The meaning of “alignment” in Yoga
Ashtanga alignment requires more than fixing the the posture from the outside. According to Yoga Sutra, the first and foremost pair of qualities of correct Asana practice are sthira and sukha. Sthira simply means stable. Sukha is commonly translated as “pleasant” but the original meaning is “good hole” as opposed to duḥkha (bad hole). Only a chariot wheel with a well-aligned hole could give you a smooth and pleasant ride. Same is true for your practice. Only a good aligned practice can have good results. Otherwise it can’t even be considered Yoga practice according to the scriptures. Poor practice can be recognized by strains, pains, injuries and pride.
The alignment sessions are the practical heart of Grischa’s retreats. Step by step we will be re-constructing all postures of the primary series and unfold the numberless miracles and ingenious subtle details about it. We will see how Yoga poses are constructed to confuse our nervous system and how habitual patterns creating physical problems. We will learn that we can only overcome them by challenging almost everything we seem to know about right and wrong.
Yoga is becoming aware of the obvious that is right in front of our eyes.
All Yoga poses are constructed to be challenging our body and our nervous system. In fact they are so complex that we can hardly breathe in the beginning. To not make things even more difficult for us we might have been given extremely rudimentary instructions about poses such as “look navel” or “take the big toe”. Yet at some point we must look under the surface of things for developing excellence in practice.
As beginners we have heard grotesquely gross explanations about basically everything in Yoga. Although unavoidable (we were just too uneducated to understand the true nature of things), this becomes a tragedy if we are not able to let go of these naive ideas at some point. Many beginner misconceptions have even been declared as goals of poses in “western” Yoga (e.g. “pose xyz is about stretching the ham strings”).
The most dangerous destructive symptom of a beginner’s ignorance are waste of energy and pride in physical “attainments” such as “advanced Yoga postures”. There is no Yoga without non-attachment, vairagya.
It is OK trying “squeezing the anus” as a beginner or “sucking in your belly towards the spine”. But such gross instructions must never be confused with the very delicate and subtle nature of the bandhas which they try to make you aware of.
The term “Internal Alignment” is based on the experience that all instructions on “how to do a pose” become useless once you experience the organization of a pose from within. This experience can be summarized by a much deeper and ultimately very natural understanding of Mula Bandha and Uddiyana Bandha.
This understanding can be called the essence of Grischa’s teachings.
There are several good news about physical injuries from your Yoga practice:
- All injuries heal (only) when you stop re-injuring yourself
- All injuries are only symptoms and have a cause
- Pain or injuries clearly tell you that you are making a mistake
- The cause of all injuries is not-knowing (avidya)
- Good teachers can easily find out the cause of injuries because of the systematic approach of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga
There are also bad news about injuries in Yoga:
- We need to accept that we make mistake otherwise we can’t let go of our habits
- The correct way is often times exactly the opposite of what we have learnt before / as beginners
- Good teachers are extremely rare
Yoga is finding a path out of self conditioning. Pain and injuries are excellent tools for growth if we use them with intelligence and proper guidance.