Anatomical alignment of yoga asana creates a sense precision and presence in the body, ensuring that the sadhaka (yogi) experiences the optimal physical benefits of each pose. When a yoga posture is performed correctly, the skeletal and muscular systems are safely aligned and supported; organs and glands are massaged and stimulated; the body is opened and stretched; the breath is deep and rich, purifying, oxygenating and energising the body. This is annamaya kosha, the physical layer of our being.
The esoteric body, the layer of our being beyond the physical, the spiritual body, is pranamaya kosha. This layer of our being has its own complex esoteric anatomy, consisting of seven major chakras, or energy centres; 72 nadis, or channels which distribute prana throughout the body and chakras; marma points, or smaller energy centres. There are a myriad of other aspects, which create our unique being.
When our physical anatomy, annamaya kosha, is aligned, our esoteric body is also aligned, supported, stimulated, purified and balanced. It is this integration of the physical and spiritual body that makes yoga a deeply transformative, holistic practice; creating well-being beyond the tangible, physical world.
However, it is the physical being that is the vessel, the Earth, the root from where spiritual evolution may expand and grow. When I began practising yoga, my expression of asana flowed from the heart without a rooted connection to the Earth. When I learnt the art of alignment during my first Teacher Training Diploma at Triyoga in London, my practice and understanding of yoga was revolutionised and deepened. It was through the alignment of asana that I developed a more authentic relationship with my practice and could connect with the ‘feeling’ expression of asana more deeply.
Annmaya kosha and anatomical alignment is the gateway to oceanic depths of the yoga.
The Ray Long ‘Yoga Mat Companion’ is a collection of books on ‘Anatomy for Yoga’ and offers a thorough teaching and exploration of this subject. Svadyaya, self study, is one of Patanjali’s niyamas, or individual disciplines, and can be a powerful tool for personal expansion. I have learnt a lot from these books and can highly recommend them.