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 the nervous system and how habitual patterns are often times creating pains and other 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.
Sukha - the meaning of good alignmentAccording to Yoga Sutra, the key requirements of an asana are sthira and sukha, Sthira generally means stable but is a key component of abhyāsa (yogic practice) in general. Sukha is commonly translated as “pleasant”. Interestingly the original meaning is “good hole” as opposed to duḥkha (bad hole). Only a chariot wheel with a well-aligned hole could possibly 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 Patanjali. Poor practice can be recognized by strains, pains, injuries. This also includes mental diseases like pride, vanity and wanting to "show off" for impressing yourself or others.
Making Progress...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 at first. Beginners are often been given extremely rudimentary instructions about poses such as “look navel” or “take the big toe” to make things not to complicated and frustrating. Many beginner misconceptions have even been declared as goals of poses in “western” Yoga (e.g. “pose xyz is about stretching the ham strings”). Yet at some point we need to look under the surface of things for developing excellence in practice. Yoga begins with unfolding the millions of fascinating details that make up each pose as we drop our naive superficial ideas about them.
Differences make all the differenceThere are not only differences in series and postures. One should never forget that every single being is different and that each posture is different for each person. Therefore it is not enough to apply the exact same 5-10 instructions and adjustments to every single student. Every person is unique and needs 100% individual attention and care.
The bandhasIt 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 Mūlabandha and Uddiyana Bandha. Mūlabandha is not a muscle or a group of muscles. It is the result of an all-pervading integration and internalization of all opposing forces in the body. The effect can prominently be felt as a "tone" in the pelvic floor, but with a little bit of practice you will feel it also in your feet, palms, palate, between the eye brows... it's truly endless.
Learning and Healing from injuriesThere 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 misunderstanding, ignorance (avidya)
- Good teachers can easily find out the cause of injuries because of the systematic approach of Ashtanga Vinyasa 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
- Teachers that can handle individuality seem to be rare in Ashtanga. Treating every person the same is the cause of most injuries
How can I learn more about "Alignment Classes"?
Asana is incomplete with Pranayama, practice without good alignment is harmful, Yoga practice without knowing the “philosophy” has no orientation.
All components of Yoga practice need each other. Therefore all of Grischa’s Retreat intensives are as complete as they can possibly be.
Many practitioners today learn only fractions of Yoga practices, in almost all cases only about the asana layer. If you are lucky to even hear about the other (much more powerful) practices, you normally need to find different teachers for different topics. But that is very problematic.
There are for example only few philosophy teachers and those often times have no idea about pranayama or asana. The experience shows, that studying from different teachers is fruitless. The teachings are unconnected and often not based on concrete experiences. But theoretical Yoga knowledge is useless just like “practice” without knowledge is ridiculous.
As teachers we MUST know and practice all yogic components. And we MUST know the theoretical foundation of all practices.
That is how Grischa has learnt it from his teacher Richard Freeman. You know why there is no alternative to this approach once you have experienced the difference between a mere asana teacher and one who has done his or her homework.