"Press the ball of your right big toe a little harder into the mat and stretch from the inner edge of your shoulder blade to your pinky. Can you feel the difference? Pay attention to your breathing, don't tense up."
If you hear such instructions from the yoga teacher and are left a little longer in the individual exercises, and there are also yoga props such as yoga blocks, straps, bolsters and yoga chairs, you have almost certainly landed in an Alignment based Hatha Yoga class (Alignment Yoga for short).
The participants are focused and try to follow the instructions and feel the effect. They are used to the teachers of an Alignment Yoga class moving around the room and correcting the participants and aligning them correctly. This is important because it protects them from misalignment and wear and tear on their joints.
Alignment yoga teachers don't just stand in front of a group and do some gymnastics and everyone follows suit as best they can, whether the joints are positioned correctly or not. Alignment means as much as proper posture and that's what our yoga studio in Zurich is all about, the correct anatomical alignment of your body in the yoga postures.
Clear instructions and directions
Detailed instructions are there to keep you from hurting yourself and to train your mindfulness. Yoga is not just physical exercise. Yoga is also a training of the spirit; the mind and should bring us to a state of calmness.
Many find it difficult to sit down and meditate because the mind is so erratic and thoughts swirl wildly in the head. In Alignment Yoga, you enhance your concentration and awareness - two key elements of meditation practice! But you don't just sit still, you practice these two elements while doing the yoga exercises.
Unlike flow yoga, where you quickly switch back and forth between the individual postures, with us you take the yoga postures slowly and with mindfulness. This not only improves your concentration and awareness, but also helps you avoid yoga injuries. You hold the postures longer than in flow yoga, which requires strength and stretching at the same time, and this has a positive effect on your fascia system.
What is better Flow Yoga or Alignment Yoga?
Of course, this is also an individual preference. Many yoga teachers who teach flow yoga come from a ballet or dance background and choreograph their classes beautifully. Many like flow yoga because it has an almost dance-like feel and is a good work-out or you can really work up a sweat.
However, if you bring physical weaknesses to yoga class and don't already have a certain basic flexibility, you have to take very good care that your joints are positioned correctly in the yoga poses and you don't get any injuries.
Because yoga injuries are unfortunately not a myth, it's just not talked about that often! Our Yoga Teacher Aadil Palkhivala has refined and adapted many of the classical Yoga Asanas and made the yoga asana practice safer for us and others.
Most yoga injuries happen when getting in and out of a yoga pose, so clear instructions are very important here. Injuries also occur when there is a rapid change between exercises or when there is no teacher to correct you (YouTube yoga!). There are also some studies on this, including this one: Yoga Injuries Study
In Alignment Yoga, we make sure your joints are positioned correctly and correct you accordingly so you don't injure yourself. We use yoga props to make sure you are properly aligned (alignment), you work on your concentration and mindfulness. After the class you feel relaxed and liberated in body and mind.
This is not the effect of a work-out like jogging, but as our yoga teacher Father Joe Pereirea puts it, through the effect of a work-in. This work-in brings you into a form of inner peace. Also with this style of yoga you will sweat; but the goal is never the work-out but the work-in and this in a framework that avoids yoga injuries through correct instructions, corrections of the teachers and yoga props.
What is ultimately better, the participants decide for themselves. Correct alignment, however, is an absolute must in our view, especially in flow yoga. The faster the flow, the harder it is to stay correctly aligned. If you want to get a good basic knowledge about correct alignment, we recommend you to take our Alignment Yoga Basic Course. There you will learn how to avoid yoga injuries. Information about the Alignment Yoga Basic Course
What are the benefits of yoga props?
A typical feature of an Alignment Yoga class are the yoga props. They are used when the classical form of yoga posture cannot be assumed safely. For example, many participants have shortened thigh muscles or tension in the neck or problems in the back, shoulders or knees. This is not a reason not to start yoga, but these weak areas must be properly included and respected during the class to avoid injury.
Yoga props serve as an extension of the body and should be used generously, especially if you want to practice yoga long term. False ambition in yoga brings nothing but injuries. The goal of yoga practice is not flexibility, that comes as a by-product over the years, so to speak.
Yoga props are indispensable for the regenerating, heart-opening yoga postures, because this is where the magic happens, where you can make contact with your innermost self during the class. We call this the language of the heart. Our yoga studio in Zurich is full of tools, we even have a special yoga wall.
Is Alignment Yoga the same as Iyengar Yoga?
Guruji B.K.S. Iyengar was the yoga master who first introduced yoga aids. He recognized that not everyone's body is equally flexible and it is necessary for certain people to work with yoga props. He also pioneered classical yoga therapy. Alignment also plays a central role in this style of yoga.
Whereas, in Iyengar Yoga, the alignment is focused on the asana - the goal is for the yoga pose to come close to the ideal and thus one makes a deeper experience; this is the classical Hatha Yoga approach. In Alignment Yoga however, the individual anatomy of each participant is addressed and taken into consideration. The goal is not the perfect yoga posture, but that it is optimal for the body of the individual participant. Our approach in Alignment Yoga corresponds to the Yoga Synthesis as described by Sri Aurobindo in his work.
The western yoga world owes a lot to B.K.S. Iyengar, including us. He was definitely one of the most formative minds in yoga and a gift to so many yoga practitioners! Some earlier Iyengar yoga teachers found the system and structure a bit too rigid and wanted to integrate elements of mediation and philosophy and now call themselves Alignment Yoga teachers.
Alignment Yoga classes in our Yoga Studio in Zurich rest on the following pillars:
Physical - we bring harmony to your body through anatomically correct aligned yoga postures, taking into account your individual weak points.
Mental - through the clear and comprehensible instructions as well as by holding the yoga postures you train your concentration and your mindfulness, which brings mental peace.
Emotional - we work on your psyche through regenerating, heart-opening yoga postures, which brings emotional peace.
Spiritual - the combination of all pillars will let you experience that you are more than just a physical body.