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Alignment and Balance

Excerpted from Krishnamacharya: His Life and Teachings, A.G. Mohan

Alignment and Balance

One day early in the development of my asana practice, I was practising headstand in class. Krishnamacharya insisted on long, slow breathing while I held the headstand for, say, twenty-four breaths. As I was concentrating on my breathing, he said, “Your right leg is moving to one side. Be aware.” He continued, “You are running about, doing various activities and riding a scooter. It seems you need to do more ardha-salabhasana [a modification of the prone backward bend known as the locust—lying facedown on the ground and raising the trunk, one leg, and one arm off the floor on inhalation].” He mentioned my scooter because he had observed that my scooter’s brake pedal was on the right and he knew that I was riding it for more than an hour a day. The gearshift and clutch were on the left handle, so my left leg was free. But I had to keep my right leg unmoving, with the ankle raised and resting slightly on the pedal.

Krishnamacharya’s point was that correcting the imbalance was important for a better headstand, but to address the underlying imbalance that caused my right leg to deviate, I needed to do other asanas to balance the two sides of my body. So Krishnamacharya recommended ardha-salabhasana, which uses one arm and one leg at a time and thus also works more on one side of the back than the other. He used to state, “Asana should not be an anga bhanga sadhana.” Anga means “limbs,” bhanga means “to disrupt,” and sadhana means “practice.” That is, asana should not be a practice that disrupts or creates imbalance in the parts of the body. Consequently, using asymmetric asanas to work on both sides of the body independently was important in his approach.

Tirumalai Krishnamacharya (November 18, 1888 – February 28, 1989

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