Yoga is an old and ancient practice dating back to more than 5,000 years ago. Through the years as it traveled to the West, yoga has evolved and there are different paths and ways to practice asana. When I discovered vinyasa yoga, I appreciated the teachings on alignment and basic anatomy. The body is just so amazing and there’s just so much to know. I’ve only been teaching yoga for 5 years now and I still feel like I know so little. In my last article, I asked Jason about the balance between learning alignment, the “thinking part” (anatomy, learning cues and instructions) with “feeling part” of the pose. His answer was simple and straightforward– learning yoga takes time. It’s a process. And we need to know there are certain dynamics that come into play when we’re studying this wonderful practice. In Part 3 of my interview with Jason Crandell, I ask him about how focusing on alignment with yoga asanas or postures can affect the more spiritual side of yoga. Here’s was he says, click on the play button below:
NICA: Do you think that alignment could ever get in the way of the more spiritual side of yoga or do you feel that it could bring people closer to that side of yoga?
Yes! Both. It’s like all things in moderation, right?
So, one of the things that’s so important about alignment is alignment helps us become very focused and discerning. And if we are interested in the existential layers of yoga, the spiritual layers of yoga, the intellectual layers of yoga, the psychological and emotional layers of yoga, then we have to be able to train our self-awareness and our focus to be able to look at the deeper and more nuanced layers. Like, it’s much easier to know what the knee is supposed to do in triangle pose than it is to understand the difference between the temporary self and the existential self right? And Iyengar has this quote, how can you know God if you don’t already know your pinky toe? It’s sort of what he’s saying is like how do we actually get deep in our psyche and deep in existence and deep in spirit if we can’t do sort of basic things that we can look and touch and feel? How can we can get into the metaphysical realm of spirituality if we can’t even focus on our shoulder? How can we do that? How can we honestly understand, really subtle spirituality without being able pay attention on how to put a hand in a block? You know what I mean?
At the same time, alignment can become it’s own inner obsession. It can become it’s own world of judgment. It can become it’s own world of you know, being a perfectionist or never being enough or never being good enough. Alignment and focus on detail can sort of make us so focused on the small aspects of our body that were not paying attention to spirituality, and the other layers of being a yogi. Alignment can become sort of as I said it’s own inner obsession and we don’t want that either. And so, by focusing more on alignment we’re paying attention to our body, we’re developing greater insight we’re developing greater focus, we’re developing discernment, and those are qualities that lend themselves to the spiritual path. If we go too far in that direction where alignment is the “end all, be all”, then we’ve engaged more in a form materialism. We’ve gotten so obsessed with the material body and the execution of poses that we are losing sight of the big picture, right? And that’s where we have to be aware of these dynamics.
Jason Crandell, a San Francisco based teacher, holds regular classes there and conducts workshops and teacher trainings around the world. Together with his wife, they also manage JasonYoga.com with regular asana guides and podcasts on Yogaland.