SO HUM - I AM
A L I G N E D
What does it mean to be aligned?
It’s a very powerful intention if you wish to live a purposeful life, to fulfill your greatest potential.
To be aligned means that everything is in harmony: your emotions, thoughts, words and actions are aligned and in tune with your intention and your purpose, with your true self and your personal values. When everything is aligned, beautiful things happen. Clarity, creativity, joy, peace, confidence will flow, guiding you to live a fulfilling and meaningful life.
How can you tell if you are aligned with your purpose? How you feel is a very good sign. Do you feel happy, peaceful, blissful? Do things seem to flow easily for you? That’s a sign of alignment. If you feel irritated, annoyed, fatigued and cranky, if you feel like things are not working for you, then you are definitely out of alignment.
Your yoga practice is an excellent way to explore and cultivate alignment from two perspectives: physical and spiritual.
The first is physical alignment. We talk a lot about alignment in yoga. Correct alignment in a yoga pose is what helps you to enjoy and experience every pose in a deeper way, and most importantly to practice safely. It helps to ensure your joints are protected, helps to build stability, strength and comfort while you hold your pose.
Proper alignment is essential to a safe yoga practice. But it can be complicated. Each teacher instructs it differently. Every pose has a different alignment. And the thing is…every body is different, and what works for one person might not be good for another.
So alignment is very personal and is something that you can explore in your home practice. Explore the positioning of your joints, the direction of your limbs, internal and external rotations, the length and curves of your spine, the rootedness in your feet…all the connections and sensations. Alignment becomes a conversation between your mind and your body.
How a pose feels is what is going to help you understand alignment and whether it's right for you body, not what the pose looks like.
Cultivating this awareness of the physical alignment is a way to explore each pose gently and in-depth, as though you are experiencing it from the inside out.
It’s also a way to help you to feel spiritually aligned. Feeling the sense of alignment in your body will help you to explore your emotions and thoughts, the awareness helps you to tune into them and to see things differently. It’s a way to stay focused, to feel in pure harmony with your intention and with your purpose, to feel connected and aligned with your higher self.
HOW TO EXPLORE YOUR ALIGNMENT THROUGH YOGA
As you move through each pose, take with you a sense of exploration by building an awareness of your body and mind through each pose. Notice your physical alignment by noticing all sensations and connections in your body. Explore your spiritual alignment by paying attention to any thoughts and emotions that arise.
- Scan your awareness through your body, noticing any sensations as they arise.
- Notice the the different parts of the body required to move in and out of each pose and how they are connected.
- Make slight adjustments of the positioning of your arms, legs, head and shoulders to see how that feels.
- Notice the differences from side to side by pausing after each pose.
- Those sensations may be pleasant, unpleasant or neutral. Don't judge them. Just notice them.
- If you feel any pain at all, you are definitely out of alignment and should pull back and rethink the pose.
- Notice any emotions that arise, where you feel them in your body. Again, no judgement, just notice.
- Notice any thoughts that come up, and how they make you feel. Just notice. And let them go, bringing your attention back to the sensations in your body or back to your breath.
- Is there any resistance that comes up, and what does that feel like. Consciously try to release that resistance and tension.
- Use your breath as your anchor, always come back to your breath.
5 POSES TO FEEL ALIGNED
The following poses can help you to explore alignment for yourself, both the physical and the spiritual. Stay present to all sensations, thoughts and emotions that arise. Just noticing. And being kind to yourself in the process.
Mountain Pose (Tadasana)
Mountain Pose is the foundation of all standing poses, a place to get grounded and centred, to align with your intention. It is often the first pose of a practice or used at intervals throughout a practice to rest and provide opportunity to notice the sensations in your body when transitioning from one pose to the next.
- Stand with your feet hip width apart and parallel, arms hanging at your sides, relaxed but active with palms facing forward, shoulders relaxed and down away from your ears.
- Bring your awareness to your feet, feel them heavy and solid, visualize roots extending from the soles of your feet and anchoring you strongly to the earth. Gently engage your knees and thigh muscles, your abdominal muscles. Feel the solid strength of your lower body, holding you upright.
- Then bring awareness to the crown of your head, and imagine it is being pulled to the sky by a string, lifting you just a little taller, creating space between each vertebra. Feel your spine long and straight.
