Alignment with Grace

By Swami Nirmalaananda Saraswati

Svaroopa® Yoga’s core opening is not merely a physical opening.  More importantly, it is a deeper inner opening to the experiential knowing of your own Divinity.  How does this work?  When you track your spine from your tail to top, methodically opening up inner space in stages along the way, you get a profound spinal alignment.  Along with aligning your spine, you are aligning yourself with Grace.

You might think that it is as simple as good posture, except that good posture is not so simple.  You can easily lift up into a good “look,” especially if someone is taking your photo, but your spine collapses down into its habitual slump as soon as you forget.  When you straighten up, suck in your gut, open your chest and lengthen your neck upward, you do look good.  But you are tightening muscles to get there.  You can feel it.  So is this what good posture is all about?  No.

Your spinal muscles are each relatively small, not as big and impressive as your thigh muscles or gluteals.  Yet each spinal muscle is pivotally placed, making even that small muscle very powerful.  A structural engineer, taking our Foundations of Svaroopa® Yoga course told me, “One-quarter inch change in your tailbone makes a three-inch change in your neck.  I did the math!”  She was right.

When your spinal muscles are tight, they compress and twist your spine, creating the universal slump, as well as the scoliosis (side-to-side curvature) that most people suffer from.  Chiropractors and osteopaths explain the detrimental effects of spinal compression on your nerves, organs and glands.  Even your skin is affected!  The light in your eyes dims when your spine collapses.  The lift in your heart flattens.  The upward flow of inner joy sinks down, and your face dries up like a prune.

“Stand up straight,” your mother (hopefully) said to you.  But what you did was: tighten your back muscles to overpower the spinal tensions already compressing your spine.  When you lift your torso up straight, you are layering tensions over tensions.  All those layers of tension are exhausting.  So you relax, and your spine slumps again.  Your head and neck push forward and you get a headache.  Your belly sags and your digestion begins to degrade.  The back of your waist caves in and you get shorter.  You get bunions.

In Svaroopa® yoga, we treat the cause of the compression by finding the spinal muscles that are pulling your spine downward.  The bones of your spine are amazingly engineered to stack in a way that lifts you up.  You don’t actually need any muscles to lift and straighten your spine!  Currently, however, your spinal muscles grip your spinal bones and pull them too close together, twist them sideways and even compress your inter-vertebral discs.

To understand the anatomy of it, consider what you already know:  when a muscle is working, it shortens.  Every muscle has at least two ends, each attached to different bones, so a working muscle pulls those bones closer together.  In other words, any time a spinal muscle is working, it is shortening your spine.  This is why we teach you spinal release.  In addition, we teach you how to use your abdominals, arm and leg muscles, so you use different muscles to stand, walk and carry things.

The precision and compassion of Svaroopa yoga is a laser-beam system, utilizing props and alignments.  Specific spinal muscles are released so that your vertebrae naturally realign.  Your spine lifts and lengthens, taking pressure off your discs, nerves, organs and glands.  No wonder your body becomes healthier and stronger!

If that were the whole story, it would be a great story.  Like seeing a great movie, it would be worthwhile to repeat the experience.  You could do Svaroopa® yoga every day for the rest of your life, motivated by the physical benefits alone.  If that’s all you want, you can stop reading here.  But you’ll be getting more, whether you understand it or not.

The mechanical opening of your spine removes the blocks suppressing the energy always flowing through.  Your core opening makes you feel more alive, more vibrant and clear headed, more positive and ready to tackle life.  Yoga calls this flow “prana,” explaining that it is your own individual power plant, the energy that makes you alive.  Unblocking the flow of prana is profoundly beneficial and happens any time your spine is aligned and lifted.  This happens in a Svaroopa® yoga class.

Thus the physical benefits described above are even more powerful; you get energetic benefits simultaneously.  The full flow of your own prana gives you an energy boost.  You feel “up.”  You have more creativity, more compassion, even more time available and more ways to use it.  Core opening gives a lift to your spine and to your life.  But this is not the whole story.  There is more.

Svaroopa® yoga is the yoga of Grace.  It comes from the initiation I received from my Guru, so it carries Baba’s blessing to the next generation — you.  Svaroopa® yoga’s approach to the yoga poses is so radically different than other styles of yoga because we work your body from the inside out.  I learned this from Kundalini, the cosmic power of enlightenment, as She arose from my tail and worked Her way up, giving me insight into the body’s role in this process.  It was Baba’s Grace that awakened Kundalini in me, opening me to my own Self.

Thus when you use Svaroopa® yoga to align your spine, you place yourself in that flow of Grace.  My relationship with my Baba guarantees it.  This is why Svaroopa® yoga works so deeply and profoundly — this is a path of Grace.  Do more yoga.

Originally published January 2013