Yoga Alignment Snobs

Creative Commons License photo credit: h.koppdelaney

I’m a yoga anatomy nerd.  I love studying bones and muscles and how they work together in yoga.  The intricate workings of the human body can hold my attention for hours.  I am turned on by the adrenal system, and I will skip just about any movie to study how the nervous system responds to the practice of yoga.

I’m also passionate about alignment and the precise rotations, grounding points and lines of energy that make up any particular pose.

In my teaching, I know that key alignment points used in a clear and relevant way can be the very thing that brings awareness to my students.  The very fact that they are able to focus on their femur bone externally rotating rather than their shortcomings may be the very thing that changes the course of their lives.

So let me say this loud and clear:  Alignment is a necessary & vital aspect of any yoga class. 

But can alignment cues become just another mask yoga teachers hide behind?  A mask to put on when we don’t know what else to say?  Some sort of weird way of making up for our shortcomings?  A way to prove our worth? A bullet pointed list that sits in our back pocket, waiting to be retrieved when we hit the auto pilot button?  Sort of like when the checker at Kroger says, “Hi there, how are you?’ or “Thank you very much Mrs. Dockins, would you like a carry out?”  They’re sort of talking to me, but not really.  There are words, but some how I don’t feel they really have much to do with me.

Seriously, Yoga Teachers, how many students do you know who have hurt their knee in tree pose?  Do you really need to say it every single time you call the pose?  ”Put your foot above or below your knee, Never on your knee!!”

Then theres the incessant spewing of cues when no one in the room needs them!  I catch myself saying, “reach your hands up!”  when everyone’s hands are already up damn it!  How irrelevant is that?  Sometimes I catch myself about to give more instruction and instead, I hold the words in and trust the space.  From the space, something beautiful emerges…something that perfectly fits the moment.

I’ve seen a teacher INSIST that a certain student was doing their up-dog wrong to the point of completely disrupting their practice.  The student had been doing the same up dog for 7 years and never a lick of pain.


photo credit: OUCHcharleyCreative Commons License

Why do we become so righteous with our yoga knowledge?

Now granted, there are lots of situations where students thrive from the expertise of a yoga teacher.  A Yoga Teacher that is knowledgeable in anatomy and alignment can be more helpful than the most highly skilled physician.  I just see too often, that when overused, alignment cues can be there very thing that get in the way of real connection, real seeing and relevant communication.

What about simply calling a pose, saying nothing, looking around the room and only speaking to what is relevant?  Is it possible to see our students as amazingly intelligent human beings with good memories and keen intuitions?

What do you think Teachers?  Do you ever catch yourself saying more than is needed?  Why do we do that?  Hopefully it’s not just me..let’s talk about it.


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Stacy is a regular contributor at Yoga Modern and co-founder of LIVE LOVE TEACH. Along with her husband Dave, she owns The Yoga Project in Arlington, TX. She travels world wide facilitating teacher trainings and programs. Stacy also travels across the U.S. teaching workshops and presenting at conferences, sharing her love and passion of yoga with others. Stacy has mentored many teachers across the US and loves to empower them in their teaching and lives! Find Stacy on Facebook here

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