Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up trying to go as deep into pose as possible. Whether it’s a personal need to push ourselves, or a bit of a competitive need to show everyone in the class how good we are, sometimes we sacrifice alignment for depth.
I’ve always been a bit of an alignment-stickler. Even as a young girl taking ballet lessons, I would always make sure to keep my hips square and my back as long and straight as possible in every stretch. Not to say I was better than the other girls – I was definitely one of the least flexible in the class (part of why I took up yoga in the first place) – but I always figured that if I was going to do it, I should do it right. Sure, I might get further in a stretch if I let my hips fall out of alignment, but where would that get me in the long run? I would eventually need to get those hips back into place and then I would be back at square one.
The problem is, I was always a little embarrassed about my stickling, because it made me look even less flexible than I was. While the other girls were hunching their backs until they got their foreheads on the ground, I was barely at a 45-degree angle. What I didn’t realize, is how beautiful any body is when it’s in perfect alignment.
As I teach, I see it again and again: someone will throw themselves into a pose. They might get further into the pose, get their leg really high, or their head on the floor, but their ribs and hips are all off-kilter, their shoulder is being pulled all the way around their back, or their lower back is crunched over. They look, well, crooked.
What is far more arresting to watch is a person who keeps their body in alignment, in a variety of poses. From standing in tadasana to Full Lord of the Dancer Pose, the most important thing is keeping yourself properly aligned.