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Aligning & Adjusting Forward Bends

24 February 2018 @ 16:00 - 18:00

Organised by : Martin Thompson

Correct alignment in forward bends is so important on many levels. There are a variety of modifications and adjustments available to the yoga teacher, and the usage and the success…

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seated asanaCorrect alignment in forward bends is so important on many levels. There are a variety of modifications and adjustments available to the yoga teacher, and the usage and the success they have will very much depend on the individual student. So, this workshop is about adjusting intelligently with compassion and insight.

Let’s take a look at Dandasana as an example of a forward bend, as it so often highlights to the student what a forward bend is. The problem with a standing forward bend from the student’s point of view is, it’s easier to cheat. Just look around in your next class and watch how many students sit back in the hips, as they flex forward. Now get them to stand with the back against a wall, then come into their forward bend. Watch everyone fall forward, because as they are not really flexing from the hips.

So, what do need to change to execute our forward bends, while standing with our back against a wall, without falling forward.

Bow let’s look at what is required to sit up straight in Dandasana with correct alignment. An obvious choice is the hamstrings, but we also need to work on many areas to get the student to sit up straight. Correct alignment will bring about change, on a subtle level.

The change won’t just be physical, it will be emotional as well. Lining up your posture, with self-reflection creates an awareness of the flow of energy throughout our gross body, but more importantly, the subtle energy body. The energy we create then needs to be contained and controlled, this is done using bandhas and mudras. This way of practising creates a loop of energy and assimilation that opens us up to a deeper awareness of what yoga truly is, and what it is not.

My preference is as far as possible to avoid using props. They do have a place in some circumstances, but I believe it’s far more productive to get the student to work themselves. An example in Dandasana, is adjusting the pelvis into neutral, or towards neutral. We could offer a block, and some students automatically reach for one, but if you have a student who has been using a block for some time, and no change has taken place then what’s the point. Surely its far better to get your student to work out how to get the pelvis towards neutral by themselves.

Tilting the pelvis forward and pressing into the sit bones, while attempting to lift out of them at the same time, will draw the belly in below the navel and lift the pelvic floor (bandhas) It will lengthen the lower back and stretch the hamstrings. If the legs are straight, and the feet are flat, we will open the hips and bring into play the adductors. If we lift the sternum, drop the chin and slide the shoulder blades down the back, we lift the trunk, stretch the spinal extensors, and engage Jalandara bandha.  Then by simply allowing the gaze to run along the nose we induce self-reflection.

It will take time for your student to apply all these stages, but they will feel the difference, and once they do the door is opened. The sense of alignment created will open the door to a deeper awareness of yoga, as opposed to just a physical exercise.

Martin Thompson.

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