You know YOU best
Everybody’s body is different. We have a similar set up, key ways our body’s function, but generally, how we use that set up is different for each of us.
For example, some people’s body proportions allow them to easily touch their toes, whether they have tight hamstrings or not. Some people can put their foot behind their head without practising or stretching beforehand.
This is why it’s so important to focus on where a pose begins and the journey, rather than the end goal of the pose. During this journey is where you learn more about your body, its potential and its restrictions. Yoga is about increasing your awareness, particularly the awareness of yourself.
To master a pose takes a lot of time, patience and dedication. This isn’t necessarily because it is physically hard, but each time you practice and adjust, you improve the knowledge of your own body.
Here’s a quick overview of what I mean by tuning into your alignment
Take Tadasana, or mountain pose, for example. This may look simple standing pose but you really need to tune-in and think about the alignment of the pose to fully appreciate its benefits.
- You start from where the pose connects with the ground.
- Focusing on how strong the base of the pose is, is the weight evenly distributed across both feet and all of the sole. Often, this is why a teacher may ask you to ‘visualise roots growing out from the bottom of your feet’ to enhance that feeling of connectedness, and to link it with the English translation of Tadasana as ‘mountain pose’ because mountains have deep roots and are strong and stable.
- From the feet you work your way up the legs, making sure everything is balanced and stacked correctly. Again, as everybody’s body is different, the cues given by a teacher may not completely match your body type. For example, ‘softening the knees’. If you tend to lock your knees because you have something like hyperextension, then the reminder to ‘soften your knees’ helps. This is why focusing inward during a pose is important, it needs to feel right for you. If you feel your knees are stacked above your ankles and sitting in the joints comfortable, softening your knees may cause you to bend them more than what you personally need.
- The pelvis and hips are the next stop. And are a perfect example of how body’s are different. Some people have an anterior tilt, some people have a posterior tilt. In Tadasana, it’s finding the balance between the two so the hips are as level as possible. This then allows the spine to sit correctly, and the vertebrae to stack on top of one another, before reaching the place where the neck joins with the head (axis and axil vertebrae).
Now there is muscle engagement throughout this pose, and this engagement is what helps you to improve your posture and strength. This includes engaging the muscles in the feet, thighs and hips, the core muscle group to stablise the lowerback, your back muscles including the lower trapezius, and the muscles in your neck (gently engaged) to help keep your head in the right position.
And while doing all this, you breathe deeply and ‘relax’ into the pose. So that’s releasing any tension in places where it isn’t necessary. Including your arms and hands, your jaw (all muscles in your face) and shoulders (as in, they aren’t up towards your ears).
You can take this approach with every pose that you do. Always think about where a pose begins.
- Can be practiced anywhere!
- Improves posture.
- Strengthens thighs, knees, and ankles.
- Increases awareness.
- Steadies breathing.
- Increases strength, power, and mobility in the feet, legs, and hips.
- Firms abdomen and buttocks.
- Relieves sciatica.
- Reduces flat feet.
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