Credit Photo : Marine Lemonnier
Each time I am demonstrating an asana, students expectations are on a high. They expected me to “perform” the best asana with THE proper alignment, exactly as it “should” be done, arms on the same line, pelvis perfectly facing front or back, everything has to be perfectly aligned as it is shown on the book, the manual or in the video.
Let’s say I am demonstrating Trikonasana, while doing it I will ask them what would be the very first thing to correct. The majority will talk about my arms, for Paschimottanasana they will correct my rounded back and for Badakonasana they will adjust my knees.
However the back foot I would have place in a different angle such as 45° or fully inside won’t be noticed (Trikonasana), dead legs in Paschimottanasana neither, feet fully pressing against each other will be ignored in Badakakonasana.
As a general rule the attention will be brought to the final pose as the structure, the base, will be passed by.
The focus will be toward the perfect asana, essentially shifted to the external aspect and foundations will be neglected.
Therefore when you start implying (or affirming) that “ultimate adjustment”, does not exist their world start shattering, faces changing. It would become more challenging when you face students with high level anatomy skills for which a body is just made of flesh, bones, tendons and ligaments.
If at all the ultimate alignment was existing, it would be the one consisting of aligning the awareness, mind, breathe and movement.
When a posture is giving pain the problem is not the posture but the manner of doing it. Why doing Shirshana for then breathes if the asana is not comfortable but painful?
If the back is really stiff during Upavista Konasana why using “jerk” movements to make it “more” flexible?
If Chaturanga Dandasana is giving pain to the shoulders, why wanted to go into a handstand?
Before talking about alignment it will be advisable to understand the asana.
Understanding and mastering one asana take time. It is said that it has to be done at l east 1000 times before the body can assimilate it. Regular practitioner will take 3 years of practice and for others it will take more than 6 years to fully understand, translate, one asana.
The best way is the practice. There is no need to correct a twist from the rib cage if the base is not good. The intension is not twisting as far as possible but to hold the asana in a comfortable zone where the breathing is free. If there is no “root” then the breathing can not happen properly.
If someone is capable to go in a twist and to readjust the base to find the best way of breathing it is fully acceptable.
However blocking the body in such a way where everything is perfectly aligned, but the breathe is not flowing freely will limit the range of movement.
The behaviour on the mat is a reflection of who we are.
The ultimate alignment does not exist.
Teaching is sharing what we know. As teacher we should be able to share our experience through our regular practice. It is important to understand the body in front of us. Alignments and instructions will come by looking at our students. Instead of using the same sentence “activate Mula Bandha, open your heart chakra” without really meaning it and further more understanding it, as teacher we should be able to translate as much as we can the asana we want to convey.
Finding the best way and understanding the limitations of our students. Forgetting about the book and what we are supposed to say, but communicating from our heart.
The alignment will come through the regular practice. Through the regular practice the natural breathing will occur. Through the breathing and the movement the asana will take place, steady and comfortable.