What is true alignment and how do we find it?

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My teacher, Amy Ippoliti, once said, “alignment is putting things in place.” It stuck with me, I think because it speaks to the idea that alignment is different for all of us. We “put” things into place differently because we all have unique bodies with uniques desires, structures, capabilities and limitations. If we think of the golden scale, balance is when the scales are even and more stationary. Alignment is when the scales have freedom to move, exhibiting an ever-dynamic dance between the two. Alignment is a pulsing, breathing quality which mirrors the same pulsing, breathing quality of our essential nature.

Alignment craves room to shift and change with the fluctuations of our own desires and needs. What is true alignment for you? The answer to that question will change based on time, context and circumstance. That’s pretty beautiful, because this change reveres the colorful spectrum of you and your unconditional aliveness.

Let’s talk about alignment in two realms: the physical and mental/spiritual. I’ll talk about what alignment means to me in these two realms and some tips for how to find your own alignment here as well. I speak from my own experience practicing and teaching, in hopes that it might support you as you explore what it means to come into your own right and authentic alignment. All I can say is, I’m right alongside with you, figuring it out each day. Because it’s not that you figure out alignment once and then you’re done. Alignment is a daily practice. It takes structure and discipline to attend to our alignment (much like an art form) but when we do, alignment then begins to spontaneously arise in us; it becomes the poetic whisper that speaks right from and to our very core.

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PHYSICAL

In my asana practice, alignment is using two complementary actions to find my neutral. Neutral will look and feel different for each of us. A simple example of this is: in Tadasana (Mountain Pose), finding the sweet spot between rooting down through the legs and feet while rising up through the spine so you feel strong and open simultaneously. Alignment is inherently creative because it is open to interpretation and subtle adjustment. Even in that description, definitions of strong and open will slightly vary from person to person. You can play with so many alignment points in just one pose, which makes it fun and a lifelong practice! As a teacher, there are alignment cues I use to speak to the general class, however, each student will find the shade of that cue that works for them. Find a skilled teacher who not only knows good alignment but who offers different variations or languaging around the one cue. This will give you options to explore until you find ones that resonate more deeply with you.

Alignment techniques in asana serve as entry points into finding what brings you into neutral, both physically and mentally. They should be received as suggestions or invitations for your own explorations. True alignment, in the physical practice, honors both your body’s limitations and capabilities. It should aim to expand the boundaries of what you already know but not take you so far as to push your body toward pain or out of its natural, mechanical structure. Skilled teachers, a commitment to your own practice, and an open/curious mind will eventually lead you to not only finding true alignment, but to feeling confident coming into your own alignment, versus subscribing to someone else’s. This is when the practice starts to feel empowering and liberating, because you not only realize that your alignment might change but you know how to adapt when it does.

Art by Almost Anatomical

Art by Almost Anatomical

MENTAL/SPIRITUAL

Aligning with your truest self (which includes your desires, your values and your most present feelings) is a daily practice. Alignment in life can be as subtle as finding the right speech in conversation to as big as choosing a job that fits your interests, goals and values. This one is a little tougher to give tips on because I can’t tell you what to choose, how to speak or how to act in your day to day. But what I can offer you, that has helped me immensely, are ideas around how to figure out what helps you come closer to that true alignment. Here are a handful:

1. Writing Prompt

Write down who you are and how you are when you are in alignment. You can also write down who you are and how you are when you don’t feel in alignment, if that’s helpful. Here’s some of those answers for me. When I am in true alignment:

  • I don’t compare myself to others

  • I lose that sense of rush and self-pressure

  • I feel light-hearted and open, with a stronger desire to connect with others

  • I feel full in my femininity and sexy

  • My communication is more clear. I can pull the right words out more quickly. My speech feels beautiful and even poetic. I don’t feel a sense of regret as the words leave my mouth. Rather than feeling like I should have said something else, I feel self-assured in my expression.

Who are you when you’re in true alignment? Who are you when you’re out of true alignment? This is a great little list to have by your side because it will help you gauge your state of alignment. If I am feeling most of those things on my list, I then reflect on what practices or habits I’ve been engaging in that may be helping me get to that place. If I am not feeling in alignment, I go through the same reflection. This can help you narrow down what, and who, lends to your alignment and what, and who, takes you away from it. This is the road to creating healthy boundaries so you can be rooted in your most radiant self and show up that way for the world.

2. Slow down and reflect

Take time to sit with yourself, whether that’s through meditation, quiet writing, or a walk through nature. Limit distractions and stimulation so you can more clearly see and more loudly hear your alignment calling.

