April 17, 2010

What's Yoga? What's Yogalign?

  Let's get to the yoga shall we. I figure it's time to share the style of yoga that I'm learning vs. the yoga I have been practicing for the last 6 and half years.  First. What is yoga? Basically, and I mean, REALLY basically (b/c my blog would run on forever just defining what yoga is with all the metaphors and interpretations I can come up with) yoga literally means "union."  Satchidananda Ashram, the editor of Patanjali's Yoga Sutra's describes yoga as "the understanding and complete mastery over the mind" and later says yoga is the study and science of the mind to master its reactions and behaviors, or to become one with what is going on outside of us so we are connected to each other and what is-is in the moment. 

  Most people think yoga is just a bunch of physical postures to become more flexible or strong or limber, what have you.  This blog is about yoga being on the mat and off of it, which is why I practice, so I can be happy and with my body in any pose (situation) without trying to control it or wish it was different or wish I was different, etc.  Instead of being in two places at once, you know-my mind is in one place and my body is someplace else. Make sense? The physical practice is a practice for living.  Ok, moving on.

HP_216_PrasaritaPadottanasana_248.jpg  Yogalign, the method of yoga I am studying is going to give some people a real test to what they think yoga is. For instance, the traditional yoga posture, pictured here, Prasarita Padottanasana is supposed to benefit the spine, knees, back, hamstrings, etc. according to Yoga Journal. But how is it doing that? Because in this picture the knees are hyper-extended and the sacrum is rounded and possibly crunched. This is not supporting natural alignment and doing this will train the body to move out of it's natural integrity. And, for most people, they'll never get here, but they'll try really hard, and that's not good. 

  Michaelle always says "You can't get comfortable by being uncomfortable." And, "You can't get in alignment by being out of alignment."  So, why are we doing it this way when thousands of years of traditional yoga says otherwise?  Here, you will see our variation, which Michaelle calls 'Surfers Stretch.'

  We bend the knees to keep the curve in the lower back so our sacrum isn't getting crunched which can cause all sorts of injuries like nerve problems and disc problems. We are consciously breathing and feeling how the ribs and diaphragm move too. Because we are in this variation of wide legged forward bend we can also laterally stretch the side channels of fascia and lattisimus dorsi (the lats). It feels so good, I have never felt that whole lat muscle stretch this way before, its a real side and back opener-all in body integrity. 

  We are literally training our brain to put our body in or out of alignment, might as well do it correctly, right? If we are more aligned in our body, we are more aligned in our life, more able to pay attention to details and can be more attentive to the subtleties in our life, so we can pick up on the messages and signals and become more powerful human beings. And also so we can feel good! So many of us are in pain. 

  When you practice yoga next time, think of your spine, think of your sacrum, think of how you're breathing and ask yourself, "do I feel good right now?" "is my body supposed to be here?"  If your answer is something different than your yoga teacher has been telling you, ask them about the anatomy of the body. And if you are hurting or want to try something different, then I'll be home soon to help!



  1. Wow, sounds fabulous and fascinating. I want to hear more!

    It doesn't look like the knees are hyperextended or that the sacrum is rounded and crunched in the first picture. How about people who feel good doing prasarita padottanasana in this way who don't feel crunchy in the sacrum or pain in their knees?

    what is great is that michaelle seems to address how to do poses for people who might have sacrum and spinal issues. many people do, but i guess i wouldn't say it is the one and only right way of doing a pose, just another way......which is lovely! in our training, we also have a particular way of doing poses, but we dont' see it as the one and only right way. instead, when looking at a pose, we ask,"What do you gain and what do you lose when you do it one way over another?" In this way, we allow for a lot of variations, based on each individual student's needs.

    Looking forward to your blogs....om shanti....alicia

  2. Hey this is perfect for me!!! I have been having sacrum issues lately!! I will notice all of this while practicing!! Thanks sweets!! When can we talk when you're not half asleep?? Im so glad you're doing this!! I love you my dear!!

  3. Alicia,..

    You are right, I don't know if the person in the photos sacrum is crunched or knees hyper-extended. However, I do wonder why we would teach people to go into this type of posture repeatedly if this is not supporting the natural alignment of the body?

    Because then the brain remembers this way of being taught for the body. I do see where my own language needs to be looked at when I talk about yoga and the body. So, thank you for pointing that out.

    And, I'm still suspect to yoga teachers putting people into positions like this because it is really hard for mostly everyone to keep the curve in the lower back and bend over with straight legs. I don't see how it can support the sacrum, fascia and spine?

    I'm glad you teach your students to always look at their body with respect to their body. Open to open discussion.

    Mahalo~ Brandon.

  4. i think one question one can ask when he or she is doing any asana: What is the functional intention or purpose of the pose? if you're doing it and no other body parts are at risk, hurting, or threatened, then it should be okay....right?

    thanks for your comments!

  5. Hey Alicia,

    I would answer that there are 2 different intentions at play when one does asana. The personal intention based on ones dreams/desires/wants/wishes and then the intention of the pose itself, which to me is one that the body tells the yogi, which may not be the actual intention of the pose, make sense?

    So, to answer your question if no body parts are at risk, then yes, its ok. However, we may be at risk/threatened and not be hurting in the moment, which is a problem, or could be.

    With Aloha, Brandon