1. 4-4 ½ feet apart.
2. Feet under the hands.
3. Length of one leg
4. 3-feet apart
I’ve heard all of these instructions in yoga classes. What in the hell is 4 feet? Maybe it’s just me, but I couldn’t mark out 4 feet on the floor if you offered me a free Lululemon “top”. And, what’s the length of my leg? Unless I’m looking in a mirror, I have no idea when my feet are under your hands. So, what’s a student to do?
Add to this the radical difference between bodies. Three feet are going to be too narrow for someone 6 feet tall and 4 1/2 feet way too wide for a shortie. Look around at the torso length of some people as compared to their legs, We are all different and could really use our own individual instruction. Or, here’s a radical thought: What about if you gave yourself your own instruction and took a stance that felt beneficial to your body while still maintaining the structure of the pose?
I’m not just picking on Triangle pose and I’m not suggesting that proper instruction and good alignment is not important, because it is. Injuries over time can happen when students put themselves into shapes without being mindful of how the bones are stacking and what muscles are being asked to work. Add to that injuries, age and physical conditions, mindful alignment can be crucial.
We live in a society that is “end result” and “looking good” oriented and we are bringing that attitude into the yoga room and it is being perpetuated by some teachers and covers of magazines. The result is too much striving to get it “right”. Are we too much in our heads and not in our bodies when are processing how to ground into the back baby toe, squeeze the right kidney, externally rotate the left shoulder and extend the neck all while while keeping a soft palate, relaxed jaw, and pleasant attitude?
One of my favorite teachers, Geoffrey Roniger, wrote elegantly about his opinion on alignment for a New Orleans magazine. He points out that students feel that in order to get a pose “right” every body part has to be in a perfect shape. He goes on to say:
“It is incredibly important to highlight the fact that we don’t care one bit about people ‘getting it right’ or ‘looking right’ on the outside. What alignment truly means is that the various body parts are communicating in a harmonious way. Alignment is harmony. And that is an internal condition, not a fixed aesthetic position. When alignment happens, it is unmistakable because the practitioner feels light and the mind becomes spontaneously quiet.”
Here’s an experiment. Try to do your practice without verbal input. This will probably be at home alone, as yoga teachers (including me!) love to hear themselves talk. And, more importantly, try to stay out of your head, use your breath to initiate movement and take a shape. Hold it. Continue to breath. When you feel ready, spontaneously move to the next pose. What was that like?
**This article was recycled from same time last year. I particularly like it.