As you continue your own practice, and start to teach others, it is important to understand alignment and how to help your students align their bodies in each asana. Every student is different and unique, and their bodies will move differently based on each individual’s flexibility, bone shape and size, activity level, etc.

Due to this, how one student looks in a posture, will differ from how another student looks, or even from how you look in a particular asana. The important thing to remember is that how a posture feels for you, or your student, is more important than how it looks. Your number one goal as a Yoga teacher is to ensure the safety of your students, in that they can get into and out of an asana without injuring themselves. You are their guide as your students go through this process. You must be able to remember, and remind your students to remeber, to listen to their bodies. After all, Yoga is the process by which we discover ourselves. To help you guide and assist your students, as well as provide some foundational keys for you, below are the keys to asana alignment.

5 Keys
to Asana Alignment

Focus on elongating the spine by drawing the crown of the head up to the sky and pulling the tailbone down to the ground. This can be done by engaging your core muscles and keeping the shoulders down and back, which helps to maintain the spine’s alignment. Depending on the asana, the hips can come forward or go back. The main thing to remember is not to crunch the spine in these movements. For forward bends, this is accomplished by bending at the hips instead of rounding the lower spine. For Twists, this is accomplished by twisting at the core.
Your shoulders, for the most part, should always be down and back. This helps to maintain spinal alignment, as well as ensures that you do not hurt your neck by adding undo stress onto the upper spine. Reminding students to draw or roll their shoulders back, bringing their shoulder blades together, can help avoid injury to you and your students. When helping students in aligning the shoulders, be sure to not force a rotation and that you are hyper aware of tension in the body during an adjustment.

**One exception to this would be Child’s Pose, or Balasana, as you would round your back and spread apart your shoulder blades.

Engaging your core during asana practice is essential to protecting yourself and your students from spinal and hip injuries as well as keeping your balance. Your core is what stabilizes your body and allows for a safe, effective, and satisfying practice. By engaging your core, you are able to stabilize yourself in standing/balancing postures and keep your lower back and hips in alignment. A common teaching cue given to help with this is “pull your navel to your spine.”
When practicing any asana that puts weight on the elbows and/or knees, you want to be sure not to lock your elbows and/or knees. By allowing a slight bend, you protect your joints, as well as create more stability.

For the knees specifically, you will typically want to make sure that the knee(s) is stacked over the ankle(s) and that the toes are facing the same direction as the knees. Also, if the knees need to push out in a particular asana (like in Chair Pose, or Utkatasana), you will want to make sure that they do not go out too far past the toes. Doing this ensures stability and prevents the knees from splaying out to the sides. Lastly, if students experience knee discomfort, you can instruct them to slightly lift the knee caps by engaging the quadriceps. This helps to take pressure off the knees and is a good cue in standing postures.

Most instructors forget that proper alignment in the hands and feet is just as important as spinal alignment. All parts of the body are connected, so if proper alignment is not practiced in one body part, it may affect other parts of the body. Proper alignment in the hands and feet is as simple as spreading your fingers and toes wide. This will protect against injury in the wrists, arms, shoulders, ankles, and legs.

You can also create natural arches in the hands and feet for additional stability and protection by applying bandhas. To do this in the hands, do Hasta Bandha by evenly pressing into your thumb and forefingers. This helps to evenly distribute your body weight, which protects the wrists. To do this in the feet, do Pada Bandha by pressing down through the balls and heels of your feet. This helps to evenly distribute your weight and protects the ankles.

Below are several lectures on assisting and alignment as a whole. These are foundational lectures that will be built upon in future Lesson Topics.

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