alignment and yoga

by Sam Berlind

I’ve been thinking about the concept of alignment lately, how it’s understood and used in teaching and practicing yoga.

Some people think about it this way:

‘In yoga, the main focus of touch is on bodily alignment and improvement.

Teachers touch students to help them align better. We all know that. What many practitioners don’t realize is that sometimes they’re so out of alignment that they might actually hurt themselves.

Posture alignment refers to how your muscles are integrated and bones are aligned to support your body for optimal movement during exercise. The aim of good posture alignment is to establish a solid foundation with your body, so you can support your limbs, back, and head while you exercise.’

And from the other end of the yoga theory spectrum:

‘Instead of postural forms (static asanas), it is the individual animating spirit that should motivate our yoga practice. Energy-based, spontaneous yoga is like the developmental movements and perpetual stretchings of infants. This is action of the body in which reason takes no part, and which does not originate as an idea. Yogis perform actions with their bodies like the movements of children.’

When we ‘correct’ the alignment or posture of a yoga student through touch or word, we are implying that there are universal principles of yogic alignment that we ‘know’ and should be teaching others. It’s as if the goal of yoga practice is to achieve some kind of ideal symmetry or balance, as if a perfect pose awaits our mastery.