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Moving in and out of alignment

One of the many things I love about yoga is that virtually everything I practice on my yoga mat is just as relevant in my daily life.

Awareness
Making conscious choices
Managing my mind monkeys (just as hard on my mat as in the other parts of my life!)
Staying with discomfort (ditto)
Noticing my stories about what I can and can’t do (triple ditto!)

And this prompt that my teacher Jill gave at the beginning of a recent yoga class:
“Pay particular attention today to how you move in and out of each pose. Too often we move in and out of poses so fast that we lose, or never find, our alignment.”

Jill was talking about physical alignment, but the same holds true for life: living in alignment with your values, priorities, and with the way you want to show up in the world.

It would be lovely if physical alignment in yoga “just” happened. But it doesn’t, for three reasons:

  1. While every pose has a general shape, none of us have a general body.

You have to learn what alignment looks and feels like in your body.  Not the body demonstrating in the front of the room, or on the mat next to yours, or in a book.

  1. When you make one shift in a pose, there’s a domino effect because …

The foot bone’s connected to the ankle bone,

The ankle bone’s connected to the leg bone,

The leg bone’s connected to the knee bone …

  1. The way you move / flow from one pose to the next matters.

When you’re rushing from pose to pose, there’s no time or mental space to be aware of how you’re moving. You’re on auto-pilot.

Alignment requires the opposite: slowing down enough to be aware of, and intentional with, your choices.

And what about alignment in life?

It doesn’t “just” happen there either, and for exactly the same reasons.

  1. No one has a general life. Even if you know someone with a life that looks virtually identical to yours, no one else has your exact personality, values, or circumstances.

In order to live in alignment with what’s important to you, the impact you want to have, and what makes you happy, you have to know what that looks and feels like in your life.

It doesn’t matter what it looks like for your friends and / or colleagues – they’re not you!

  1. What you do in one part of your life affects all the other parts.

Sometimes it’s obvious.

Transition from a work role with limited travel to one where you’re on the road half the month, and it impacts your family / friend time, workout routine, volunteer commitments, and all the other ways you spend your time.

But it’s often a more subversive effect.

Stress at work shows up at home, in your relationships, and your health. Become bolder in one part of your life, and you become bolder elsewhere. Increase your awareness in your yoga practice, and your awareness increases in all other areas of your life. And on and on goes the list.

  1. When you rush from one activity to the next, there’s limited mental and emotional space to make conscious choices … choices about your mindset, actions and reactions, assumptions, and trade-offs.

When you’re not making those choices consciously, you’re at high risk of losing, or never finding, your alignment.

Of course all this would be a lot easier if alignment was static – figure it out once, and you’re good to go. But unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that.

Living in alignment is a daily practice.

So, where to start?

With the three following steps:

  1. Take time to reflect on your values, priorities, and how you want to show up in the world. Put your thoughts in writing and review them daily.
  2. Pick one aspect of your life or your day. For the next 30 days pay attention to how it affects the other parts of your life or day. Don’t judge, just notice.
  3. Slow down just a wee bit by taking three breaths between meetings, tasks, and activities.

We’re always moving in and out of alignment. The point of practice is to gradually spend more time IN alignment than out!

Things alter for the worse spontaneously, if they be not altered for the better designedly. ~ Francis Bacon

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Sherry Essig