This seems to have become a dirty word in the world of Yoga. Whether it be the student who doesn't want to be touched/corrected or distracted by too many verbal cues, or the free-form teacher that provides students the freedom to flow and feel your way through your own body in movement - I get it. I totally get it.
As the teacher, we are not the authority over any students body, YOU are the authority over your own body and how it feels. Most of us spend so much of our lives in our minds, and experience a turbulence of emotions such as fear, anger, anxiety, sadness, guilt causing us to disassociate from our bodies to avoid these sensations - so we can 'get on with it'. I see it everyday where students do not know where their body parts are, our proprioception (knowing where we are in space) is impacted by disconnecting from our body so as not to 'feel'. In this way we are not grounded, not present, nor are we in charge of our energy and it's exchange. We are living out of alignment.
Through Yoga we mobilise the body and know where our body parts are and how they each move, guided by what feels good and what does not. We discover postural habits by noticing patterns we bring into our Asana. Here we re-adjust and re-align to rehabilitate or prevent injury and conditions. When we release and breathe into the body we are shifting energy, emotion and thought - this is where we connect with our innate ability to heal and thereby lessening our need to 'disassociate'. It's my duty to develop my students in re-positioning the body, to re-associate - NOT TO MAKE YOU PERFECT IN THE POSE, but to guide you back into your body. Whether this be through verbal cues for micro-adjustments or a supporting hand taking in the feedback of the individual's body, sensing when it's ready to adjust and align in it's own time and doing. There is no force, instead it's an energy exchange. As a teacher it is so important to first find alignment in Self to make this possible, knowing your intention, being grounded, compassionate and confident with the willingness to hand over to the wisdom of each individual's body.
As a student I hand my authority over to my breath, I let it guide me to release deeper, it teaches me when to pull back and be more present. I find my strength, support and peace in the breath. There are so many different styles of Yoga and the more I am present in my body I know which I need at any one time. Sometimes I need the constant supporting cues of my teacher to keep bringing me back into my physical body and out of my over-functioning mind! (and this one did not come easily as at first my ego couldn't stand someone telling me how to do things when I thought I already knew best - clearly I wasn't ready to make change, I also felt offended and took their corrections as though I was 'wrong' - it did take me a while to get over myself to enjoy a variety of cues and different teaching styles ;-). If you google ONE pose you will find hundreds of different versions and alignments, some contradicting one another. What if none are wrong, none are right, but one is just right for you?
Self-awareness and a variety of practice has allowed me to trust my own body in knowing if something is not right for me and how to adjust for my unique needs as I have a history of many many injuries and ailments (this is when I found props became my best friend in advancing my alignment - another one my ego had to get over that props meant I was disadvantaged). There are certain days I just do not want to be touched, and others I long for my teachers lovingly guided hand and wisdom to align me back into my body and encourage me to feel even more - I honour those teachers who are well grounded and present to know when this energy exchange and touch is appropriate and when it's not, this is a true gift as a teacher. These days I respond best to the lightest touch or a cue for a micro-movement, I don't need to be stood on or laid upon by my teacher, but I do acknowledge there are incredible teachers who have mastered these adjustments without causing harm, it's just no longer my need. There are days I am fidgety and know discipline in alignment of Asana will settle my mind and static energy (um or maybe it's my ego and disconnect), then there are days I just need to move and go with flow, stillness is just going to have to wait for Savasana! Now this is what feels like alignment to me, aligning with myself and knowing my needs on the day. It requires moving aside ego and resistance. It's as though alignment is an act of surrender to what is, rather than a fixed idea, it's about getting the distractions out of the way.
We each have traumas, scars and wounds, when we are willing to engage with these aspects of ourself we are embracing healing and aligning with Self. In learning how to align my physical body I have connected with my breath - there lies my ability to heal, my presence and focus of mind, my energy flow; when to draw in and when to give out. It's still a work in progress, and so is my alignment. A life long process in which I love practicing without knowing an end result or date. One of my favourite quotes is from BKS Iyengar...
"The hardest part of the body to align in Asana is the brain"
What does alignment mean to you?
If you recognised in yourself the disassociating of body in response to emotional turbulence and trauma I would love to share with you my MindBodyFully Present Meditation practice (courtesy of the beautiful Kate Duncan) which you can find this month only in my Free Monthly Membership in my new online yoga studio www.inspyameonline.com
Join me for one of my Energy Alignment workshops - see dates here to book online or come away on Yoga & Meditation Retreat with me to Blue Mountains or Bali and immerse in your alignment of You - your energy, chakras, mental and physical bodies. See upcoming retreats here.
For Yoga teachers if you are interested in my new course Teaching Alignment (dates to be advised) learning the art of self alignment and intention as a teacher, energy exchange, reasons to align or not, handing over to the wisdom of the student's body - email me firstname.lastname@example.org for details.