(Living in) Yogic Alignment
For many modern-day students and teachers of Yoga, alignment is key. The word alone stands for many as one of this practice's main characteristics. We hop on the Yoga mat in order to practice postural shapes that, when lucky, resemble more or less the necessary physical ratios and tweaks intended for a particular pose to look (and perhaps even feel) 'perfect.' We practice regularly in order to attain 'perfect form.' In fact, it could even be argued that many teachers and students of Yoga practice in order to 'perfect' form altogether. And so, a great deal of time and attention seems to be generally devoted to the notion of physical alignment. Indeed, 'alignment' is a building-block in most certified Yoga teacher training programs worldwide.
Still, despite all the manuals and even schools of Yoga whose attention seems primarily focused on teaching and learning the art of 'perfect alignment,' there is much controversy around this concept's actual traditional relevance to the practice of Yoga; so much so, that many argue that alignment itself was never really that important to traditional Yoga to begin with, and that alignment cannot be said to exist as long as this concept is taken to stand merely for a physical ideal.
Living in (Mis)Alignment
After a year such as the one we've all had, we think it's safe to say that alignment is more important than we've given it credit for. This said, however, we'd like to add that working solely on physical alignment is clearly not going to help us get out of many of the problems we are facing globally as a species; and that, while we agree that alignment is truly an important concept to learn and practice in life and in Yoga, we also feel that function doesn't solely follow from form, nor form merely respond to function. Form and function retro-feed one another, at least when it comes to Yoga. And so, we can only truly 'live in alignment' when we take this concept much deeper than we currently are.
The fact is that, when it comes to the teachings of Ayurveda and Yoga, most of us (teachers and students) preach a lot more than we actually care to practice. This is a fact. It is a lot easier to speak eloquently about Yoga than to act accordingly. It is a lot easier to talk about the Yamas and Niyamas in a classroom, or about the importance of practicing with intention, than to actually use either of these principles as the steering wheel of our lives.
Many out there even think that, because they join advanced classes regularly, or have done two, three, four intensive Yoga trainings, or are used to hearing yogic concepts dropped in conversation during a class while incense or sage is burning in the background, that they know what Yoga is about. That they get it. They've lived enough to know most of this philosophy's ideas, if only from hearing; and so, then they go home and go on with their lives. Yoga is a thing they do in perfectly allotted time slots; a thing they practice and consume when they go to the studio and join a session, when they pay for a Yoga-retreat in a remote location, or when they book a private. But few do actually truly get it, not really. For few of us are truly willing to live by the dictates of Ayurveda and Yoga and go through life using their lens as compass.
Were more of us to truly know and put to use the depth of the teachings of these two currents, we'd be unable to live our lives the way we've been living them so far ––out of alignment with the reality of life, all life. This is, and remains, our problem.
We, citizens of the modern world, have been taught to consume our way into the future; to consume cultures, values, philosophies, species, peoples, and ideas as 'experiences,' experiences that evoke certain feelings, certain sensations we long for and feel we'd like to... well, 'experience'! And so, we pay for them, wear them, munch on them for a little, and then toss them aside. We toss them out as soon as they get too hard to stick to, or too full of the expectation to make actual changes in our lives.
As citizens of the postmodern world, we've been trained for selective hearing, selective reading and, of course, selective buying and consuming. And so, we take on the parts we feel we like the most out of a product or the parts that best fit and enhance our lifestyle ––in the case of Yoga and Ayurveda the asanas, the colourful recipes, and burning Palo Santo over our Ganesha figure in a tray full with crystals–– and toss aside all the really meaningful and profound bits. The stuff actually meant to help us dig much deeper, so deep that it actually gets rough for a little. It is the digging, the unearthing, the peeling off of all our layers of utter bullshit that has the most potential to realign us with our underlying reality: that life, all life, is sacred. That life, all life, is a gift. An opportunity. A chance to create one another into existence for the betterment of us all.
Re-Alignment for Life
And so it is for us. We want alignment, but only as long as it leaves everything in our lives standing exactly where it's at. We want to correct our posture so the looks of our physical positioning shows how we can achieve the best alignment possible with the coordinates of 'a good life.' But we want this only as long as we don't have to reassess our definition of 'a good life.'
The truth is that, culturally, we all suffer from chronic myopia and that this inability to (fore)see things at a distance is the reason why we keep aligning ourselves with the most chaotic and destructive of principles. With the principles of money-making, status, material accumulation, resource exploitation, success and external validation, quantity over quality, self-centredness and attachment... the list goes on and on.
So it is our wish that, after a year meant to help the worst of us do some much needed instrospection and soul-searching, in the year(s) to come, we may choose to align ourselves with more honorable and commendable motivations; with values worthy of the best we have to offer to others and to us; with projects and ideas meant to unite us in our diversity to propel us forward, not backwards. With initiatives that want to create bridges of sharing and communication in a world that seems set on pitting us against each other when a world pandemic looms over us, even if it is over who does and who doesn't get a vaccine.
It's been a tough year; but let's not rush to toss its many lessons and opportunities for change aside. There's much to be learnt from such a trying global period as this one, and most of us have just gotten started with the digging. So, please, let's not stop digging in 2021. Have a conscious and sustainable end to your 2020 and a conscious and sustainable entry into the new one.