by Christina Waggaman, Certified Ma Yoga Instructor
I Thought Yoga Alignment Was About Doing Yoga “Correctly”
I came into the Ma Yoga Prenatal Yoga Teacher Training from a traditional-based yoga practice that was heavily structured, yet still emphasized the importance of modifying asanas for different bodies and circumstances. I prefer my yoga practice to have some basis in tradition – for it to be energetic as well as physical, and a pathway for finding meaning and connection in addition to being a wellness ritual.
While I love the consistency of a routine, I also try and avoid strict, traditional practices which don’t account for natural variations in the human body. That’s why alignment-based yoga initially seemed to be counter to what I was looking for.
My confusion came from the fact that I did not understand the benefits of, let alone the real definition of, yogic alignment. I had initially believed that alignment consisted of lining up my body in a specific, uniform way; striving for an awaited energetic benefit that would come only when I attained perfection. To me being in alignment was the equivalent of a strict, traditional practice: doing things to my body that didn’t feel right for it for the sake of conforming it to another person’s ideal.
I wondered: “how could a prenatal yoga practice be alignment based?”
As much as we may value routine in our practices, pregnancy requires the yogi to adapt continuously as her body changes.
I Discover Ma Yoga Alignment is Actually About Lovingly Connecting to Each Other and Ourselves
To my wonderful surprise, Ma Yoga emphasized many things I would have never associated with an alignment-based yoga practice, particularly the feminine quality of relationality.
Relationality stops us from imposing our ideas about perfection onto the present moment, but instead invites us to be in dialogue with it, allowing ourselves to show up alongside whatever else is showing up, and finding some harmony between all the chaotic forces at play.
Ma Yoga Alignment Uses the Five Natural Elements to Help Us Feel Free
In a Ma Yoga practice, we use the five elements to provide an alignment-based structure to our practice.
Starting with breathing and centering, we first align with the Space element, allowing us to connect to our higher selves before we start movement.
Shifting our awareness towards Earth, we then create a stable foundation for our asana, engaging the muscles to protect the joints.
Once we find stability, we can then align with Water: as we release tension in our pelvis and with it any tension we’ve accumulated over the day, allowing us to reconnect with our innate creativity.
By engaging our core, we then align with the Fire element, drawing on our center of power and agency, to unfold ourselves into Air — with an asana that reflects an elementally harmonious expression of who we are in the present moment.
Throughout the course of pregnancy and life in general, the way we practice will adapt, but the five elements provide us with universal yoga alignment principles that guide us to find the appropriate changes.
Yoga alignment is not about contorting ourselves into someone else’s idea of a perfect asana; it just gives our practice an overall structure, while our beautiful and unique selves fill in the details.
For info about Ma Yoga prenatal teacher training, yoga therapeutics training for women’s bodies or Mayurveda self-care training, just go to www.PrenatalTeacherTraining.com.