Every yoga teacher talks about alignment. We’ve all been there. But here are 5 popular myths that need some balancing.
Alignment is a term mostly used to define the practice of some hard-to-achieve yoga postures. Unfortunately, the way the term is used sometimes takes the positivity away from the whole act. Let’s try to bust these common misconceptions to bring back the joy in alignment and yoga.
MYTH #1: You were born with perfect alignment but with time you lost your natural balance and flexibility
That’s just wrong. Don’t be so hard on yourself. First of all, nobody was born with perfect alignment. One side is slightly bigger than the other. For most people, it is the right side. You have one dominant hand and leg. You can write better with the dominant hand, see better with the dominant eye and balance better with the dominant leg. Thus, you see, perfect yoga alignment gained naturally or genetically, is a myth.
What one can gain naturally is flexibility. There can be beginner yogis who will pull off a deep backend pose which even lifetime yogis cannot. But don’t judge yourself for this. Flexibility can also be achieved through practice. Our muscles are toned through lifestyle and postures to become less or more flexible. However, that does not mean that you can be as flexible as everyone else in the yoga class. You can only be more flexible that what you were before. When you feel like the black sheep who needs special instructions, you put pressure on yourself to master that pose. You stop using your body to get into a pose, but start using a pose to get into a body. That’s not yoga. Accept your own levels of flexibility and work on them, keeping nothing as a milestone but your body’s health and inner strength.
MYTH #2: You have got to master the perfect posture
When you try to sing your favourite song, it is not the same as Taylor Swift or Sam Smith singing it. And a 4-year-old girl will have her own rendition. But they are all signing the same song and just as melodious. Just like that, your asana is your own beautiful composition of what your yoga teacher has taught you. Yoga alignment possibly has nothing to do with it. Your yoga pose will be as beautiful as any other perfectly balanced and flexible yogi. Your bones will clash as you twist and bend. You might not be striking a pose for the cover of a yoga magazine, but as long as you are finding peace in it and strengthening your core, you are doing great yoga.
Chanting, visualization, or deep breathing and the shape of your bones, unfortunately, can affect how your yoga pose looks and feels, but not always alignment. So relax, just do your best and feel your best.
MYTH #3: Improper yoga alignment can lead to injuries
Going back to point number 1. We are not naturally aligned, remember? Improper yoga alignment is very natural. And anything that is natural, cannot lead to injuries. Because that is how nature designed it to be, and it is perfect just like that. Have you heard the words, ‘Wabi Sabi’ ever? They mean ‘beautifully imperfect’ in Japanese. And that is exactly what all of us are. Injuries take place in yoga class because people push themselves to achieve a pose, that their body is not yet comfortable in, or maybe never will be. But improper alignment is not the cause behind yoga injuries.
MYTH #4: Proper yoga alignment leads to the perfect flow of energy
Yoga practitioners often believe that a perfect pose creates magic and lights up your nervous systems. Energy then flows freely in your body. But actually, it’s the opposite that is true. When we stretch or twist or bend, we are creating an obstacle for blood circulation and using it is a training course for the body to tame itself to the hardship. If you stay in a pose for too long, no matter how perfect your yoga alignment is, some part of your body will become numb. And when you will release the pose, blood will circulate freely again, leading to the feeling of Prana gushing in every part of your body. This is what yoga wishes to teach. The art of keeping calm and balanced in a difficulty, the art of endurance.
Learning the subtle art of keeping calm and balanced even in the face of difficulty is a powerful lesson—and one with profound implications outside the yoga studio as well.
MYTH #5: Some universal principles of alignment work for everyone
How many of you have heard a yoga teacher say, ‘Don’t let your front knee travel in front of your toes in lunging poses or you’ll hurt your knee!’. We’re guessing, all of you. But what about asanas like skanasana or a yoga squat? Doesn’t the knee travel in front of your toes in these. And there is another ‘universal’ rule. ‘Keep your elbows close to your body in chaturanga dandasana or it could hurt your shoulders!’ But for some people, the elbows-in position can actually be more damaging than the elbows-out position. It’s just a matter of how your shoulder joint is built.
If you’d ask 3 yoga teachers about the techniques or steps to a perfect triangle pose, you’ll learn three different methods altogether. There is no universal rule that bodies follow. Yoga is the beautiful art that makes your soul and your body communicate with each other. Chances are, each body has something different and unique to say. And the diversity is what makes yoga a developing science and not a hard-coded guide.
In truth, the human body itself is the most effective yoga teacher in the yoga room—and the best yoga teachers themselves understand that. Their teaching is as much inside-out as it is outside-in. The best yoga teachers hence, are often not the ones who can make the perfect yoga pose and impose the need of yoga alignment. But the best yoga teachers are the ones who understand and appreciate every yoga seeker. And definitely the one’s who wear the best yoga pants. 😉