoga workshop in Hanoi. At that time, I had practiced yoga for nearly 2 years. In Vietnam, most of yoga practitioners do not know about alignment, they just come to the class and copy the instructors and come back, that’s why there are a lot of people have injury after several years of practicing. In the workshop, the teacher planed to talk a lot about advance Asanas but after the first day, she decided to talk more about the simple but very important thing in yoga: Alignment. She taught people from how to do such a very simple pose like Tadasana in right way to do some very advance pose like Urdhva Dhanurasana safety. Though I couldn’t absorb all that she had taught but there is one conception that really attracted me: Alignment.
In several days later, I had searched this term in the internet and I found a lot of articles, video clip, books… about alignment and it really make me overwhelmed. I started read, step by step I found that all the things the teacher had taught in this workshop is based on a very simple concept.
For the next 3 months, I stopped doing all the challenge asanas, using all the time to recheck all the poses that I had though I did perfectly before. I found that my shoulder blades had not been retracted and protracted in right way, my spine had not been lengthened in most of the poses, my hip was not well opened, my elbow was hyper extended some time, my feet couldn’t root in the ground, the 4 corners of my hand is not well contacted with the mat… and no one has told me about that. And I realized that I was lucky because I couldn’t do the advance poses because if I could do it, surely I would have injury.
To be well aligned in asanas, in my experience, there are several thing you should do:
- Understand about the pose: it is how to do this pose, not how many poses you can do. Learn the Sanskrit name of the pose, learn how to get in to the pose, how to stay in the pose and how to get out of the pose…
- Understand the Anatomy: you need to know what muscles will be activated in the pose as well as what muscles not to be activated in the pose…
- Understand your body: “Asanas don’t have alignment, people have alignment.” So be understand and aware of your body all the time you practice.
- Take photo and video of your practice: sometime what we’re and what we feel is totally different. So better, take the photo of your own and see how you really pose.
- Find a good teacher: a good teacher can help us adjust in our practice as well as consult you to pose in a appropriate way.