How is Alignment Yoga different from other forms of yoga?
Yoga is believed to have originated in India, where many people practice it as a lifestyle, and a means to enlightenment. Yoga is the practice of life and living, how to treat others, respect for your body and the world.
In the western world, we mostly use this practice as a form of exercise. It focuses on the asanas (postures) of Hatha Yoga, known for improving flexibility and strength.
Modern yoga usually includes elements from Hinduism. Moral and ethical principles, postures designed to keep the body fit, spiritual philosophy, instruction by a guru, chanting of mantras, slowing the breath, and quieting the mind through meditation. We often adapt these elements to meet the needs of non-Hindu practitioners.
With all of the different options to choose from, let’s take a look at Alignment Yoga.
This unique form of Yoga stays faithful to the philosophies and intents of traditional Yoga. However it takes into account the cultural differences and adapts the practice for the Western body and mind.
The Three Fundamentals:
The Three Fundamentals are designed to be applicable to the way Westerners think and deal with daily stressors. Learning how to handle stress is an important part of preparing oneself for the practice of yoga. Alignment Yoga classes generally start with a meditation on Grounding, Relaxing the Palate and Full-Commitment Exhale – the Three Fundamentals.
A lot of the pain and stiffness we experience as we get older, is the consequence of using muscles that weren’t designed to move in certain ways. Figuring out and unlearning habits of a lifetime can be quite challenging. The Pre-Yoga exercises engage and strengthen core postural support muscles.
Action and Resistance
In western culture, we place an emphasis on gaining flexibility through the practice of yoga, this is a major part of what attracts people to yoga. While most people will find that increased physical flexibility is an effect, it transcends the body in yoga.
Flexibility is as much about the mind and heart as it is about the body, “asana is about finding energetic balance between two different forces.” The forces being strength and flexibility, or action and resistance.
One of the most valuable parts of yoga is simply listening to your body. The act of yoga automatically has the effect of reconnecting to the body. For many, being present and mindful in their body can be a very new experience. This can lead to a more flexible way of thinking and feeling, being still in the place between movement/action and resistance can open up many paths. The greatest flexibility will come with acceptance of one’s self.
The point of yoga is to bring yourself into balance, both physically and internally. Releasing a part of the body does not need to result in inhibiting another. If we are aware of these habits in our bodies, there is a greater chance of changing them in our minds. With this awareness, yoga can create lasting change from the inside out.
Adapted from Scott Anderson Alignmentyoga.com
Ultimately, the goal in yoga is to develop ourselves from the inside. Increasing body awareness on the mat will extend to your life off the mat and change the way you connect with the world. Yoga is designed to cleanse body and mind of physical and emotional blockages in order to develop a stronger sense of connection of the two. Yoga is a union of body and mind
At its core, alignment based yoga is “meditation into the now, where the body actually moves, transforms and rests. The mind loves to abandon the body…alignment based yoga offers the student a way to the body, a back to the NOW.” Jenilee Toner Ekhartyoga.com
Alignment helps focus the mind. Maintaining awareness throughout the body in a yoga pose helps keep the mind from wandering. This supports the yogic technique of Dharana, or focused attention.