Why You Should Stop Teaching Alignment-based Yoga
(and what you can teach instead)

When I first started teaching yoga, I was awed by all these other teachers that knew precisely how poses should look. They were confident when they adjusted me verbally and physically. They knew exactly what I was doing “wrong” and how to fix it.
Turns out, they were all full of shit 💩 .
I took my first anatomy training because I wanted to be like those teachers. But, by the time I completed my second training, I learned that the human body is much more complicated, beautiful and interesting than I realized and can’t be bound to or ruled by the cueing we’re used to in yoga. There is no such thing as universally “good” or “safe” cueing.
So how does this affect our teaching?
Well to begin with, we can stop trying to teach “alignment-based” yoga. I mean stop calling it that, too.  It’s just nonsense. Instead, we can encourage our students to explore movement with us and be connected to their own experience. Ask them for feedback like what muscles they feel “turning on” and which they feel relaxing or stretching. Ask them if the movement feels comfortable, uncomfortable or painful and watch/listen to how it affects their breathing and see how it affect their facial expression.  
We can also play a lot more in poses in our own practice as well is in our teaching. Take bridge pose for example. This has become one of my absolute favorite poses to play in because there are so many possibilities. For example, below, I’ve listed pairs of opposite actions. Get into bridge pose (right now if you can) and start playing. Go down the list below, and pick one thing to try from the first pair, then the second and so on, adding on actions until you get to the bottom of the list. It’s a choose-your-own-adventure for bridge pose.

  1. Walking your feet as close to your body as you can

  2. Walking your feet as far from your body as you can

  1. Lifting up your toes (or shifting your weight towards the heels)

  2. Lifting up your heels (or shifting the weight towards your toes)

  1. Raising your hips as high as you can

  2. Keeping your hips lower to the ground

  1. Lifting a leg of the ground (you can decide to keep it still, move it around, keep it low or lift high, etc.).

  2. Keeping both feet firm on the ground

  1. Pretending your pressing your feet down and forward

  2. Pretending your dragging your feet back towards your shoulders

  1. Squeezing a block between the thighs/Squeezing the thighs together

  2. Pressing your legs out into a resistance band or strap/Spreading your knees apart

Each of these actions is going to give you a slightly different experience. That means that this one pose can have thousands of different effects on a body depending on how it is being performed and what is going on in particular body. Try this with other poses and see what happens.
One more thing we can do is start doing smaller movements that introduce load in a very gradual way. So taking the wrists for example – we can start by circling the wrists (options: (1) palms open facing towards you, (2) palms open facing away, (3) make a fist with fingers face up, (4) making a fist with fingers face down). Then we can do the same thing on hands and knees. We can move the position of our hands all around and then make circles with our body around that position. This is a great way to get feedback, too. To understand where we/our clients experience pain (where it might be unsafe) and where we experience intense stretch (where things are tight). As an added effect, adding a gradual load encourages weak places to start responding by building a little bit of strength at time.
When I started teaching this way, my client retention and word-of-mouth referrals went up significantly. My students felt I was really taking the time to get to know them, and respond to their needs. They also started feeling a deeper connection to how their body works. Which in turn, has made their yoga session more valuable to them. It’s not just about someone telling them what to do (like giving them a fish to eat), it’s about me giving them the tools to understand themselves (like teaching them how to fish).