Asana and Alignment ~ Ask a Yogini

dwiangaurdhvaHave questions about the physical aspect of yoga? You can ask other yoga related questions in the Ask A Yogini section of the site, or add alignment questions here by commenting below.

The following alignment suggestions are offered to enhance your understanding of alignment. I speak from my knowledge as an Anusara-Inspired™ yoga teacher.  As with all physical practices, it is up to you to discern if something is safe for your body. If in doubt, check with your local Anusara yoga teacher or ask your health practitioner if you have health conditions.

Here are some common questions and answers:

Q. What is the proper alignment for plank pose?

A. First off, by shifting from the idea of “right and wrong” to the concept of aligned and mis-aligned, there is more space for individual differences and less tendency to be hard on yourself. The Universal Principles of Alignment™ of Anusara® yoga are applied to every pose. In plank, key areas to focus on would be a fullness in the back body while keeping the shoulder blades on the back, keeping the thighs back and scooping the tail bone to use core strength so the whole body stays strong.

Q. My knee hurts in pigeon. What can I do?

A. I would love to see exactly what you’re doing in the pose to give you specific alignment instruction. However, generally the way to keep the knee safe is to adjust the foot so it is not sickling (so it doesn’t turn in or out at the ankle), and to work the shins in, thighs back and apart, and extend through the legs from the pelvis. Often knee pain comes from restriction in the hips, so using aligned hip openers, thigh stretches, and lengthening the hip flexors to get the femurs back will help these muscles not pull at the knees as much.

Q. What do I do with my head in Camel?

A. Great question. I get this a lot in class. Make sure you’re rooting through your foundation (from the pelvis down into the earth) and lifting from the pelvis so the side body is long and the head of the arm bones are back. Rather than cranking your head back which can restrict circulation in the neck, keep the neck long and extend through the crown of your head. Now, this doesn’t mean don’t take the head back – you can have a nice curve in the neck and take the head back, but as much as you’re coming back from the tops of the ears, also lengthen up from the back of the head using what Anusara yoga calls “Skull Loop” to balance the pose. If that’s confusing, just think of extending through the crown of your head and keeping space in the back of the neck.

Q. How can I correct flat feet?

A. I’ve written an entire article on the alignment of the feet. It’s so great to re-train the muscles in the feet and re-create the arches using this alignment.

Q. What can I do to align my shoulders in Down Dog?

A. Often in downward dog the shoulders are either dropped too low or there is restriction in the shoulders and the space behind the heart is hardened. Also, keeping the hands in alignment is very important – here’s a video on the hand and wrist alignment in downward dog. Using the alignment described in this video for your hands, use your breath to get spacious in the torso, especially in the side body. Then, keeping the shoulders lifted and arm bones back, soften your heart so the shoulder blades come more on the body. Finally, extend from the heart through strong arms and from the heart back through your hips and legs.

  • Have more questions? Post them below. 🙂
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