When you think of yoga, you might picture a room full of people twisting their bodies into pretzel-like shapes. While yoga does involve some stretches and contortions, it's much more than just that. In fact, alignment is one of the most important aspects of yoga.
Yoga Alignment 101
According to the dictionary, alignment is "arrangement in a straight line, or correct or appropriate relative positions." In yoga, alignment also means body awareness and control. It is specifically the placement of your body in relation to gravity.
In other words, it's making sure that your bones are stacked on top of each other correctly, which may be challenging when you are just starting. But that is okay! Focusing on alignment in yoga might not seem like a big deal, but proper form helps prevent injuries, keeps your joints healthy, and enables you to get the most out of each pose.
Alignment is a flexible structure that offers options for yogis of all levels, shapes, and sizes, no matter what. It encourages the use of props, modifications, and listening to the individual's body. When you understand alignment, you have the tools to make almost any yoga pose work for you.
Why is Yoga Alignment Important?
Yoga alignment is crucial because it helps you get the most out of each pose while minimizing the risk of injury. When you know your body's alignment, you can find ease in each pose and prevent pain or discomfort in the joints and muscles.
The Benefits of Practicing Yoga with Proper Alignment
There are many benefits to practicing yoga with good alignment. First and foremost, it helps prevent injuries. When you know how to align your body correctly in each yoga pose, you take the strain off your joints and muscles, reducing your risk of injury and allowing you to get the most out of each pose and deeper into each stretch.
Keep in mind alignment is not universal. It depends on each person, their capabilities, and their flexibility level. Understanding your capability as an example, might be unique for someone with scoliosis of the spine, which is a curvature of the spine, or someone who had surgery and has hardware in their body.
Both of these cases can create a unique alignment perfect for them and an understanding of their mobility level with observational mindset is important. Someone who has been practicing for years versus someone who has only been to 10 classes may have different levels of alignment and what works for their body.
Additionally, practicing with proper alignment helps improve your balance and coordination. When your body is aligned correctly, finding your center of gravity is easier, which helps improve your balance. Good alignment helps improve your coordination by teaching your body how to move efficiently and smoothly through each yoga pose.
Common Poses Which Involve Alignment
As mentioned earlier, the benefits of yoga are endless! Learning proper yoga alignment is essential if you are new to yoga or looking to refine your practice. Some poses that seem to be the most challenging when first beginning typically include:
- Downward dog
- Extended plank holds - typically, the core is the weakest and starts to sink, causing a risk of a lower back injury
- Any poses that challenges its members to stack their body
- Stacking hips, maintaining a neutral spine, any balancing positions
Once you understand how to align your body correctly in each yoga pose, you will be able to get the most out of your practice and experience all the amazing benefits that yoga has to offer. It may take a while and many repetitions, but that is what the instructor is for! To teach you how each pose should look and feel in the body.
There are three main components of alignment:
Skeletal alignment refers to the placement of your bones in each pose. Muscular alignment refers to the engagement of your muscles to support your bones in each pose. Energetic alignment refers to the flow of energy and breathing through your body in each pose.
How Can I Improve My Yoga Alignment?
There are a few things you can do to improve your yoga alignment:
- Pay attention to your teacher's instructions and demonstrations.
- Use props such as blocks or straps to assist you in achieving proper alignment, and do not allow your ego to take over and cause you to push your limits.
- Listen to your body and honor your level of flexibility.
- Practice regularly and be patient with yourself!
Paying attention to your body's alignment is essential to a safe and effective yoga practice. By being aware of your alignment, you can find ease in each pose and prevent pain or injury. With time and regular practice, you will see a marked improvement in your overall alignment.
As you can see, alignment is vital in yoga—and achieving proper alignment isn't always easy. However, it's essential to take your time and focus on each pose to ensure that your body is aligned correctly. Not only will this help prevent injuries, but it will also help you get the most out of each pose and improve your overall practice.
1. Charvátová, V. P. (2021, June 1). How to improve your alignment and transform your practice. Skill Yoga. Retrieved November 12, 2022, from https://skill-yoga.blog/how-to-improve-your-alignment-and-transform-your-practice/
2. Functional Yoga: When Is Alignment Important? (n.d.). Yoga International. Retrieved November 12, 2022, from https://yogainternational.com/article/view/functional-yoga-when-is-alignment-important
3. The importance of alignment. (2016, May 16). Breathe Yoga. Retrieved November 12, 2022, from https://breathenorfolk.com/blog/the-importance-of-alignment/