Ashaya Yoga®: Align your Body
The tagline for Ashaya Yoga® is: Align your Body Awaken your Heart
It’s a little tricky. Ashaya Yoga® is definitely “not about the poses” as I mentioned in this post. But at the same time, Ashaya Yoga® most definitely IS interested in how you are engaging with the poses. We’re not trying to get to some peak position by all means necessary, but we are trying to find ways to engage the body within the pose in a way that creates harmony and order. Ashaya is an alignment based practice, so we pay a lot of attention to the form and how it is being created. As Todd Norian often says, “It’s not how far you go, but how you go far” that matters here.
When I think about the Align your Body part of the tagline, my friend Randy Boyd comes to mind. Randy is a retired school teacher who lives in West Virginia. He’s also a longtime student of alignment based yoga, and with good reason.
Several years ago almost every part of Randy’s body part was in pain from years of physical activity like running, basketball, and raft guiding. His low back, shoulder, wrist, knee and even feet hurt. He tried many other modalities including chiropractors, physical therapy, massage, and osteopaths. Sometimes these modalities made the pain better and sometimes it made the pain worse.
Randy says: “I even tried yoga with the same results, sometimes I felt better and sometimes the yoga hurt me. In fact, I herniated a disc doing yoga in a way that contradicts the Ashaya method of keeping a healthy curve in the spine.”
Finally, he sought out alignment based yoga. Over time and with steady effort he was able to heal his disc as well as all of the other chronic injuries that had caused pain for so long.
Now, Randy is a licensed Ashaya Yoga Teacher and Trainer and is a Certified Yoga Therapist. He says he finds that a consistent practice of using the Ashaya alignment essentials taught in a public class is an effective way to stay pain free.
“Nature has a very deep order that is reflected in the body. When you align the body with nature’s order you promote health and healing. For instance the spiral, spring-like shape of the spine with it’s four curves is designed to keep the body resilient. When the four curves of the spine are aligned, the forces of weight bearing are distributed equally, which eliminates many of the patterns that lead to back, neck, and shoulder pain.” says Randy.
Ashaya Yoga® alignment follows that deep natural order Randy is talking about. In every posture, in every class Ashaya students are directed to come into relationship with the body in a way that is supportive, and leads to both opening and strengthening the body in a safe way.
This is facilitated by using the 4 Essentials: Open, Engage, Align, and Expand. Again, I’ll turn to Randy for the Why behind the 4 Essentials:
“The 1st essential Open sets the foundation in hands or the feet. If the feet are pronating or supinating it can misalign the whole body. Think of a roof on a house that is sagging, the sagging can come from the foundation. To fix the roof you have to address the foundation.
The 2nd essential Engage, where you create a muscular contraction is one of the most important actions to create in our yoga practice. This action is also the most underutilized action since there is such an emphasis on flexibility in yoga. Flexibility without stability is a liability. Paradoxically when we engage a muscle, the body will allow for a fuller range of motion, because the engagement creates safety for the tendons, ligaments, and joints. The outcome is we not only become more flexible, but we become stronger, and our joints become healthier.
This is not just theory but it is evidence based science. Engaging a muscle to create more length is called eccentric contraction. There is a wealth of scientific studies on the benefits of this method.
Also, the tensile forces of engaging muscles helps to stimulate the growth of new bone cells which in addition to weight bearing is a proactive approach to osteoporosis. Dr. Loren Fishman’s study on the benefits of yoga for osteoporosis was based on a yoga of engagement.
The 3rd essential Align is that uses the knowledge of anatomy to optimally align the spine and the joints in a way that disperses the forces or weight bearing in a way that keeps the body vibrant and healthy.
Medical science conclusively demonstrates that the primary cause of disc herniation is loaded flexion, or rounding the spine in weight bearing. Ashaya Yoga alignment emphasizes healthy curve and length that protects the spine.
Ashaya Yoga also emphasizes how to optimally align the hip. There is an epidemic of hip replacements in our culture. One of the primary factors that causes the hip joint to wear out is external rotation of the femur head in the hip socket.
The 4th essential Expand enables students to go into a full range of motion, while keeping the muscles engaged, and the joints and spine aligned. This is how we progress in our poses in a safe way.”
Maybe this sounds like a lot, and in some ways it is a lot to keep track of while you practice. You can’t really “Flow and Glow” in Ashaya until you’ve deeply integrated the principles. But these 4 Essentials are why students feel so great in their bodies when they leave Ashaya Yoga classes.
“When you align with nature’s order your body is free from pain. When you are free from pain you are more able to experience the intrinsic freedom that is your essence and that brings more joy and happiness into your life.” - says Randy, and he is living proof.
Randy Boyd is a certified yoga therapist by the International Association of Yoga Therapists. He teaches private yoga therapy sessions. Randy is an E-RYT 500 yoga teacher with two 500 hour certifications, one through the Anusara school and the other through Ashaya Yoga. He is an Ashaya teacher trainer. He also teaches advanced anatomy and therapy trainings. Randy is also certified to teach yoga for osteoporosis. He is also available via skype for yoga therapy sessions. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 304-640-1670.
Note: The yoga therapy components of Randy’s teaching are based on his extensive training in alignment-based yoga therapy. These techniques are not derived from his status as an ERYT-500 with Yoga Alliance Registry