Teaching online almost exclusively these last 22 months has been a gift and a blessing. And at the same time without being together in the same room, I haven’t always been able to catch things like broad alignment trends in the group, nor sense the collective vibe.
In the couple of times I’ve been able to teach in person since the pandemic started, I noticed some collective phenomena happening in people’s yoga practices:
- A general sense of gratitude and focus among the students in the room, which was so heartwarming to witness!
- Some opportunities for improvement in alignment such as short downward-facing dogs, less-than vibrant cobras, and more!
Whether you’re continuing your practice with digital classes, trying out some in-studio classes, or thinking about getting back to your practice altogether, I’ve put together some common alignment techniques to keep in mind when you step on your mat.
While hopefully you have a great teacher to work with, you can also have your own little teacher voice inside your head to help keep you on track.
Some things to keep in mind during your practice:
- Press your index knuckle and finger pads into the ground in poses like down dog, tabletop, and handstand. When your hands are active, your forearms engage, and you’ll get better integration in your shoulders which in turn will help with heart-opening mobility and upper back strength.
- Set up your downdog well. I’m seeing a lot of too-short downward-facing dogs in class which can make it hard to gain mobility in the chest and hamstrings. Instead of choking up your dog, walk your feet back so you can move your pubic bone back, which in turn allows your hamstrings and calf muscles to stretch.
- While we’re here, keep your waistline full, ribs soft to stabilize the noodly part of your spine (the part between your hip crests and the bottom of your rib cage) so that your public bone has the mobility to go behind you.
- Open up your heart in cobra pose. It’s really common to let your arms lockout in cobra – when your bones support you, it feels easier! However, doing cobra with straight arms is not great for the longevity of your shoulders or for building strength in your upper body. And it won’t open your chest and give you the backbend warm-up you want in this pose. Instead, bend your elbows a little and pull the heads of your arm bones back to open your chest and strengthen your upper back.
- Keep your lower back happy in wheel and bridge pose. Commonly, I’ll see feet turning outward or rolling to the outside edges, creating a squishy feeling in the low back. Instead, keep your feet pointing forward and weight evenly across the soles of your feet.
- Lengthen the back of your neck in savasana and Restorative yoga poses. Often I see chins cocked back or lifted away from the throat in relaxing poses, which isn’t really very relaxing. Before heading into savasana or any Restorative yoga pose, hold the back of your head and lengthen the back of your neck to help draw your chin down. Put an extra blanket under your head if it doesn’t feel natural.