Free Download! Creating Optimum Alignment in Yoga Poses: A Helpful Tool Kit For Yoga Teachers

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Shy Sayar

Shy Sayar (ERYT-500, YACEP) is a senior yoga teacher & continuing education provider at the highest level offered by Yoga Alliance. Well into his third decade with yoga, Shy has tens of thousands of hours of experience bringing yoga to students of all levels, treating patients, and training yoga...

Ever wished you had an easy shortcut to analyze and teach each yoga pose to students at any level?

Yoga teachers constantly strive to create practices for that are safe, sustainable, and appropriate for every body in every class. But as any yoga teacher knows, it’s not always easy to know how to achieve that goal.

In this free download, yoga therapist Shy Sayer, founder and director of the Tantravaya School of Yoga and Ayurveda, shares Eight Universal Principles of Alignment. He maintains that using them will provide yoga teachers with all the tools they need to observe where students are at and teach effectively to students at any level.

In the talk, Shy shares the philosophy behind his methodology, as well as the evolution in his thinking. Starting initially with thirteen actions, he simplified and refined his ideas over time.

“Little by little, I was beginning to see them in a more three-dimensional way. I understood that they could all be defined as eight actions,” He explains. “Those eight opposite actions were then organized into four pairs of oppositional productively antagonistic actions. Ultimately, I was even able to see that the two pairs in the lower body are mirrored perfectly by the two pairs in the upper body. As above so below, as it were.”

Shy realized that his ideas could be helpful to others. “I wanted to give practitioners a reliable, consistent, easy-to-remember and understand pair of principles, a pair of oppositional actions. If we just keep those in mind, no matter what we’re doing in asana or any physical gesture we move with safety. We have a direction in which to apply right effort that’s proved to be tremendously helpful, not only for my yoga students but also for the teachers that I’m training,” he says.

The result is a concise set of underlying principles based on harmonious alignment in every sense of the word. Regardless of the pose, Shy says, the principles can bring every body safely and effectively to every physical gesture, while at the same time honoring individual differences.

Shy starts with the basics in teacher trainings: “We spend five or six days learning how to stand,” he explains. “By the next day, we’ve done Standing Backbends, Standing Forward Bends, Chair Pose, Twisting Chair, Chaturanga, Cobra, Up Dog, Down Dog, Kneeling Lunge, High Lunge, Warrior I, Warrior II and all their variations. It’s an accelerating system. Because everything that’s in these four pairs of principles–two pairs of lower body and two pairs of upper body that mirror each other–is in Tadasana.”

Curious as to what the principles look like in action? Here’s Shy’s description of Tadasana:

“Stand with your feet parallel under the sit bones. Press into the roots of the big toes while lifting the inner thighs up and away from each other.

Draw the upper thighs back and reach the sit bones down. Lift the lower belly and from that lift, follow and lift all the way through the back of the head or the bones behind the ears while keeping the floating ribs in the back body.

“With the palms facing the sides of the body, press as though into a resistance so that without actually changing the wrist, when you spiral the upper arms out, the chest opens and blossoms. This happens without the actual heart leaning forward. The heart rests in the back and the ribs rest in the back body, creating a free and peaceful flow of energy with strength and stability in the body.”

The work is strongly grounded in the yogic Kosha model, starting with the physical or flesh body, the Annamaya Kosha.  Getting a sense of how the pose feels in the other Koshas, Shy says, grows from this starting point and is a useful way to tune into the innate wisdom of each practitioner’s body.

 “When you do something in your physical body, then check what it did to your breath, how deep in your body is your breath, how even between right and left, how even between front and back. Then Pranamaya Kosha will reveal to you a gesture or an action that’s taking you in a right direction for yoga.”

You might also enjoy Shy's course, Anatomy of Perfect Alignment for Every Body Every Time.