By TNT Bureau
Jan 2, 2018: Being aligned means the body is positioned in a manner that allows an individual to get the full benefit of a given pose while avoiding injury. You should always focus on your alignment in each pose and work to perfect it.
Participating in a yoga class is great. The instructor is available to adjust your poses and make sure your alignment is on point. However, in crowded classes or when practicing at home it can be difficult to assure your poses are aligned and that you are getting the most out of each stretch, not to mention keeping yourself injury free.
While there is some variation in pose alignment depending on the style of yoga being performed, these tips are fairly applicable across the board.
Open your shoulders
We are all culprits of stress and the tension lives in our shoulders. It is natural that we let this tension build up and affect our posture and movements, but in yoga it can be restricting and uncomfortable. Keep your shoulders open, down and away from your ears while practicing yoga.
In postures where your arms are extended overhead, such as Urdhva Hastasana, start with your shoulders raised and your arms close to your ears. Slowly relax and move your shoulders down and as far away from the ear as you can. You may need to bend your arms a little to accomplish this. Feel the difference?
Align your breathing
Breathing is a crucial part of yoga. Keep your breathing natural and align it with the poses. When you move into a pose that opens your chest, inhale. When you close your chest in a given posture, exhale.
Distribute your weight
Many instructors will tell you to stretch through the foot with your postures. What they really mean by this is keep your weight evenly distributed amongst all corners of your feet. If your feet are not properly aligned or your weight is not evenly distributed, you will likely feel off balance and have a tough time maintaining the pose.
Square your hips
Squaring your hips is common practice in many standing poses and means balancing your pelvis. Find your alignment within your pelvis/hips through Mountain Pose and move within a range that allows you to keep your hips aligned throughout the pose. The goal is to be able to move your limbs independently of your torso.
Hold your head high
Your neck should have a soft curve in most poses, with your chin and gaze held level and straight ahead. If you raise or lower your head, you will notice you are no longer looking straight ahead. Readjust. Practice holding your head high not just in yoga, but in most aspects of your life. It will help prevent pinching, bulging and rupturing of the cervical disks that can come from poor posture.