Yoga Basics Part 4: Alignment

AlignmentisKeyThere are Yoga poses that seduce, challenge, and humiliate you. Some poses will make you smile with satisfaction, while others illicit a grunt of frustration. What ever the pose, and regardless of how it makes you feel, the most important aspect of a Yoga pose is alignment.

Alignment is the combination of technical intricacies of the pose that enable you to properly position yourself into the pose without causing injury. While it might take some time for your pose to echo your teacher’s example, a picture you see a lot, or the fitness lady on the DVD, if your alignment is correct, then with practice, your body will eventually ease into the pose. Of course unless you have injuries that prevent it.

You want to make sure that every part of your body is correctly positioned. Let’s talk about some actual poses as examples.

When you get into position, mentally start at your toes and move up to the top of your head to ensure that you are properly aligned.

Alignment Checklist for Downward Facing Dog

When you get into the Downward Facing Dog position, mentally check that you are:

  • Pressing the heels of your feet towards the ground. It is the act of pressing that is important, and not that your heels actually make it to the mat.
  • Pressing your tailbone up towards the ceiling
  • Pressing your chest towards your thighs.

Also ensure that your:

  • Arms are straight
  • Head is hanging down
  • Neck is loose and not lifted
  • Gazing between your knees
  • Palms are pressed into the mat with your weight on your palm, thumb and first finger to prevent injury to your wrist
  • Fingers are spread wide

These are the technical intricacies of Downward Facing Dog that put you into proper alignment. These alignment principles prevent you from straining your neck, arching your back, and injuring your wrist. They help to lengthen and stretch your hamstring and calf muscles, strengthen your arm muscles, and loosen and strengthen your shoulder muscles.

Take your mind through that mental checklist every time you do Downward Facing Dog. Your pose might not look the way you want it to just yet, but 95% of the battle is getting the alignment correct; the rest is just practice.

Alignment Checklist for Camel Pose

When you get into Camel position, mentally check tha you are:

  • On your knees
  • Pressing your hips forward
  • Pressing your shoulders down and back
  • Lifting your face towards the ceiling
  • Not recklessly hanging your head back
  • Contracting your buttock muscles
  • Opening your chest
  • Putting your hands either on the heels of your feet or in the small of your back

When most people see Camel , they immediately try to reach their arms to their heels, even if it means that they are not up on their knees as they should be. Touching your feet is not the most important thing of the pose. The most important thing about Camel pose is that you are pressing your hips forward while you are on your knees. This stretches and opens your hips, rib cage, ab muscles, shoulders, and chest.

Yoga is a life long investment into your physical, mental, and emotional prosperity and wellness. Take your time to learn the basics, so that you maximize the results. Don’t rush through the Yoga moves. Take your time to breath, listen to your body, and focus on how you feel in each pose. Pay careful attention to the technical instructions of the pose, and do a mental check as you ease into the pose. Alignment is more important than the aesthetics of the position.

*Disclaimer: As with any exercise regimen, consult your doctor or physician before you start. The Leisure Living Blog, its contributors, or listed resources are not responsible for any injuries.

© 2009 KaTrina Love Abram

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