By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500
Precise Yoga alignment is very important for the human machine. Our bodies are calibrated to function at an optimal level if our bones, ligaments, and joints are in precise alignment. If our postural alignment is not correct when we are performing Yoga asanas, or any activity during the course of a day, we may cause pain, or even injury, to ourselves. If our ligaments, joints, and muscles are in the best possible alignment, the asanas themselves require less energy to perform. The asanas will also increase the circulation of prana (energy) in all of our joints more expeditiously, if we practice asanas in correct alignment. By practicing asanas in optimal alignment, you will optimize the flow of prana, or vital life energy, throughout your entire body.
Optimum alignment principles are universal, as they relate to the human body. The end result of incorrect Yoga alignment, while working or practicing asanas is also universal. For example, if you practice Triangle Pose without being properly aligned, you can create more stress and tension in the hips, spine, shoulders, and on the lower back – thereby increasing potential for risk of injury. Similarly, if you make an awkward lift at home, or at work, the results can be painful.
A practice of Yoga asanas that is forced by doing the poses in incorrect alignment will result in physical and emotional stress, as well as strain your musculature. Ultimately, if you practice the postures while incorrectly aligned, you will block the flow of life energy and lower your energy level, while putting unnecessary strain on your muscles and joints.
However, practicing proper Yoga alignment will stretch and strengthen all of the muscles, tendons, and ligaments, as well as create more fluidity in your joints, by increasing the circulation of blood and cerebral spinal fluid. Yoga poses that are practiced in correct alignment will also increase a feeling of ease, well-being, and a balanced flow of energy throughout your whole body.
These universal principles of alignment are common to all human beings, with slight variations – based upon differences in the skeletal structure, musculature, pre-existing injuries, and other subtle differences, which make each of us physically unique. This is why modifying and adjusting the practice of Yoga asanas, toward the best possible alignment, is so important.
Additionally, it is important to practice Yoga while in optimal internal alignment. This internal alignment, with the flow of divine grace, is experienced through the correct alignment of our thoughts, words, and deeds. Study of the Yoga Sutras, by Patanjali, helps students to align their thoughts and actions with the deep wisdom of the Yogic tradition.
It is also wise to keep a good balance between the practice of Yogic techniques, and other nourishing areas of our lives, such as our relationships with our friends and family. By practicing at an optimum level of alignment, both internally and externally, we, as human machines, will benefit the most from our Yoga practice.
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