Alignment in Iyengar Yoga Poses (Asanas)
It is commonly known that alignment is crucial for positioning the body during yoga practice. What is less known is how alignment is necessary for allowing energy to flow throughout the body
Alignment is a cornerstone of the practice of Iyengar Yoga. Even beginning practitioners of Iyengar Yoga know the value of alignment in terms of positioning the body during the practice of asana, but what is less commonly known is the importance of alignment with respect to energy flow in the body.
According to yoga masters, every person has many layers called koshas, literally meaning “sheaths” or “bodies.” A person’s outermost layer is a physical layer that makes up the material body. The next layer is called pranayamakosha, and is the energy layer that is concerned with prana. As the life force, prana is all physical, mental, intellectual, sexual, spiritual, and cosmic energy. To us, prana is seen as vigor, vitality, and spirit. These two layers are different but connected, which is where alignment comes into play. Energy flows like water, and can be impeded by blockages. Proper alignment allows energy to flow freely throughout the body.
The connection between alignment and energy levels is most apparent during the practice of pranayama. Breath is the vehicle for prana, the life force. For example, when you have bad posture while sitting and standing, you will feel heavy and more easily tired. When your breathing is restricted, your energy is blocked. Conversely, when you sit with an open chest and relaxed diaphragm, your breath flows freely, and your energy will increase. By aligning the body to create physical balance and internal space, you can deepen the breath and increase your energy.
Good posture (e.g., an open chest and relaxed diaphragm) allows your breath to flow freely, and increases your energy. © Ananda Resort
Iyengar Yoga can strengthen the link between alignment and energy in yet another way. The Upanishads tell us that we contain the very essence of nature, and the very essence of the divine, within our bodies. When we direct our attention inward, toward our inner layers, we become more aware of the subtle flow of energy within us.
In Mr. Iyengars book Light on Life, B.K.S. Iyengar says, “We live within our individual consciousness with its limited intelligence, often feeling lonely and puny, when there is a conduit available directly to consciousness and intelligence. Through this conduit flows prana, joining each individual among us to the highest original principle of Nature. Pranayama is about restoring this conduit so that the intelligence bearing the energy of the macrocosm can illuminate our microcosm.”