The 4 A’s of Yoga
When practising yoga, it is helpful to keep the 4A’s of yoga in mind:
Firstly as we enter a pose (asana), we need to check our ALIGNMENT. The spine should be lengthened and straight. In Kripalu Yoga, we use the theory of press points to create the alignment. So for example, in the Warrior One pose (Virabadrasana I), we check that the back heel is pressing down and the back leg is straight. We check that the front of both hips (ASIS points) are facing forward and that the torso is as upright as possible by lifting upwards through the sternum. By consciously pressing up through the top of the head, the neck becomes lengthened and arms are reaching up but also back framing the head with the shoulders (wingtips of the scapula) down.
Then we become aware of how the pose feels. Our AWARENESS of anything that does not feel “quite right” then helps us to see that we may need a minor (or even major) ADJUSTMENT. So for example using Warrior One again, we may realize that holding the pose with the back heel up requires too much balancing effort, so we need to turn the back foot slightly so the heel can touch the floor, then we can hold the pose longer and more easily as we are not struggling with balance. We may also check if the arms are getting tired and take a different arm position, say, goddess arms with elbows bent or even bringing hands to the hips.
The teacher may also make some adjustments to students to help them be more properly aligned.
Finally, and perhaps the hardest, is to practice ACCEPTANCE of exactly where we are at. Being present to how our yoga is showing up in this moment. Avoiding the ego-mind that wants to compete with our neighbour’s pose or the way our body could bend years ago.
Finally we take the 4A’s ~ what we have learned about ourselves ~ off the mat and into our everyday life. Being aware of how we are standing as we wait in a line-up at the bank say and adjusting to be more in mountain pose, more of a tall regal posture, and less slouched or evening out the weight between the two feet. Aligning our thoughts, words, and actions with our intentions to be more loving and kind in our daily life. And accepting ourselves just as we are each moment of our day if possible. Practicing mindfulness and awareness of posture, breath, intention, and the mind as we go about our daily affairs. So that our whole lives mirror our practice, knowing that everyday life is still part of our practice.