I am an advocate for alignment-based yoga and feel strongly about practicing yoga postures within a set of general alignment principles. I am also acutely aware of the differences that exist between the physical make-ups of students’ bodies and the variety of challenges this can pose when performing yoga postures. Alignment-based yoga needs to be tempered with a parameter of variables that account for all body types.
Yoga practice should be inclusive. Instead of the yoga practitioner having to seek out a yoga style that fits the unique anatomy of the practitioner, I believe the yoga practice needs to be adaptable to meet the challenges of the unique anatomy of all practitioners. A learner centered approach to yoga is what the Breathe Into Motion Yoga System is all about, and this means educating students on how to tailor the yoga practice for their unique physical attributes and challenges.
Alignment based yoga must be tempered with reason, and not a rigid formulaic exercise model within some dogmatic style. Modifications must be available within a syllabus of postures that allow for the differences between students. Consistency in principles of alignment is necessary for injury prevention, but this consistency should be presented within a range of options meeting each students needs.
In Richard Freeman’s latest book, ‘The Art of Vinyasa’ a passage struck me as describing the importance of proper alignment, and at the same time the need to recognize the diversity of yoga practitioners’ physical forms. “Yoga alignment can be and usually is approached from the point of view of classical anatomy, physical form, and biomechanics, and this is good. We look at similarities and differences in the structure of bones, muscles, and inter connected patterns of breath and movement.”
The Breathe Into Motion Yoga System was designed to meet the needs of every student. BIM Yoga offers a foundation of alignment principles that account for skeletal differences, differences in the connective tissue components, and even differences in the fiber arrangement of muscle tissues. These factors along with a clear understanding of a wide variety of injuries and medical conditions are necessary for facilitating safe and effective yoga practice.
To me alignment based yoga in its traditional form, where preset specifics in regards to how to perform a given yoga posture, can be a recipe for disaster. In its dogmatic form this type of yoga insists that yoga students would all be ‘cast from the same mold,’ that there is only one precise method of doing a yoga posture and to deviate from this to any degree would be perilous. Unfortunately, this type of thinking will not meet the needs of every student and may invite injury.
Abandoning alignment principles completely in an ‘anything goes’ approach to yoga is also a recipe for disaster. Without some guidelines as to what constitutes risk in yoga practice, the practitioner is left to explore yoga postures while gambling with their health. Biomechanical forces such as sheer and compression can cause serious injury when posture alignment is disregarded.
Instructors teaching a particular style of yoga who insist that there is only one way to practice a posture or insist that a full expression of a posture must be performed to ‘close an energetic loop’ are not meeting the needs of all students. Open-minded instructors will offer a host of variations, modifications, prop use, and alternative yoga postures to ensure all students can participate in yoga class safely. I am an advocate of alignment based yoga that meets the individual alignment requirements of each unique student that attends my classes.