“Alignment is enlightenment.”
For over ten years now I have been teaching Iyengar Yoga, the method of Hatha Yoga developed by world-renowned Yoga master B.K.S. Iyengar. Guruji, as he is affectionately known to his pupils, was known for his majestic demonstrations of Yoga asanas (postures) but his true brilliance was in how he wove the philosophy of Yoga into his teaching, bringing it to the forefront and raising the profile of Hatha Yoga in India and throughout the world.
Classically, Hatha Yoga, regardless of tradition, uses postures, techniques for controlling prana, or energy, and other practices designed to purify the body and the mind, uncovering the light of the Soul.
The hallmarks of Iyengar yoga are attention to alignment, specific sequencing of postures, the use of props and modifications and timings (staying in the pose for longer periods of time). These four keys unlock the door between the body, the mind, the breath, the senses and the intellect and the Soul. In the next few blogs we are going to “unpack” the four hallmarks of Iyengar Yoga and learn how they relate to the whole of Yoga.
Attention to alignment is the technology used in Iyengar Yoga to take scattered, outgoing mind ,bring it to a state of one-pointed attention and draw it inwards towards the Source. Of course, this way of practicing has a healthy effect on the physical body, including the healing of current injuries and conditions and preventing future ones from developing; this is ahimsa, “non-violence”. But perhaps even more important is the effect that paying attention to the alignment of our physical body has on the mind. In his “Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali,” B.K.S. Iyengar tells us the following:
“The internal measuring and balancing process is in some respects the key to why yoga practice actually works, why it has mechanical power to revolutionize our whole being. It is why Asana [posture] is not gymnastics, why Pranayama [restraint of life force energy] is not deep breathing, why Dhyana [meditation] is not self-induced trance, why Yama [personal ethics] is not just morality.”
Alignment is Enlightenment: A Sequence for the Hips and Groins
The following sequence opens with a warming vinyasa called “Salutations to the Sun” and then flows into a more advanced version of that vinyasa. Then it moves into sequence that includes the same key alignment points practiced repeatedly, beginning with postures that are easier (reclining) and becoming progressively more challenging (standing, then balancing). It ends with a reclining, resting pose.
Remember to focus on the key alignment points repeated throughout the sequence and observe if your mind is able to penetrate more deeply into your embodiment. Follow the instructions for the breath given in each video and watch how the mind responds.
Surya Namaskarasana (Salutations to the Sun), classic and advanced
Supta Padangusthasana II (Reclining Hand-to-Big Toe Pose), variations
Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Traingle Pose), from a variation of Utthita Parsvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose)
Vrksasana (Tree Pose)
Anantasana (The Infinite Being Within Pose)
Supta Virasana (Reclining Hero’s Pose)
As always, end with a deep Savasana (Relaxation Pose)