In preparation for the hip hop class I taught Saturday night, I listened to a ton of old school tracks and couldn’t help but notice they all had a very similar, steady, beat laid down before being layered with different riffs and vocals. It intrigued me enough to google it- and this is what the Berkley School of Music had to say: “The typical foundation of a hip hop mix is the steady boom of an 808 kick alongside a thick bass line.”
It seems even a hip hop song needs to be built on a solid foundation. In class I speak a lot about “building a solid foundation” for all of our poses, and being trained from an Iyengar perspective, it’s extremely important in terms of alignment. In fact, there is nothing that made more of an impact on me during my teacher training than this idea- most likely because it caused a huge dramatic episode in one of our workshops.
We were probably 2 months into our training when we were each given a turn to get up in front of our peers and demonstrate a pose; as we modeled our best alignment, the group would try to find a useful instruction they could give as if we were a student in their class. We did this for a few minutes, then our teacher got up in front of the room and demonstrated triangle pose with the worst alignment I’d ever seen. His hand was touching the floor and his butt was 2 feet behind him, shoulders facing the floor- AWFUL!
We all took turns to tell him the most obvious and horrendous blunders he had made in his posture, confidently sharing all we had learned. Suddenly he stood up and shouted, “You are the biggest bunch of morons I have ever taught!” Then he got back in the same pose and continued shouting, “LOOK AT MY FEET! LOOK AT MY FEET YOU IDIOTS!”
I didn’t know whether to burst out laughing, or crap my pants! I looked at his feet and they were all crumbled up- toes gripping the mat with only the outer edge of one pressing down, and the heel lifted halfway up on the other…. Ohhhhh! I get it, the pose is built from the ground up- from its foundation.
In a nutshell, there was an uproar amongst the trainees- wanting him to get taken off our training, going on and on about how he disrespected us, blah blah blah. I, on the other hand, wanted him to be my mentor–no bullshit, straight to the point–I LOVED this guy and wanted to learn everything I could from him. To this day, he is the teacher I go to with questions about my practice, my teaching, or life in general.
The foundation for alignment in every pose is tadasana– you can find it in handstand, in warrior 3, and even in ardha chandrasana; finding a plumb line with the ears over the hip joint, and then over the ankle.
You want to press all four corners of the feet down, while also lifting the inner arch until you feel that lift all the way up in your inner groin. You move up from the feet to lift the kneecaps and activate the thighs, all while being careful not to lock the knees. Next the tailbone is dropped down to neutral by pulling the navel into the spine and activating the core. With both sides of the waist long we reach up through the side body as the crown of the head lengthens toward the ceiling; and as much as the crown reaches up- the bottom tips of shoulders plug down the back while the upper back broadens.
When we practice each pose we want to be in this natural “state of tadasana” in order to keep our alignment in check. These principals aren’t difficult to maintain if we practice within our limits- the problem is when the ego works it’s way into the pose and we feel the need to look like a model on the cover of Yoga Journal. That’s when we wind up looking like my teacher did in triangle pose, or worse- injured.
As long as you move from a place of stability and support, any practice built on a foundation of gratitude is one that will last. I am grateful for each and every one of my students, and hope to challenge you again and again on your road to building a strong “yoga foundation.”
Want to know the #1 yoga mistake you’re making that has nothing to do with alignment? I tell you HERE