Yoga postures (asana) provides a lifetime of healthy physical movement when performed with proper construction.
A Yoga posture, or asana, is a guide for strengthening the body’s ability to move, function and heal. Yoga postures are in perpetual motion. The motion, however, is usually microscopic. At a neuromuscular level, the motion is muscle tissue, heart rate, and bone in constant adjustment and alignment. There is never a static moment. This is the way asana reconstructs our body. A “picture” of a yoga posture is like a snapshot of motion in time.
Viewing a photo of a yoga posture and creating it, is like photographing an automobile and labeling it “how to build a car.” To put it another way, viewing a yoga pose and attempting to replicate it is not as easy as it seems. What the photo shows is a result of something that has gone through a construction process. There are many details involved in the process. There’s more than meets the eye. Therefore, construction without proper instruction can create a less than beneficial experience, whether building a car or a yoga asana.
The quality is in the construction
The quality of the construction of a yoga posture is where the quality of your results lie. “How to build an automobile” would show detailed instructions of every aspect of the process. It would take into consideration, details related to durability, functionality and style. The same goes for yoga asana. There are many details in the process. Details can be microscopic. Details that can only be discovered and experienced by the creator, you!
The power and magic of yoga posture is in the details of how to construct it. If you are constructing it with poor quality parts, the longevity or benefits will not be as noticeable. So a photo of a yoga posture is only a veneer of what’s underneath. You can put a Mercedes emblem on a K-car but it won’t change the quality. This is to say that the picture is not the experience. Similar to a Hollywood movie where the store front is only a prop. There’s nothing behind it.
I have a video here, to share more about this concept.
Many people today get fooled on how difficult certain physical feats can be. They’ll watch a video and see how easy the person makes it look. However, we all know there’s more to the process than meets the eye. Like Olympic champions, there’s a process far deeper than the race itself. It’s like the “People are awesome VS Fail Army” videos.
Actors can pretend to be superheros and dancers can pretend to be yogis. However it’s important to remember yoga is about the details of construction, not snapshots in time.
How to build your car
In the scope of yoga posture, this phrase is important to remember: “Yoga is not about standing on your head. It’s about standing on your own two feet.”
To be able to stand tall is a monumental feat. Knowing how your feet are placed and how your muscles support your posture is a profound step in knowing how to build an asana. When standing, feel all edges of your feet embracing the earth. Allow your toes to spread open to support your stance. When bending forward, allow the spine to lengthen throughout the entire movement.
There are little elements in each posture that make big differences. Little adjustments in alignment can make for a more painful process, but bring the benefits that might have been missed. I can make a slight adjustment to a student’s pose that may take months for them to perfect. Without knowledge of the adjustment, they would build a poor quality structure.
A young woman in class is comfortable sitting on her heels with her toes pointed outward and her buttocks on the floor. This sitting posture created a lateral twist of the knee and excluded the alignment for stretching the foot. I gave her the task of keeping her foot in-line with her leg in order to sit over the feet and help open up the muscle and tendon tissue in the top of the foot. Therefore it allowed stretching the flexors of the foot. This was painful experience for her, but eventually she created greater ROM (range of motion) in her flexion and extension of the foot.
As you build your masterpiece, think of structural alignment. Play with your movements and expand your capabilities. In doing so, you will progress much smoother with greater confidence.
Where are the instructions?
While it’s nice to have a great guru by your side, sometimes all you need is your mat. Each pose has attributes to its design you must follow. Therefore, attend a class with a knowledgeable instructor or attend my Online Classes opening this spring. Until then, get a good book like my favorite, Total Yoga.
A book can describe alignment in detail. This can be better for comprehension than trying to listen to an instructor. Remember, each posture reconstructs your body for maximum movement and function. The key to success is performing the asana correctly.
Remember to cultivate mindfulness of alignment while you practice. The practice of Iyengar Yoga, BKS Iyengar, is known for its detail of alignment.
How does your body react? When in a pose, stay long enough to look at your posture. How is your breathing? Are you relaxed or stressed? Is your heart rate even? Are you engaging the posture enough to warm the body?
Align with your reflection
A mirror can help you discover alignment. Is your foot straight? Are your arms straight? Are your knees bent, locked, etc? After awhile you can feel the alignment from within and will need the mirror less and less. So you will begin to feel the pose more clearly.
Yoga is a method of exercises to strengthen all aspects of our lives. It’s not a sporting event or race. Yoga can prevent injury and enhance your physical performance. Yoga is the “practice.” Remember the reason for the asana is the time to strengthen the body, mind and spirit.
For more instruction, please attend my online yoga classes beginning this spring. In doing so, you will receive much clarity of the process of health and rehabilitation.
Learn more in my post about Mindfulness in Yoga.
Blessings on your journey!