7 alignment cues to improve your practice & avoid injury

As a teacher I try my best to keep you on your toes, I do this by learning from other teachers and putting time into our class plans. What I certainly don’t ever want is to sound repetitive when I teach, so please pull me up if I do!
However when I teach I often find myself repeating certain phrases, metaphors and instructions that will help you get the most out of your class and avoid injury at the same time.
Of course when we’re moving through a vinyasa class I don’t always have the time to elaborate on each one. So here are 7 alignment cues to improve your practice and ensure you avoid injury:

1) Lift your hips, Imagine you have a belt loop on the back of your trousers and someone is lifting that to the sky, Imagine a teacher behind you lifting your hips back and up (in Downward Facing Dog).

More depth and detail – you have to remember to anchor your hands or this doesn’t work quite the same. With two contact points (balls of the feet and your hands) rooting down into the floor when you lift your hips you lengthen and extend the spine, creating an almost traction sensation. Lifting the hips also creates more space for the hamstrings and backs of the legs to lengthen.

2) Push the weight evenly through your hands, Push the weight evenly through your palm, your knuckles and your fingers (in Downward Facing Dog or Plank / Vinyasa).

More depth and detail – if the weight is spread evenly then you take the pressure and stress off the wrist, which is where most people suffer with discomfort / pain when they practice. 

3) Relax your jaw, soften your jaw, make sure you aren’t clenching your teeth together – all the way through class!

More depth and detail – we hold onto so much unnecessary tension here, it comes down into our neck, our shoulders. Everything connected! Simply relaxing your jaw can have just a positive affect on aches and pains that come from upper body tension. 

4) Lengthen and lift through the crown of your head, take the crown of the head up to the ceiling – seated at the star of class, throughout when we come to standing, some of our warrior postures.

More depth and detail – gravity pulls us down all day and one of the key things I try to encourage with our classes is this feeling of lifting and lengthening, lifting the spine now only helps the spinal column its self but you naturally draw your shoulders back at the same time and open through your hips.

5) Draw your waist in, pull naval to spine, engage towards your midline, imagine you are tightening a corset of strength around the centre of the body – pretty much all the way throughout our class.

More depth and detail – to hold the body stable and strong we need a good foundation and that comes from your centre, from your core. The lower back can be vulnerable to injury and by engaging throughout our practice we reduce the risk of injury. 

6) Find an easy breathe, a steady breathe, your own breathe rhythm – another ones that can follow us all the way through our practice.

More depth and detail – sometimes the component of breathing throughout your yoga class can be quite overwhelming. Sometimes you don’t feel you’re breathing at the same pace as the student next to you or as the teacher. And that’s okay – were all different, we have all been practicing for different amounts of time. So finding your won breathe count takes away the pressure and stress and lets you enjoy the rest of the practice. 

7) Relax your gaze – all the way through class!

More depth and detail – two things here: 1) movement of the eyes is connected to activity of muscles in the very top of the neck so actually adjusting the gaze can affect the alignment through the top of the neck and into the upper back, 2) it simply helps your balance and focus. 

There we have it, if you have any think you want to ask me in relation to your practice and your alignment or technique then fire away.

Jess x

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