- Take a moment to close your eyes and experience this lovely balance between the solid, weightiness of your lower body and the light, spaciousness and openness of your upper body. Notice the integrity of your posture. Tune into the sensations in your body, noticing the differences from side to side.
3 Pose Warrior Flow
For this sweet sequence of 3 poses, first create your foundation in Warrior II and maintain the same foundation for all three poses.
1 - Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II)
- Starting in Mountain Pose at the front of your mat, step your left foot back into a stable, wide stance. Your front foot points forward, your back foot is pointing towards the side of the mat (parallel with the back edge of the mat) or for less challenge in your hips point them forward at about a 45 degree angle. The front ankle should be lined up with the arch of your back foot, but you may prefer a wider stance. Explore this.
- Bend your front knee to about 90 degrees, ensuring that the knee is directly over your ankle. Ground evenly into all four corners of both feet, paying particular attention to the outside edge of your back foot.
- Draw energy from the earth up into your heart. Expand from your heart through your arms into Warrior II - right arm forward, left arm back, wingspan wide, palms down.
- Gaze beyond your front fingertips, channeling the energy of your inner warrior. Stay for 5-10 breaths.
2 - Vulnerable Warrior (Viparita Virabhadrasana)
- To transition into Vulnerable warrior, maintain your foundation keeping your legs in the same position and the length in your spine as you drop your left hand to your left leg.
- Reach your right arm up to the sky and back as far as comfortable, opening up your whole right side.
- You can look up if that feels good for your neck.
- In this pose you expose your vulnerable side -- the ultimate expression of courage and confidence. Stay for 5-10 breaths.
- Return to Warrior II when you are ready.
3 - Extended side angle (Utthita Parsvakonasana)
- From Warrior II, keeping your legs in the same position, gentle tilt your upper body forward, keeping the length in both sides of your torso, your pelvis and lower back neutral.
- Rest your right forearm on your right knee, palm facing up.
- Look over your left shoulder and keep the back of your neck long as you reach your left arm up alongside your ear, extending long from the rooted outside edge of your back foot through to the fingertips.
- You can experiment with turning your chest slightly towards the ceiling for a nice heart opening.
- Stay for 5-10 breaths.
- To come out of the pose, use your abdominal muscles to bring your torso back upright, arms extended in Warrior II. Then drop your arms, straighten your legs and step your left foot forward coming back to mountain pose. Rest here for a moment, noticing how you feel from side to side.
- Then step your right foot back and repeat this sequence on the other side
Triangle Pose (Utthita Trikonasana)
The foundation for Triangle Pose is exactly like the foundation for Warrior II.
- Starting in Mountain Pose, step the left foot back so you are facing the side of your mat. Your front foot points forward, your back foot is pointing towards the side of the mat (parallel with the back edge of the mat) or for less challenge in your hips point them forward at about a 45 degree angle.
- The classical alignment of this pose is that your heel will be in line with the inner arch of the back foot.
- Ensure your front knee, which is NOT bent, is facing forward towards your front foot.
- Remember to ground down through both feet, rooting solidly, paying special attention to the outer edge of your back foot. Activate your legs and your core muscles.
- From this solid foundation, extend both arms out to the side, palms facing down.
- Looking forward your right side (front), begin to tilt sideways your pelvis sideways keeping your right side long.
- Place your right hand on your right leg or on a block, your left arm is long and straight reaching directly up to the ceiling. If it’s comfortable for your neck, turn to look up towards your hand, or down towards the floor.
- Think about keeping your entire body in a single plane - as though you are sandwiched between two panes of glass. This will help you to avoid leaning forward or backwards in Triangle Pose.
- To come out of the pose, bend hour front leg slightly, press down on the front foot and on an inhale draw yourself back up, then step forward to the front of the mat and Mountain Pose. Notice how you feel, any sensations, any differences from side to side.
- Then step the right foot back and repeat on the alternate side.
MORE WAYS TO CULTIVATE SPIRITUAL ALIGNMENT
- Gratitude practice
- Integrate small rituals into your practice
- Choose positive thoughts, what you focus on expands
- Connect with nature
- Eat well to stay healthy
- Express your creativity
- Be kind to yourself
I am extremely fortunate and grateful to collaborate on creating yoga practices with my friend Jennifer Reaburn, the beautiful yogini and inspiring yoga teacher in the photos. She's wearing www.zennomad.ca eco-conscious yoga wear.