Accurate Anatomical Language · Mollie McClelland Morris

Accurate Anatomical Language

There are many different “types” of yoga, and many types of teachers. There is a trend in the yoga world for teachers to describe themselves as “alignment focused” or “anatomically based”. I do not like these words, even though I do talk about alignment and anatomy quite a lot in my teaching.

Firstly, alignment focus tends to create a sense of right and wrong within yoga poses. Tuck this, pull this up, draw this in, hold this etc. and then you are “aligned”. I find this problematic in a number of ways. Asana and posture are dynamic. They are dynamic on the phases of the breath. They are different on different days. We don’t think our alignment is “good” so we have to correct ourselves, hold ourselves together in our practice. These thought patterns reinforce the beliefs that we are not enough already, and that the body is somehow wrong. That the intellect can correct the body by holding the tummy in, correcting its unaligned bits (for me there is a feminist argument in here as well. Maybe I’ll write more about that later.)

Then, there is the language that is supposed to help us get more “aligned”. Soften your knees, engage your core, square your hips. I will not write a critique of each. However in each of these there is implicit imagery that can be a) confusing, b) distracting or c) detrimental to our embodiment and our sense of how we are in the body.

The importance of precise and accurate language is that when we have a clear image of our body’s function, we can explore how our own mental and physical holding patterns have affected it. We can explore the natural function and movement of the body. You don’t have to correct yourself so much, because you are moving the way the body wants to move. And then the unhelpful, the imbalances, the emotionally charged can show themselves and can be worked with in a helpful way.

Franklin Method has helped me learn to articulate movement in a more accurate and precise way, and combine it with moving and feeling so that the learning takes root. It makes me less focused on “alignment” and more focused on feeling and finding the design of my form, and then moving with it. This has changed the mental quality of my practice as well as the physical. I invite you to dive into these questions and this process in a class or workshop soon!