There are three important ingredients to getting the most benefit from yoga postures and your practice. They are:
I’ll talk about Alignment in this post.
When I was learning tennis as a total novice whilst in Australia, my coach showed me how to streamline and utilise my moves to get the most result for the least effort. I realised that by using energy wisely I could play consistently and it felt harmonious to the body and mind. Having never been able to even hit a ball over the net before and with a belief that I could never play, all that changed very quickly. He then made me watch another strong tennis player (who he had not coached) and see the difference. This boy was young but he put so much effort into his moves that it was actually exhausting to watch and listen to as the noises he was making sounded nothing but painful! Too much watching Wimbledon if you ask me! I realised the difference in the way I was being taught and was so glad to have the coach that I had.
I got quite good very quickly and was occasionally beating people who were less than half my age and certainly giving them a good game. My teacher even suggested that I enter competitions – I backed out at the last minute however! As always, everything that I learn, I always look to see how it applies in other areas of life, it’s like one big jigsaw to me, and I realised that streamlining effort in yoga would also get the best results.
This was confirmed to me in my recent yoga course in India where I learnt subtle changes that can really assist being comfortable and stable whilst in the posture and to enjoy the experience, and therefore reap the greatest benefits.
I am also a Bikram Yoga Teacher and Bikram was also always hammering home the importance of alignment and it is for this reason he had us all learn a strict dialogue to help set up the posture correctly. Being a bit OCD with learning, I went through every line and realised that if you did what it said, even though it may have taken a bit of effort at first, the postures became easier not harder. If you make the effort in setting up the posture correctly the right muscles are being used, the joints are kept safe and energy flows through the body the way it’s meant to. It is much better to pull back in some postures temporarily than contort the body into submission – all that creates is pain, irritation, frustration and does the exact opposite of what yoga is supposed to do! Often, just a few times of pulling back into the correct alignment allows you to go forward quicker too – like a bow and arrow effect in a way.
In India I learnt some other tweaks and can now understand even more of what my tennis coach was teaching me. I struggled with getting the correct alignment in the beginning but now I can see and feel the difference and I definitely feel more at peace with my practice. I love the fact that a few small adjustments here and there make all the difference. The postures feel balanced, and that means the body is in balance and therefore so is the mind, and vice versa.
So alignment is key!
In my next post I will talk about the Breath…