Self-awareness is an act of self-kindness

I used to attend Yoga classes not understanding what ‘alignment’ really meant. Whenever the instructor mentioned ‘Square your hips’ or ‘Tuck in your tailbone’, I never truly understood what they intended & neither would they explain themselves. Hence I would transition into the asana the way I normally would, knowing if anything, they’d just adjust me because that was the normal thing to do.
After joining YTT, I came to realise what alignment is all about & how important it is. It was truly eye opening for me, because I never knew how I was slowly damaging my body – simply because I was completely unaware.
I was unaware of my hyperextended back. I was unaware of how I was constantly compressing my lower back. I was unaware of my misaligned feet. And I was unaware of my tilted hips.
So when YTT began, I had a lot of unlearning & relearning to do. I had an especially tough time with my back because it naturally loves to arch. After hearing ‘Arch your back!’ countless times during Ballet & Pole lessons during my younger days, I assumed it was safe to apply the same thing in Yoga. Boy was I wrong.
Last year I found that my lower back was starting to hurt whenever I got into Urdhva Dhanurasana & I couldn’t quite understand why. I used to be able to do it easily & come out of it without feeling any painful after effects. Turns out it was because I was focusing deeply on arching my lower back, with my feet pointing outwards & I was solely relying on my arms for support – a very bad alignment for that asana (and yet no instructor ever corrected me – not even to point out that my feet were wrongly aligned when it was so obvious!). But at YTT, I learned the correct alignment for this & my back no longer hurts! Feet pointing inwards, focus on your sacrum, lift & open your chest! I can get into this pose now without feeling that sharp pain in my lower back & it feels pretty good.
Being aware of my back has also helped me to be more conscious in rounding my back & tucking in my tailbone in poses such as Uktanasana & Virabhadrasana 1. I recall arching my lower back & sticking my tailbone out in those poses in the past. Being more aware of this definitely helps to make sure I don’t end up hurting myself in the long run. It’s still not as easy rounding my back for certain asanas such as Baddha Pindasana, but at least I’m aware of the issue & I know I have to work on it.
Funnily enough, now that I’m more aware during my practice & make the effort to correct my alignment, I actually feel more clear headed, much more liberated, more aware of what’s happening in my life, aware of what path to take & aware of the type of person I want to be.
I intend to practice self-awareness from now on because it means taking good care of myself, hence I see it as an act of self-kindness. And in future, when I teach Yoga, I’ll make the effort to teach students to be aware of their own alignment as well so that they also know how to take care of themselves during their practice, and possibly reach a certain clarity in their lives the way I have.
‘Rather than being your thoughts & emotions, be the awareness behind them.’ – Eckhart Tolle
Zen Law

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