Why Standing Poses? Answer 2: Alignment
This blog we continue to ponder the question - why is there such emphasis on standing poses in Iyengar yoga. This time, we consider the role of physical alignment in quietening the mind.
‘It is through the alignment of the body that I discovered the alignment of my mind, self, and intelligence.’ BKS Iyengar
BKS Iyengar saw alignment as critical to gaining benefit from yoga. When we find alignment we reap the rewards in terms of physical health and wellbeing, and our minds can quieten more readily.
Straightforward standing poses (such as Tadasana – mountain pose) can help us to notice where we are misaligned, and from there we can work to correct our posture.
Ask someone to take a photo of you in Tadasana – from the front and from the side. Try it. The pose looks simple but it can tell a lot.
Looking from the FRONT. Can you notice any differences between your left and right side? Is one foot turned out more than the other? Is there a gap between your hand and your thigh on one side, but not on the other? Is one shoulder higher than the other, or is there a tilt to your head?
All of these could indicate misalignment. And any pattern is likely to become more entrenched as we age, and show up in other poses.
How about from the SIDE? Are you leaning forward or back? Or are there kinks in your body? Perhaps the hips are thrown forward while the shoulders sit back. Or perhaps you can see a misalignment in your legs, for example if your knees (or ligaments) allow your legs to extend beyond being straight.
Any misalignment can have far-reaching consequences. So it’s worth giving time to standing poses and use them to see what patterns exist.
For a specific example, watch Joe Miller’s short video on the anatomy of knee hyperextension1. He provides a great illustration of how misalignment in one area of the body (the knee/leg) can impact elsewhere. It shows just how important it is to find alignment in standing poses.