What the hell does touching my toes have to do with enlightenment? How will these poses make me a better mother, daughter, sister and friend? The answer is they don’t and they won’t, not unless we are cultivating benevolent qualities (planting good seeds) and eradicating the malevolent ones (pulling the weeds) while we are in theses poses.
The postures are doorways, as we enter into the poses (asanas for the traditionalists), we pay attention to the connection of our feet to the ground, the finger tips reaching, the gaze fixating and as we become more aware of where our joints are in space we also become more aware of our mental state: Our habitual actions and reactions and instead of doing the same old thing, we create space for choice. We begin to listen, to really hear beyond our assumptions, opinions and judgments and from here we can make intelligent decisions based on the experience we are having in the moment. Our bodies speak to us via sensations, we have just forgotten how to listen because we are to busy trying to get the gold star, crush our goals and feed our agendas and so we compete, compare and argue over the “correct” “safe” or “best” way to do the pose based on the linage we have trained in, instead of asking the one person that knows the answer: YOURSELF.
Don’t get me wrong I think some alignment cues are important and I LOVE ANATOMY more that most people, in fact I have dedicated the last 15 years of my life studying movement. However alignment lives at the intersection between what we know based on what we can see (dissection) and what we know based on what we can feel and because dissections are just models that don’t represent everybody, I think its just as important to emphasis the feeling of the pose as opposed to some externally imposed idea of correct joint angles. In fact trying to get everybody into the same shape is ignorant and harmful and opposes the goal of yoga in the first place. The physical alignment cues give us an outline of the pose and a context to work with, but even if we do a picture perfect pose, that does not necessarily mean we are practicing yoga. In order to practice yoga we must be infusing the postures with the benevolent qualities of mind and if we are too focused on what the pose looks like we are feeding our idea of perfectionism instead of cultivating sensitivity and acceptance, kinda like making love vs masturbation.
What are you focusing on?
Create an internal conversation: Inhale where can I create more space? Creating space in the body requires stability and strength. Exhale where am I unnecessarily fighting, resisting or reacting? Can I soften to go deeper? In this way our actions become in ALIGNMENT with our higher vision. This is integrity. When we remain focused in the poses we can choose to uproot the weeds, in order to plant new seeds. When we create space between the stimulus and our response, dictated by our deep and deliberate breath, we can then ask intelligent questions: Is this serving me or stealing from me? Is this healing or harming? DOES THIS FEEL RIGHT? The answer to these questions will ultimately determine the ALIGNMENT of the pose. If our intentions for practicing yoga are to “know thyself” “be the change” “radiate love” etc and the asana’s are tools to prepare us for us for this battle then, does it make sense that everybody SHOULD practice and look the same in the poses? Does trying to force our students or ourselves further into a pose heal or harm? Serve or steal? Feed or eradicate the qualities that are poisoning our body and mind?
Is the way we practice in ALIGNMENT with how we want to live? How we behave on our yoga mat in these poses, mirrors how we behave in our lives. We can either choose to be an unconscious slave to our habits, drone like marching to the beat of societies drum, or become a conscious servant to our unlimited potential and possibilities.
In my classes, workshops and teacher trainings I like to provide information about the way the body works on an anatomical level, from the bones, muscles, and fascia, all the way to the mind, central nervous system and hormones. This knowledge when combined with deep internal awareness based on sensation empoweres people to take control of their health, celebrate their bodies and its uniqueness and transform using movement as a catalyst.