In my Holy Yoga training I remember one lesson during the in-depth education on alignment. Proper spinal alignment is paramount in yoga, just in case you haven’t heard me stress that before. I tell you that you things like “breathe your shoulders up and back,” “bring your ears back over your shoulders,” “tuck your tailbone or pelvis,” or “bring your chin parallel to the ground.”
All of my directives are to really get you to make sure that your spine is aligned vertically before we make any movement towards circles, or side stretches…basically before we make any horizontal or side movements with our bodies in any way. The reason for this is that if your vertical is mal-aligned, then your horizontal will be all kinds of chaos leading to improper stretching and movement that may even lead to injury and that could take you out of the game completely!
I also stress the use of props (straps, blocks, mat segments, etc), things to help you along your way to maintaining proper spinal (or vertical) alignment. Props are not a sign of weakness…they are a sign that you’re listening to your body and recognizing the very important lesson that if your vertical spine is not in proper alignment, then your horizontal movement is threatening to harm you and set back your yoga journey.
If you can’t put together why this lesson is so easily tied into the “Holy” part of Holy Yoga……..well, here it is: Your vertical alignment with the Father does the same thing in your life as your vertical alignment on the mat does in your yoga practice. When you stay focused on, close to, and in constant communication with God, you move about His business with strength and grace given directly from Him for your horizontal journey through this life!!! When He is your safe and secure vertical, your horizontal becomes protected and strong as well.
He also gives encourages the use of “props”…our props can be anything that helps us to keep our faith life vertically reaching. It can be a church community, a religious practice, prayers, friendships that give life, words of faith filled encouragement….all of these props help us to get our faith journey vertically aligned so that we can move horizontally.
When it is difficult to remember this lesson…we just so happen to have a very clear reminder: the cross on which Christ paid our ransom. His body was laid out upon that cross vertically, He looked up and cried out to His Father, our Father. His arms were stretched out horizontally in a way that today can symbolize the works we are called to do horizontally for our brothers and sisters in His name.
How lucky are we to practice this yoga and be able to use it to further our physical and spiritual practice. Today, as you move I will place a lot of emphasis on vertical alignment because we will be moving horizontally in twists and side bends. Take this off the mat today (and all the days after this) and look at the cross…know that we need to strive to have our faith practice reaching vertical, and only then, move on our horizontal walk in this life.
Wrap it up:
Paul says to the Colossians:
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth….When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. (Col 3:1-…)
Lord, may we keep our eyes and minds reaching for You, for Your Word. May our striving for vertical alignment with You, make our paths straight, our yokes easy, and our horizontal works all in glory to You. Thank You for Your encouragement and the help you give us on our path.