For years, I practiced a style of yoga that valued alignment. I often remember hearing that where I placed my body parts mattered and that aligning my body in a specific way was an essential goal of the asana practice. I was drawn to this approach of the asana practice because I thought that if I aligned my parts in a specific way, I would get it right, master the pose, and achieve something great through my dedication to proper alignment.
I have no idea if I ever did get it right, and I am not worried about this because something else happened along the way; I discovered that alignment is not an end point, but rather a process. The practice became a process of inquiry.
I moved away from caring whether my parts were in the right position and more interested in how my parts were relating to each other in any given moment. I became interested in how my experience aligned with various relationships in my body.
Alignment implies relationship, it is about relative position. Now when I practice, I play with relationships, I explore the never-ending variety and endless possibilities of how I experience alignment/relationship in my body. For me, the thing that I now work to align myself with is my capacity for responsiveness and adaptability. And, in doing so, any relative position of my body parts is a source for discovery and creativity.
When we don’t have a strong and deep relationship to ourselves, to our body, we look outside of ourselves for what is right and true and good, in terms of alignment or wellness or truly anything else. And, I have found it absolutely necessary to seek out the guidance from informed and skillful teachers who have helped me harvest a deep connection and relationship with my own body.
A teacher allows space for the student to begin to trust their own experience and hear their own voice, better and better over time. This teacher/student relationship grows from the same spirit as the developmental relationship with self, full of inquiry rather than finality.
Through the practice of trust, inquiry, exploration and play, we learn to find the alignment, with our teachers, with our self or with the parts of the body, that is helpful and useful in the moment. An assertion about alignment needs to be a starting point rather than an end point. The practice helps bring us back to ourselves, over and over, so that we learn to trust our own natural intelligence and discover what relationships are most valuable to remember.