Whole Life Magazine

October / November 2016

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Page 20 of 43

By Kaci Yoh yoga & spirit Awareness and Alignment in the Asana Y oga is cultivating awareness of who you are and consis- tently using that knowledge to honestly interact with the world around you. Integrity has a similar meaning. How do you bring integrity to your practice? First, stop looking at other people in the room. It's okay to peek if you aren't familiar with the posture, but otherwise stop comparing yourself to oth- ers. Instead, notice how your ego wants to do the posture like the most advanced yogi in the room, and let it go. It's okay to want to expand your physical practice, but practicing with integ- rity means to lengthen and strengthen your body with honesty and compassion. Remember how you were checking out so-and-so's skin/abs/ yoga pants before class? Pining for another's wheel pose or bound side angle is the same mental jargon, which blocks the road to metta or loving-kindness. Don't let that insecure voice inside your head obstruct your path to equanimity or manifest a physical injury. In many fl ow and glow classes, there just isn't time to learn about alignment. Students move quickly through postures and new students end up trying to keep up rather than fi ne-tune asanas. If you are a beginning yogi, fi nd an alignment-based class or spend time on your own learning how to align your body by reading books, listening to podcasts, and watching videos. Focused on pose alignment, Iyengar classes are a good general option. In any class, don't feel obligated to do every posture the instructor cues. If you have pain in any pose, back off and talk to the instructor after class. As commonly said by yoga teachers, this is your practice. Own it. "How you do anything is how you do everything." Attributed to many people, this quote has lost the integrity of authorship but not of meaning. As mentioned before, the prac- tice of yoga is cultivating awareness of who you are and using that knowledge to connect to the world around you. If how you do anything is how you do everything, how you practice is how you live, and this sweet practice is a treasure chest of intuition, equanimity and alignment of body, mind and spirit. Yoga party tricks like attaching your foot to the back of your head while standing on one leg may win praise and attention from others, but, unless this posture has a foun- dation of integrity and alignment, it is not sustainable. Injuries from torn hamstrings, slipped discs, and liga- ment tears on the mat are rampant. When you concede to a practice without alignment, you are on the path to physical therapy rather than awareness. Have you ever had a lover that showered you with affection, praise, and promises of monogamy only to fi nd out that he was also making the same promises to other partners? Remember how painful it was to discover his lack of integrity? Were you crushed? This is how your lower vertebrae feel when you push your behind down in full pigeon, arch your back, and grab your back foot before taking the time to open the upper spine. You're cheating your spine out of the benefi ts of the posture and compressing the lower vertebrae because the upper spine is not ready. Most instructors sequence classes so that one pose builds on another. However, it is up to you to protect yourself from both mental and physical anguish by deciding what is in your practice for you at each moment of every class. Root your practice in integrity to reap the physical and mental benefi ts of a regular yoga practice. INTEGRITY ON THE MAT october/november 2016 21

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