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What are the Key Principles of Yoga Alignment?

11 Key Principles of Alignment and How to Apply Them: 1. Align with a Solid Base and Start from the Ground Up As you position yourself into a posture, align yourself as you engage your muscles step-by-step. If your feet are on the ground, start activating and aligning each body part as you move from soles of the feet up towards arms and head. If you are practicing an inversion, begin with the hands, arms and head then work your way to the feet. Whatever type of pose you are performing, begin aligning where it makes the most sense for you and systematically move into each area of the body. 2. Be Present and Move Mindfully Focus your attention on the each body part as you breathe and move. Moving with attention and focus can make a big difference in the way you practice. This principle will help you obtain more bodily awareness which will further deepen your yoga practice. 3. Engage the Right Areas of the Body Based on the Pose It’s important to align the body properly so that the right muscles can activate and the right connective tissue can stretch. There are many books on anatomy that discuss exactly which muscles and connective tissue are targeted to stretch and strengthen. We touch on this briefly in each of our yoga pose alignment examples. By gaining a better understanding of this you will attain greater benefits, progress faster and be more in tune with your anatomy. 4. Keep the Neck In Line with the Spine This is the #1 rule when performing yoga postures and is necessary in almost all asanas. The neck is a part of the spine, so having them line up is very important to optimize functions like energy flow, breathing and stability. Whether its a back bend, forward fold or inversion, keeping the neck safe is our priority. Developing this into a habit will improve your yoga practice and your life outside of yoga. 5. Stack Your Joints Arranging your joints in line with each other will offer further support, stability and strength to you while practicing yoga. An example would be to stack the shoulders above and in line with the wrists and elbows in Plank Pose. Another example would be to keep the knee in line with the ankle in Warrior 1 Pose. 6. Mind the Micro-Bends when Needed In an ideal aesthetic world, every line we would make with our bodies while practicing yoga would be straight. Fully straightening in certain positions, particularly involving the knees and elbows, is not always the best case scenario as there is a risk of joint hyperextension. This can be applied to the standing leg’s knee in Tree Pose and the elbows in Downward Facing Dog Pose. Use this principle to maximize muscular engagement; micro-bending is important too! 7. Change Your Angles as Necessary Creating a 90° angle is a common cue given in many asanas that involve bending at the knees and elbows. This doesn’t mean that deviations from that angle are wrong. If an angle isn’t working for you, change it so that it feels right for your body. Increasing the angle at the bend of the elbow or knee is perfectly okay. Use this principle to experiment to find what angle is best for you.

“Using these principles will help you build a strong foundation to support the body in each posture

8. Don’t Overdo It When alignment instructions are given, try not to overcompensate when performing them. Examples would be over-broadening the chest and tucking the tailbone passed neutral in Mountain Pose. Use this principle to bring balance into the body while practicing. 9. Perform an Amount of Cues that Work for You Sometimes an instructor will give too many cues for their students which could become overwhelming. If given too many cues, don’t feel pressured to perform every every one of them, instead pick and choose 3 or 4 that you feel you can perform best and work on the others at a later time. Other times, an instructor may give cues that can be contradictory to what your body is able to perform. If given contradictory cues, choose the one that is most attainable for you and your body. 10. Use Yoga Props to Your Advantage Yoga blocks, straps, blankets, bolsters, etc. can either be used as extension (to connect body parts) or as support (to help reinforce or prop up) for the body while practicing. Use them to build a better foundation and keep you aligned while practicing. 11. Use Outside Means for Feedback Feedback is important so that you can see how your body is actually positioned— and you may look much different than you think! It’s best to discuss your movements with a qualified yoga instructor, but there are other ways to find out if you are aligned. Getting feedback in person and through visuals will help you better understand how to ideally position your body into each posture. This blog post will help you learn and implement ways to see if you’re aligned properly. Intention: Something to Consider If you have the intention of stretching a certain area and this goes beyond “standard” alignment cues for that particular pose, know what you are intending to do and be mindful of your movements. This is your practice, we are just providing guidance.

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