“Sit up straight” is a phrase we often use as yoga teachers. The very premise of the asanas in Hatha yoga is to create a body that is comfortable enough to sit still, with a straight back in order to meditate. That is why we practice asanas: to reduce the dis-ease in our body, so that our minds can quiet, and that we can experience Existence beyond our body and mind.
But what exactly does “sitting up straight” mean. In my ten years as yoga teacher, I have seen that this instruction is up for a myriad of interpretations. Everyone tries to do what their perception of straight is. However, the perception is created from deeply ingrained patterns and beliefs and does not always end up bringing you to a more balanced posture. Many interpret “sit up straight” to mean that you should concave your back and look like a ballerina. Others interpret it as pushing your hips forward and lean back, like swaying in the wind. Often people use a lot of muscular energy to try and hold their perception of straight.
Now, the fact that this instruction can be interpreted so widely constitutes an actual problem for asanas. Sitting up straight is the pose that all other poses stem from. One could interpret it as the mother pose that gives birth to all other poses. So when we are confused with what this means, and see our students use immense amounts of energy to execute it, it distorts the rest of the practice. There is an important link missing in our teaching.
But unfortunately, most yoga teacher trainings do not prepare you for this kind of analysis. Mine included.
This is where the Alexander Technique can help immensely in modern day yoga.
Last July, I had the pleasure to host David Moore and Rossella Buono, in a six hour workshop at our studio in English Yoga Berlin. They brought the Alexander Technique into yoga and into my life. They provided me with the “missing link” I was needing in order to take my yoga teaching to the next level. I understood that certain students were getting stuck in yoga poses because they were losing sight of the overall process of coordination. The “missing link” was in understanding and coordinating the basic posture from which all other poses rise…. or in other words, understanding what “sit up straight” really means.
In a merely six hour workshop, I learned so much as a yoga teacher! I was so inspired by this workshop that I immediately starting applying my new knowledge to my every day yoga classes, seeing a real difference in students. Since then, I have been working on getting David and Rossella back to teach Berlin yoga teachers more about how these two practices can work together. I am delighted that in July 2018, practitioners and yoga teachers from all over the world will come to attend a six day workshop doing just that!
For more information about the workshop please click here.
Pinelopi specializes in Hatha Yoga. Her yoga Kreuzberg Berlin classes are open for and welcoming to beginners. She offers Berlin business yoga, pregnancy yoga, and private yoga classes for people struggling with chronic pain. In mid-September she will be offering her first English speaking yoga and mindfulness retreat dedicated to presence.