3. Move through it…and with it

Movement always stirs things up for me and seems to shake lose the doubt or fear that threaten to conceal my true alignment. Whether it’s dance, exercise, yoga or long walks, move your body to clear some junk out.

4. Commit

Commit to the practices that fuel and fulfill you; that bring you into truer alignment; that reveal the timeless parts of you; that let you drop into your center; that pull you into the heart of joy and delight; that bring you back when you forget yourself. These practices are always there for you but you need the drive and commitment to keep coming back to them, again and again. Show up for them and they’ll gift you with the unconditional essence of yourself.

5. Savor the beauty

Each time you feel yourself come into alignment, revel in it. Indulge it. Be a little extra, even. Celebrate those moments and glorify their beauty so that there’s a more fervid desire to return to it.


I hope this inspires you to touch in on your alignment. Thank you, as always, for sharing this space with me and committing to your own self-exploration.

Until next time! xo

Sarah

P.S. - If you aren’t already on my e-mail list and would like to receive my newest pieces of writing before anyone else, sign up using the form below. My newsletter also includes goodies not available to the public, such as new yoga playlists, self-care practices and more (depending on the month!)

Ānanda: Joy On All Sides

Photo taken by Veronique Carlos

Photo taken by Veronique Carlos

In my experience, yoga always boils down to relationships. Perspective is no exception. Our perspective on a situation depends on how we're relating to that situation. The first two limbs of yoga - yamas & niyamas - are all about our relationship to self and others. I often find my yoga practice mentoring me in my relationship with my partner, with my family, and with my friends. Really, with anyone I relate to.

Ānanda is a Sanskrit word that means bliss or joy. One of my teachers, Manorama, refined this translation for me when she said that the Ā in Ānanda means "on all sides" so the word Ānanda means "joy on all sides." 

This translation opened up new notions around how perspective is literally everything. The way we see the world, the way we see ourselves, the way we see others, forms the structure of our experience. What if we took that translation of ananda and applied it to our perception of the world? What if we could see a situation, another person, ourselves, on all sides?

Take a loved one. We often see them within the context of how they relate to us. But what if we could step back and recognize all of their roles? They could be a sister, friend, daughter, mother, librarian, runner, musician, lover of poetry, coffee bean roaster, chess champion. They could be a whole host of things. And if we can make space to appreciate all of those roles, we can see them on all sides.

By doing that, we let that person shine. We open up possibility for them to share their gifts, their art, their passion projects. It can help us reanimate a part of a relationship that has gone numb. It can motivate us to turn to them and say show me your art or ask what do you love right now? Even if we don't understand that thing at all, the curious undertones of our question will alight a deeper bond.

Photo taken by Veronique Carlos

Photo taken by Veronique Carlos

Here's an exercise for you: take someone in your life and write down all the roles they play in life. Then pick one you might not know as much about and ask them about it. Ask them to show you more of it. 

Do this exercise with yourself. Watch your imagination oil itself loose as you expand the boundary of what you know about yourself. As you remember the colorful spectrum of yourself, your interests, and your desires, your perspective will naturally grow and stretch. You'll begin to inhabit your potential and maybe even dig deeper into an important area of your life that wants attention.

When you feel stuck or doubtful, take space to see on all sides. This allows us to step out of the confines of one conclusion - and really, of separation - into the more boundless horizon line of choice, of option, of freedom. 

Here's to the multitude of you & all you have to offer this world.
With love,
Sarah


Be a part of our next 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training!

Photo taken by Britt Shattuck

Photo taken by Britt Shattuck

Applications are now open for both of our upcoming teacher trainings at Sangha Studio in Burlington, VT! We're offering a summer immersion program that starts June 24th as well as a longer format training starting in November. Here is a general idea of what we will cover in this summer's training:

  • Alignment-based vinyasa

  • Philosophy of Tantra

  • Sanskrit 

  • Meditation techniques

  • Yin, Restorative Yoga + Yoga Nidra

  • Anatomy

  • Teaching Methodology [all of the components that go into teaching a group class]

  • The Business of Yoga

  • Adapting your teaching for different types of students

All of these topics, and more, will be presented through lecture, group work, dharma discussion, practice teaching and practicing yourself. The summer immersion will give you a chance to dive deep into the teachings and be a total student for 5 weeks so you can soak it all up.

If you are interested, read more details here. And if you have any questions, please feel free to email me (sarah@sarahdiedrick.com) and I'd be happy to talk more about it. If you are a resident of Vermont, you can apply for VSAC to receive funding for the program.