One of the most prominent feelings every student (I’m sure) feels on the mat is, “am I doing this right”.
Sometimes, the teacher might not cue everything, or you may have missed it.
Here are some tips that help you make sure you are aligned and feel confident you are practicing safely.
1. It’s all about the BASE
When looking to correct alignment in any pose, start from the base of your body all the way up and feel where you may need adjustment.
Starting with our feet, are all four points touching, are the arches lifter, the toes plugged in, can you make adjustments to the foot or ankle. Are your feet in the right position, i.e., ankle stacked under the knee, knee under hips (depending on the pose)? Is your standing position steady and pleasant? From there, scan the next junction, i.e., knees, hips, belly, spine, shoulders, and the top of your head.
2. Sthira & Sukha – hardness vs. softness
Everything has an opposing pose where one part of the body is grounding down; other parts need to be lifted to balance. In Yoga, the terms Sthira and Sukha are used to explain the opposing forces.
Sthira can mean solid, firm, hard, compact, lasting, strong, or permeant.
Sukha is composed of two words: su implies good, and kha means space. It means pleasant, easy, mild, and gentle.
In Yoga, it’s a good reminder to think about where you need to exert force and push and where you need to lift and create space.
3. Awareness always
Naturally, when you put water into a glass full of little stones, water will take the easiest route, going through the gaps and around anything in its path. The same goes for our bodies – we will always seek the most convenient path. The mindful element of Yoga teaches one through awareness to bring attention to all the parts of the body so that the composition of the pose can be achieved.
When we are not aware, we can risk pushing our bodies to conform when there are places of tightness, and we push too far.
Awareness and a little patience go a long way too.
4. Core core core
And we are not talking abs (but you will get that too); we are referring to your center of gravity.
As infants, one of the first things we learn is how to connect to gravity, how to wander through space and establish our fundamental movement skills.
If we can bring attention to where our centre of gravity is, i.e., in balancing poses, or backward bends, handstands, we can judge better where to compact ourselves and stabilize and where we need to lengthen (i.e., stance) and cover more surface area.
When we change our foundation of support, we transform our experience of ourselves related to space and gravity.
5. Movement versus Action
Transitioning from one pose into another is movement. But when one gets into the pose, there is a need for subtle actions, i.e., tucking the chin, pulling in the bellybutton, and spreading the toes. The action is what enables the experience of the pose; you bring your whole attention to the energy, the feeling, the feedback the pose is giving to you, and what it is asking of you.
Every body is made differently, moves differently, and feels differently. How one body recruits’ muscles and joints can vary so much to another body in any given pose. Therefore, Yoga is an experience of yourself, through the self.
The purpose of asana (on a body level) is not only to do it correctly but to find what operates best for you to have an experience.
Listening always to the rhythm and the movement of yourself on the mat will help you listen to yourself and take care of you off the mat too.
Your Yoga practice is uniquely yours.