I was at a yoga event last night to assist the students by providing physical adjustments. Sometimes these assists are done to help you deepen your practice, and sometimes they are meant to correct your alignment. Part of this process, from an adjusters point of view, is to first scan and observe the students as a way to assess who could benefit from what type of assist.

Well as I was walking through the students in this class Monday night, I noticed how poor some of the alignment was. There were a handful of yoga poses where bad form was viewable throughout the room. Two thoughts crossed my mind: what are we doing as instructors that is contributing to the bad alignment, and how can we improve the alignment of the largest number of people possible at any given time. Now one answer to these questions in this scenario are to make sure we, as teachers, are teaching to the students in front of us, instead of relying too heavily on a script. Also, there are adjustments we can make to the sequences and yoga poses we are teaching so that people, in general, benefit from the practice instead of reiterate bad habits and poor alignment.

The reality is that form matters A LOT. In the fitness world there is a method called ‘mind in the muscle’, and it suggests that you can increase the success of your results as a weight lifter by up to 30% by paying attention to what your doing. So when you are doing biceps curls, even if you use a 3 lbs dumbbell, if you think about the muscles you are using and connect your mind with your body- your results will be maximized. In the world of yoga this is nothing new. After all, the mind-body connection is the whole point of moving through the poses and breathing with intention.

Bad form generally comes from favoring bad habits, or even a lack of understanding of what the actual intention of the pose or exercise is.  Something as simple as stacking your joints or feeling your alignment can prevent injuries AND deepen your practice.  When we work from proper alignment then the appropriate muscles engage/ disengage to help make our bodies stronger and more efficient. For example, if your shoulders are rounded because you have a bad habit of slouching over a computer all day, then in yoga or at the gym you should focus on strengthening your upper back, stretching your chest and standing upright.

In order to make your form work for you pay attention to the alignment of your joints- they should all stack in straight lines or 90 degree angles (for the most part).  Think of the muscles engaging around the bones to support and create movement. Most importantly, whether you are performing a yoga pose or an exercise at the gym, think about what you are doing, where you feel it, and what you want the outcome to be. A little mindfulness and awareness will go a long way.