Practicing safely and effectively

Recently, a friend of mine who also happened to be in the YTT course texted me over a startling revelation that went,

“So different from what we always been told in class. It was a lot better alignment wise. Basically now I wouldn’t get injuries as easily as in the past and can hold longer”

My quick reply to her was, “all this while you were killing yourself without knowing”. Exaggerated, yet not entirely untrue, and I began to think about alignment in our asanas, as well as our entry into and exit out of the pose.

How many times as beginners did we follow the person beside us in class, only to find out many classes later that the alignment, placement of hands/feet were entirely off? Or those times as intermediate practitioners where we held the pose for just a few seconds, and exited the pose in an abrupt manner?

In Sanskirt, the meaning of asanas is “to take seat here”, suggesting the steady, stable and motionless nature of the pose. One of the problems I face during class is that I cannot follow instructions as I find difficulty in following the cues step by step. Instructors give instructions A, B, C, D and E. And the challenge, not just to follow instructions in the order it was said, but also to maintain all instructions together. For example, in Virabhadrasana I, after squaring my hips and lengthening my spine, is my thigh still parallel to the floor?

Yet, these cues all aid us to enter and exit the pose safely, and to efficiently hold our asanas poses with the right muscles engaged effectively. The benefit is then apparent that there is much to engage and follow for a safe and fulfilling practice.