Alignment in a Crowd

by smartini on April 20, 2013

Today, I again find a seed of truth from my yoga practice that parallels and illustrates a principal I’m working on in my personal evolution & journey.

In a good class, there may be 75-100 people I’m practicing alongside. As with any group consciousness, the momentum and energy of that dynamic is powerful. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m someone who is both highly competitive and an eager people-pleaser. These traits have served me in some ways and present challenges in others. Looking to the external motivators like these (competition and pleasing others) serves me in that it pushes me to go farther, to expand my limits, to be more than maybe I previously thought possible. But the challenge it presents is that I’m then taking direction from outside myself; I’m, in a sense, giving my power to someone or something else rather than relying completely on my own ‘true north’.

When discussing alignment in yoga, the reference is likely purely physical – for Warrior One, the directive is for your hips to be facing forward while for Warrior Two, they should be open. The degree to which that prescription can be filled, however, is highly individual. And this is where it gets interesting with the group dynamic. I just MIGHT be one of those girls in class who OCCASIONALLY looks at everyone else when entering or sustaining a pose. Is it to compare my Half Moon with everyone else’s? Ok, maybe just a little – I did say I was competitive. But it also helps to give me some direction when I’m not quite sure if my alignment is on or off. So, here’s what then: as I compare myself to others in this group dynamic, I can then consciously observe where my body naturally falls in the expression of a particular pose. I can see, from looking at others and fromlistening to my instructor, that in downward dog, for example, my heels ‘should be’ touching the ground. AND as I breathe into my own downward dog, I can feel and watch how far my own heels are willing to go towards that goal. In this way, I can test my own limits, and still maintain my own personal alignment. I can push myself without hurting myself.

So, how does this metaphor translate to the rest of my life? Well, finding the balance is exactly the same. I find I am quite often externally motivated. If I’m working on a project, I’m looking to see what my co-workers and clients expect of me today. If I’m feeling social, I’ll wait to see what my friends are up to. As I’m deciding what to eat, I refer back to the ‘rules’ of a particular healthy trend I’m studying. And here-again, none of this is inherently ‘bad’. It’s useful, it provides the common ground from which to be and act. But my challenge is to remain in my own individual alignment WITHIN these shared expectations. Ok, yes: pay attention to what everyone else is doing for themselves or expecting of me AND as I make my choices in each moment, pull out my own inner compass and stay true to my own alignment. So, even in the most mundane of choices – whether its what to order from the menu or if I should do the bind in a particular yoga pose or not, I can both BE in the world with other people, and stay true to my own, individual path and purpose.

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