Seriously. How DO we find alignment? Cultivating balance in our lives, our bodies, and our minds is something we all want, all the time, but: how? Its not easy, I totally hear you. Right now, the moon is still waxing, and is currently in Taurus. There was a shift from Aries (fiery, and rather chaotic energy, to be perfectly honest) over the past few days, to Taurus (the most earthy and grounded of all earthiness and groundedness). Feeling that transition got me thinking about how subtle shifts can bring things into, or out of, alignment very quickly. Personally, I felt pretty off earlier this week, and feel much more balanced now.
In my mind, alignment is truly the interplay of strength and softness; movement and stillness; it is sublime, and OH so wonderful when its achieved. All the elements in perfect harmony. Conversely, I've had physically painful experiences where my body was severely out of align, and that is NOT wonderful! Feeling misaligned in the body for any length of time can drain all mental and emotional energy.
My dharma talks often center on strength and softness/movement and stillness: complimentary forces that can bring the body (and mind!) closer to alignment. I've encountered a fair number of folks who seem to think a yoga practice is all about flexibility. I would encourage anyone who thinks that to take a closer look, because although flexibility plays a role, and can increase over time, the physical practice comprises so much more. In order to stack our bones in the way nature intended for our (very unique, and individual) bodies, our muscles, tendons, and ligaments need to work in concert to hold them in place so kinetic energy can be brought forth from potential, thus creating motion.
So, our muscular system needs to be strong (yet pliable--hence the flexibility piece!), without over-efforting. Therein we must find the balance between strength and softness in the body during our asana practice. Ask yourself as you move through your vinyasa: where do I need to be strong, and where can I soften? For within the strength, we may need softness, and within the softness, we sometimes find strength. That is part of the journey to personal alignment.
The same principles apply to movement and stillness. A vinyasa practice is often like a dance or a piece of music, full of dynamics and rests, places to extend energy, and places to pull inward. Where is the line to balance on? That's certainly always the million dollar question. When you find the perfect mix of stillness and movement on a given day, for your body on that day, you've found your alignment in that moment. Be grateful for that moment, for the present moment is all we truly have.
As I allude to previously, I liken the forces of strength, softness, movement, and stillness to the 4 elements, which are: earth, air, fire, and water. When one is out of whack (like the Aries moon imbuing too much fire), shifts may occur to bring a complimenting force into play (thank you earthy Taurus!) thus re-aligning for the better. Next time you are in a pose that requires all the elements, Crescent Lunge (Anjanyasana) for example, try to lock in on all the pieces. Strength: legs strong; root down through front foot; bring the back heel up over the back toes, pull the front hip back to keep the pelvis even, belly in tight toward spine. Soften: sink lower, bring shoulders on to back as arms rise overhead, soften through the elbows, shoulders melt away from ears, soften and expand across chest. Movement: keep pulling the front hip back, keep pulling the root chakra toward the earth, find a little flow in the upper body as you soften and let yourself settle in. Stillness: although muscles are engaged in the lower body, still the lower body, and thus still the mind. This thought process applies to a vinyasa flow too. Some portions of your practice require a lot of strength: warrior poses, backbends, arm balances, etc. Others require softness: pigeon, supine twists, supta baddha konasana. Similarly, during your vinyasa flow, you will encounter a lot of movement: sun salutations, skandasana, cat/cow. But there is stillness too: legs up pose, childs pose, any restorative posture. Without all the elements, you do not have the flow, nor do you have the poses, themselves.
Regardless of the details, what happens when the 4 elements harmonize? They bring about the 5th element of spirit. And in my analogy, sprit is tantamount to alignment. So, my friends, you've found alignment when you use your own personal alchemy to combine the elements and bring yourself to a higher place of understanding. Of inner peace. Of balance.
Namase, witches and bitches. ↟ ☆ ↟