If you already have a good idea of what alignment means, its meaning in yoga almost speaks for itself!
In yoga, alignment simply refers to performing yoga poses (asanas) with mindful precision of where each body part should be positioned.
This can also be referred to as form – a term that’s commonly used among gym-goers and workout enthusiasts with regard to how exercises should be performed.
Overall, yoga alignment is done to ensure that yoga poses, also called yoga postures, provide the maximum physical benefits with reduced risk of injury.
That’s the general answer, however. For the full answer, including how to practice alignment, keep reading this short guide!
What Is Alignment In Yoga?
There are some people who think yoga looks easy. But the fact is, almost every yoga pose requires careful attention to detail!
This includes how the body moves in space when transitioning from one yoga pose to another, as well as the position and alignment of each body part when holding a yoga pose.
A good example of alignment in yoga is the handstand: a pose that requires precise stacking of the hands, shoulders, hips, and feet to maintain balance.
Another example of yoga alignment is downward facing dog pose, which requires correct placement of the hands and feet on the yoga mat so that the body forms a triangle shape.
So, alignment is the alignment of joints and muscles in yoga poses, as well as where each body part should be positioned, on or off the mat.
Why Is Alignment Important In Yoga?
So, why is alignment so important in yoga?
Practicing yoga alignment ensures that the person performing the yoga pose receives the full benefits of the pose, as well as reduces the risk of injury.
Alignment also benefits balance and posture, and simply makes yoga poses look more attractive – in the same way that gymnasts and ballet dancers perform their routines with gracefulness and aesthetic appeal.
Needless to say, yoga beginners can struggle with alignment at first. It’s a degree of skill and proprioception that comes with practice, guidance, and experience.
Yoga Energy Lines Explained
Another reason alignment can be important in yoga is energy lines, also called energy channels.
Yoga is deeply rooted in spiritual traditions and practices. So, for many people who do yoga, it’s also a spiritual or meditative experience that involves the channeling of positive energy around the body.
And by practicing correct alignment in different yoga poses, this energy or life force (for example, Qi, in Chinese philosophy) is easily channeled.
This might be practiced with the 12 meridian points in mind, or the 7 chakras – various points around the body where energy is believed to flow and gather.
The Benefits Of Yoga Alignment
To summarize the above points, the benefits of alignment are:
- To receive the full physical benefits of yoga poses
- To reduce the risk of injury
- To balance
- To improve posture
- To channel “energy” around the body
- To make yoga poses and yoga sequences look more graceful, elegant, and aesthetically pleasing
The physical benefits of alignment in yoga poses include increasing strength, flexibility, and mobility.
Many yoga poses are physically challenging, and practicing correct alignment is a means to achieve the pose, reduce its difficulty, and minimize the risk of injury.
Alignment also benefits balance, as there are some yoga poses—such as the handstand, headstand, eagle pose, and warrior 3 pose—that require precise positioning of each body part to initiate and maintain balance.
Of course, proper alignment also makes yoga poses more aesthetically pleasing. A slouched tree pose is simply not going to look as good as a perfectly held, upright tree pose!
Alignment In Yoga Poses – Examples
As mentioned above, yoga alignment is the careful positioning of the various joints and parts of the body to achieve balance, improve strength, and minimize the risk of injury.
This applies to almost all yoga poses, from beginner yoga poses right through to advanced yoga poses.
Alignment is also not exclusive to one yoga style, as it applies to all different types of yoga poses and yoga styles.
Examples of yoga poses that require correct alignment include:
- Handstand (adho mukha vrksasana)
- Headstand (sirsasana)
- Downward-facing dog pose (adho mukha svanasana)
- Tree pose (vrikshasana)
- Eagle pose (garudasana)
- Warrior 2 pose (virabhadrasana II)
- Warrior 3 pose (virabhadrasana III)
- Bridge pose (setu bandha sarvangasana)
- One-legged crow pose (eka pada kakasana)
- Boat pose (navasana)
- Floating stick pose/floating staff pose (utpluti dandasana)
- Cobbler’s pose (baddha konasana)
Overall, alignment in yoga doesn’t just refer to harder, more advanced yoga poses (such as balancing poses and inversion poses), as it’s also required for beginner and intermediate poses where good form and feet/hand placement is important.
How To Practice Alignment In Yoga
Last but not least: how to practice alignment in yoga.
It’s understandable that alignment is something that comes with practice and experience.
As you perform the different yoga poses more often, you will become more aware of how to position your body, much like muscle memory.
Alignment is very closely related to proprioception – the ability to sense where your limbs are in space without visual aid.
This is an important skill for yoga poses such as the handstand, which require total balance through feel, not sight.
It’s possible to improve yoga alignment with the guidance of a yoga instructor, or by either practicing yoga poses in a mirror or recording your yoga routines.
With this visual aid, for example, it becomes easier to see where your form needs adjusting.
Overall, don’t expect perfect alignment in your yoga poses if you’re still a beginner. This will eventually come with time, practice, and experience!
In short, yoga alignment means correct positioning of the body when doing yoga poses.
This ensures that you receive the full physical benefits of all yoga poses, reduce your risk of injury, and, well, improve the appearance of your form and flow!
Yoga alignment can be practiced, but it also comes with experience and external guidance.
By consistently doing yoga, your alignment will improve, eventually becoming automatic – much like muscle memory.