For many of us, the word “alignment” may garner up images of our car. Thinking of a Chevrolet or Honda each time we hear the word muttered, we may ponder the need for an oil change. But, just as it’s essential to automobiles, a person’s physical alignment plays an important part in overall health; sometimes we need our own alignment adjusted. Alignment is also a vital part of the human body, one that can be greatly improved through yoga. And, along these lines, one’s yoga practice can be greatly improved through proper alignment of the various poses.
Alignment, by definition, can mean many different things. Medically, it is defined as the “longitudinal position of a bone or limb.” In non-scientific terms, it means “a state of harmony.” From the biological standpoint of yoga, the first definition applies. From a spiritual standpoint, the latter proves true.
Many people, when it comes to alignment, assume that it is merely technique. While alignment isn’t just about technique – the waters run much deeper – technique is part of alignment. Because yoga positions can be intense, it is vital that the techniques of these poses are correctly performed. Just like placing a bowl of spaghetti on an uneven table will cause a mess, practicing yoga with an incorrect technique could result in injury. Practicing yoga with correct technique, however, can promote proper alignment, allowing joints, bones, muscles, and organs to elongate and mix harmoniously.
Correct alignment is not subjective, like an art form connoisseurs can comment on, nodding in reflection. Instead, correct alignment is cerebral and fundamental to the groundwork of yoga poses. To achieve this alignment, you must focus on the base of your body in relation to the ground within the gravitational field in which you function. This creates a foundation for your spine to distribute weight evenly throughout the whole of your being. Optimal alignment supports structure and function, allowing gravity to flow through you and nourish you rather than break you down.
Because alignment is so conducive to a body’s balance, it can aid overall health in numerous ways. When it comes to imbalance, injuries are your body’s red flags. And, when it comes to injuries, alignment is their nemesis. Even when injuries are caused by outside forces – a fall, a trip, an accident – alignment balances out your body so that the source of your pain (and it might not be what you think it is) is given attention.
The above happens because, as your body becomes aligned, energy that was once busy dealing with imbalance becomes available, like a life force looking for a job. This energy is then used for other things your body may be in need of, such as fighting pain, destruction and disease. It gives your body the energy it needs to heal and stay healthy.
Alignment also gives your muscular system and all your internal organs space, allowing them to function more sufficiently. This drastically helps the body. For instance, better functioning lungs oxygenate the body, making it harder for disease to survive and allowing you to breathe easier in more ways than one. This is because lungs that aren’t restricted, lungs with adequate space, are able to work the way they’re intended. Along these lines, a heart that has enough space to work correctly will make blood circulate easier, allowing essential nutrients and vitamins to get where they need to go. This helps to keep your entire body healthy. While the lungs and the heart may want to take the credit for this health, alignment plays a vital role.
The more optimal your alignment in gravity, the better you will become balanced on the inside and out and maintain a youthful resiliency rather than gain rigidity. This balance, ultimately, aids your psychological and physical health, allying you with gravity and allowing healing, wellness, and spirituality to manifest. Proper alignment summons every internal healing source you have, and brings them to the surface; in a nutshell, it aligns your body’s troops.
Correct alignment also keeps your body from having to fight against incorrect alignment, a fight that can leave your body plagued with aches and pains. While this relieves physical symptoms, it can also relieve emotional ones: a positive misdemeanor is much easier to maintain when pain isn’t part of your every day life.
The words “alignment” and “technique” may seem synonymous, like they belong under the same heading of a dictionary. But the words “function,” “organ,” “health,” “balance” and “life” are also part of the definition. Alignment is not merely technique. Technique may be part of it, but alignment grabs onto more than just methods. It takes the abilities to prevent and heal to a new level, making “alignment” more synonymous with “self-awareness and mindfulness.”
TWISTED is a medical yoga studio at the Center for Osteopathic Medicine in Boulder, Colorado. Twisted integrates osteopathic medicine, hatha yoga and mindfulness practices to teach optimal balance between physical, mental, and emotional health. It aims to educate and help people to live a healthy life from the inside out. Rehabilitation programs offer a comprehensive treatment regime for the whole being, empowering each person one breath at a time to stimulate the body’s natural healing potential.
Jennifer Jordan is senior editor of for http://www.yogatwisted.com. Specializing in articles that not only teach yoga techniques, but also teach techniques on fulfillment and enrichment, she aims to educate students proudly enrolled in the school of life.