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Alignment vs. Continuity in Yoga

This entry was posted on Could 21, 2024 by Charlotte Bell.

Trikonasana (Triangle Pose) with Yoga Block

My 40-plus-year yoga follow is rooted within the Iyengar system. For many years, I studied with Iyengar lecturers, nearly solely. The non-Iyengar lecturers I’ve gravitated to have largely been individuals whose follow and instructing was grounded within the Iyengar system earlier than they determined to maneuver in a unique path.

B.Okay.S. Iyengar was a pioneer in disseminating the significance of cautious alignment. It is sensible. Once I studied with B.Okay.S and his daughter, Geeta, in Pune a few years in the past, he said that the aim of asana follow was to create within the physique an energized and peaceable atmosphere to allow the thoughts to be each alert and calm. A physique that’s undisciplined and misaligned is much less prone to relaxation in a state of equilibrium. This little bit of knowledge has guided my intentions for follow.

A Totally different Method of Alignment

Whereas I agree utterly with this in idea, and thru a long time of my very own follow, I’ve begun to maneuver away from utilizing the phrase “alignment” in favor of the idea of “continuity.” All too typically, “alignment” can indicate that there’s one method to prepare one’s physique in a pose, and that it’s common. I do know that many lecturers perceive that alignment shouldn’t be a one-size-fits-all proposition, however for me, the phrase itself implies this.

Continuity, then again, suggests a extra inner expertise. Continuity refers to a state of harmonious settlement all through the moveable elements of the physique. In different phrases, after we give attention to continuity, we tune into the relationships between bones at every joint, between the internal motion intentions (the breath) and the outer manifestation of an asana, and between the interior and exterior constructions of our our bodies. On this submit, I’d prefer to give attention to continuity by the joints.

Continuity By the Joints

Should you spend a lot time taking a look at yoga images, chances are you’ll get the concept reaching Cirque du Soleil-like poses is indicative of “good” follow. Individuals practising poses which are structurally unattainable for many practitioners could or will not be “superior” yogis. I do know I’ve stated this in a thousand alternative ways, however yoga shouldn’t be about performing fancy poses. It simply isn’t.

Asana follow is about harmonizing our our bodies and minds. And creating continuity by our joints is one very concrete and attainable means of transferring right into a state of ease and concord.

Continuity by our joints signifies that slightly than specializing in pushing to the top vary of our joints with a purpose to obtain the “full expression” of a pose, we as an alternative create clean transitions by our joints. Pushing joints to their finish ranges can typically create micro-tears and impingements within the joint capsules. Consistently overstretching ligaments—the collagenous tissue that connects bones to different bones—creates unstable joints.

Defending Your Ligaments

Ligaments are designed to restrict the motion of our joints. When our ligaments turn into overstretched from regularly pushing our joints into their finish ranges, our muscle tissue should turn into tighter with a purpose to do the work of the ligaments. Whereas we could not really feel these accidents within the second of pushing into our joints, habitually doing this may put on down smooth tissue over time, resulting in joint issues down the highway.

Pushing joints to their finish ranges will increase stress in our nervous programs as our our bodies’ pure protecting mechanisms kick in to maintain our joints from transferring too far. If asana’s objective is to create a peaceable atmosphere within the physique, pushing for max sensation shouldn’t be the way in which to do it. Joint continuity could require you to maneuver to your finish vary after which again off a bit. Once I do that, my poses really feel rather more steady and grounded and my thoughts feels instantly relaxed.

Create Continuity

Creating continuity is a difficult proposition. It’s difficult as a result of there’s no robust sensation that accompanies continuity. After we push into our joints to the purpose of sensation—snug or uncomfortable—we all know who and the place we’re. After we again off a bit within the service of continuity, there’s not a complete lot of apparent sensation.

So I prepare my physique in such a means as to really feel little to no sensation at my joint websites—ft, ankles, knees, hips, sacroiliac joint, vertebral joints, shoulders, elbows, wrists and arms. I create my pose from the bottom up, checking in with every joint as I soften into the asana.

Working towards with the intention of making continuity can be difficult as a result of it’s prone to be variable from daily. That’s the place mindfulness is so precious. After we be taught what continuity looks like, we will alter our asanas from the within.

Transfer Slowly, Use Yoga Props and Be Aware

Generally it’s useful to maneuver slowly and consciously towards your finish vary. While you attain your finish vary, again off a bit, till you are feeling a way of ease in all planes round your joint. There needs to be no sense of impingement or restriction of the circulation of power between the bones at every joint.

Even when you don’t repeatedly use yoga props—blocks, straps, blankets, and many others.—use them once you follow for continuity. They’re invaluable instruments for serving to you obtain structural integrity in your poses.

Mindfulness of the disposition of your mind may also help you establish in case your pose is in concord with itself. Does your mind really feel tight, laborious, strained or contracted? If that’s the case, calm down your mind if attainable, then look across the physique and observe the place else you may be straining.

All these cues are delicate. They require that we glance extra deeply than we could also be used to. An overstretched or impinged joint will communicate proper up—its suggestions is correct on the floor. Reciting alignment guidelines in our heads as we follow squelches deeper exploration. Trying deeper is the essence of yoga follow. Working towards for continuity brings ease to the journey of deep wanting.

About Charlotte Bell

Charlotte Bell found yoga in 1982 and commenced instructing in 1986. Charlotte is the writer of Aware Yoga, Aware Life: A Information for On a regular basis Apply and Yoga for Meditators, each revealed by Rodmell Press. Her third e-book is titled Hip-Wholesome Asana: The Yoga Practitioner’s Information to Defending the Hips and Avoiding SI Joint Ache (Shambhala Publications). She writes a month-to-month column for CATALYST Journal and serves as editor for Yoga U On-line. Charlotte is a founding board member for GreenTREE Yoga, a non-profit that brings yoga to underserved populations. A lifelong musician, Charlotte performs oboe and English horn within the Salt Lake Symphony and people sextet Purple Rock Rondo, whose DVD received two Emmy awards in 2010.

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