Align Your Practice
“When you walk into a yoga room, (or a yoga zoom room these days) whether it’s your first time or your thousandth time, you’re following an impulse to be well.” - Jason Crandell
Our body and mind want to be in alignment. Attuning to signals in the body when things are out of alignment give us information in order to adapt and move closer to our most optimal self. Some refer to this as your true north. Like a compass that sometimes spins, is upside down or sideways, left in your pocket or even lost. But, once we take a look at the compass, actually pull it out of our pockets, level it and start to orient ourselves with intention we can begin to aim more towards what is important to us, our values and begin a process of alignment with our true selves. This doesn’t happen by accident, that’d be nice if it did. But it takes an impulse, as Crandell mentioned, and a dialing into that impulse to move into the direction we need to go in order to take care of ourselves, to practice self-care, to create balance in our lives, and to have the capacity to show up for others.
I feel most aligned when I carve out time in my schedule for self-care. Some days that means meditating for 30 minutes, taking a dance break, or painting. Other days I need someone to guide me in a Powerful Vinyasa Flow.
When the impulse calls to take a yoga class, follow your compass. Some people need 5 classes a week, others once a week. Others just need to pop in once a month. Alignment looks different for every single person and can change over the course of a lifetime. Regardless of frequency, it means carving out the time for your body and mind to operate at its fullest potential. This may mean a vigorous Power Flow for you, or a relaxing Restorative class to unwind. And it may look different each day, depending on where you are orienting yourself from and where you are at the moment.
“What you will be learning will be coming primarily from inside you, from your own experience as your life unfolds from moment to moment, rather than from some external… You are the world expert on your life, your body, and your mind, or at least you are in the best position to become that expert if you observe carefully. Part of the adventure of meditation (and yoga) is to use yourself as a laboratory to find out who you are and what you are capable of.” - Jon Kabat-Zinn from Full Catastrophe Living
Getting attuned to your personal alignment may take time to tap into. And it’s not a destination. This takes many adjustments along the way, a trial of different things, and finding out what doesn’t work for you.
To get into alignment you first need to pull out your compass.
- Take 5 minutes to pause from the busyness of your day. Check in with where your body and mind is at that moment.
- Is your mind racing a thousand miles a minute, bouncing off the walls?
- Are you feeling lethargic in the middle of the day?
- Is your body tight, tense or relaxed?
- Then ask yourself what you need to be more in alignment? Like really? What do YOU need? Then trust the answer that shows up. Remember your body wants to be in alignment and you know yourself better than anyone else.
- If your body is calling for a yoga class, take a moment to look at your schedule. And to find a time that you can carve out just for you and for your practice. This way you begin the process of orienting in the direction you need to go. Whether that’s a Restorative Class or Power Vinyasa or something else.
- Make the commitment to show up for yourself. This is an important meeting you have, just as important as meeting with your boss but in this case you are your own boss. Yeah, you, you're the boss of your life!
These days just getting to a yoga class can be a challenge, especially if you are practicing at home. There are many distractions. Below are some rituals that I’ve found helpful to get my mind into alignment for practice.
Rituals can help orient the mind and body towards alignment for yoga practice.
- Schedule your appointment with yourself to practice
- I prefer to check in at the beginning of the week. Taking a look at my schedule a week at a glance to see what is coming up. And then take a brief check in during the day to truly check in with where I’m at in the moment.
- Set an alarm 10 minutes before class start time so you can start to set up your space mindfully. Going to the studio usually means this setup is done for you. At home you can set the space up exactly how you like.
- I like to fill my space with natural elements. Which means lots and lots of plants. I keep my props for practice in the same room so they are not far out of reach if I happen to need them. With the cooler months I now have an electric heater that I use to warm the space and a blanket to make it cozy and a place I want to be in.
- If you don’t already have a yoga space at home to practice, make space for one. This may mean moving the furniture around, cleaning and creating room for yourself. Make it somewhere that is inviting and a space you want to come back to.
- Give your senses a cue that you are about to start practice.
- I like to light palo santo or put essential oil on my wrists. This cues my mind that I am about ready to start a practice and this is a sacred time for full presence. Scents can help anchor you where you are.
- Know that there are going to be distractions and notice them.
- If we try to ignore what is distracting us, those things are likely to get louder. So notice when your mind gets distracted or moves out of alignment. Welcome the distraction, remember you’ve decided that this practice is important for you and your well being, and meet any distractions with a mantra, “I know I am distracted. Right now I choose to stay focused.”
- Enjoy the practice. Check in along the way with how postures are feeling in your practice and make choices that are in alignment with what your body needs.
- I like to close my eyes sometimes to really feel the posture. Some days I’ll skip some chutturangas, take a child’s pose if my body needs more rest or add in an arm balance I am working on if I have the energy and feeling adventurous. Remember the instructor is there to guide your practice but you have full autonomy on what you do with the guidance you are given.
- Learn how to tune into the signals of misalignment. If you can do it on the mat you can do it in your life.
- If something is causing pain this is a cue that something is out of alignment. With practice I’ve become more able to tune into the obvious and subtleties of my own personal physical alignment. I know my mid back tends to be tighter on my right side than my left and does not need to stretch as far. I know that my left wrist needs more warming up because of a previous injury. I know that my right knee needs an extra eye because it tends to be a little less sturdy and can be easily moved out of alignment and become strained. These are things that I’ve discovered along the way and they could change by the time I’m done writing this. What are some signals that have cued your body to move into alignment for yourself?
- Stick with it even through the whole savasana. Yes, the whole thing. Some days, maybe even longer.
- This is the easiest time to tap out. But in my opinion it is the MOST IMPORTANT TIME. After physical movement of the body it feels like the dust then starts to settle. Things become much more clear and it’s easier to see the compass when the dust is gone.
Remember alignment looks different for everyone and can shift each day. I hope that you find these tools helpful to bring yourself into alignment so you can operate at your most optimum state.
Join me for Align Your Practice Workshop to learn more about the physical anatomy of alignment within a yoga practice.
This is not your regular vinyasa class. This is a deep dive into the alignment of spine and pelvis and an individual breakdown of specific postures. We will discuss the different functions of the spine and movement of the pelvis and how they work together. We will then embody this information with different postures, each participant will turn their video on to get feedback from the instructor as you take the workshop. Alignment looks different for everyone so we will spend time really feeling the difference for yourself with micro adjustments to discover your own personal alignment.
Take great care of yourself.
(Align Your Practice Workshop Sat 11/22 at 9:30am. $18, FREE for auto-renewing members)