What is alignment based yoga? This is the answer I normally get when I tell people what style of Yoga I teach. Tampa, up until the opening of my yoga center ZOE Yoga Lifestyle has only known yoga styles such as power, vinyasa, bikram, hot yoga, hatha yoga and flow. All of these general styles of yoga focus more on movement than they do attention to detail. In short alignment based yoga based on the work of B.K.S. Iyengar and focuses on aligning the bones. When the bones are aligned the wear and tear of gravity is much less. We all have habitual ways of moving. Pain is also a pattern that tells you the pattern of movement is not healthy. Alignment based yoga for beginners is all about creating more intelligent action in the muscles, tissue and skin.
You might be asking yourself “how can my muscles become more intelligent?” The answer is precise movements done repeatedly to teach the body the way we want it to move in the yoga postures while observing how the body wants to move. Lets say someone comes to class with uneven shoulders. The left shoulder drops more than the right. The student must first understand what the body is doing, which the teachers at ZOE are trained to see, then personalized instruction will be given on how to align the shoulder. This awareness begins to be linked through all the poses presented in class and a new intelligence begins to dawn. In contrast, if that same student goes into a general yoga class in which the teacher is not trained to help them then the student will do all the postures with the shoulder in an unbalanced position, which is called an asymmetry. Asymmetries are what causes injury in the body over time. How we do yoga will either help our posture or hurt it.
At ZOE we focus on helping our clients and students find the way out of pain through personalized private sessions and classes. The classes are designed to build on one another with intelligent sequencing. Props are introduced when needed to help students find a greater sense of alignment or precise action. The props are there to give systematic feedback to the body as to what the teacher is asking the students body to do. No music is played so you can focus on the teachers instruction. All poses are demonstrated first by the teacher with clear directions. This allows the teacher to observe the students when they are in the poses.
Unfortunately all yoga is not created equal. General yoga classes do not focus on a systematic approach to create integration in the body. Instead its become about rocking out to music with lots of movement and making sure you sweat. This appeals greatly to the western mind which has been trained to work hard/play hard and to keep moving. Iyengar/Alignment Based Yoga is asking students to slow down and pay attention. To learn to observe their bodies and minds while practicing. Of course this style of yoga will not appeal to everyone but for those who want to practice yoga for the rest of their lives it is a path that allows all ages to keep practicing and growing.
At the Iyengar Yoga Convention last week I was astounded that the average age was 60 for practitioners! Let me tell you these people were not doing chair yoga! They were capable of all the poses and the musculature and skin on their bodies did not look like a $60 year olds! I think those who have felt the war with gravity and the effects of aging or long term injury understand how transformational this practice is. It gives you back your youth. It frees the body of pain. It turns a scattered mind into a focused one. All you have to do is practice steadily to discover unalloyed freedom for yourself. Check out our group classes or call to book a private session.