Practice 4 Ways to Align Yourself Outside of Yoga Class Stay mindful of your body, even after Namaste. By Jenna Hatfield I generally possess decent alignment during my yoga practice. I’m aware of which direction my hips should face during certain poses. I can recenter my balance if necessary. While alignment surely isn’t the sole purpose of yoga, properly maneuvering through and holding poses can help stave off injury. Having endured a long recovery after a back injury, refraining from injuring myself remains a high priority in my life. Moving pain-free, whether while exercising or just living life, is definitely preferable to the alternative. When I began running again, I took special care to ensure my form wasn’t setting me on the fast track to the “down list.” Similarly, when I came back to yoga, I paid close attention to form and function to keep myself safe. In spite of my discipline while exercising, during the day my alignment gets all out of whack. I slouch in my work chair. I stand with one hip cocked. I sit in a very strange way in my corner of the couch. And I sleep like a maniac. Emotionally speaking, I let little things push me off-center, affect my breathing, and generally throw me way off track. It confuses me how I can walk into the yoga studio and stand, feet planted firmly, without prompting. Yet, when I’m in my own kitchen, it never crosses my mind to consider how I’m standing. So I’ve recently made a checklist of things to consider while I’m sitting, standing, and making my way through my day, in hopes of keeping my body and my spirit in line and upright. Sit properly. We all know slouching isn’t good for us, so try to practice better posture. Sit up straight with your weight distributed evenly on your sitting bones. Plant your feet firmly on the floor. If possible, get a desk chair with good posture in mind. If not, as you find yourself slouching throughout the day, return to a proper sitting position and take a few moments to practice deep breathing from the top of your head to the bottoms of your feet. Being grounded in your seat will help you sit straighter and slouch less. Stand properly, too. Whether you’re waiting in line to grab some lunch, pouring coffee, or giving a presentation, standing properly will help you feel, look, and do better. Make sure your feet are planted firmly on the floor. Avoid shifting your weight to favor one leg or hip. Keep your shoulders rolled back and down to avoid building tension in your neck and across the top of your back. If you move around during a presentation, make sure you return to a strong, steady pose when you find another place to stop. Not only will this help you keep your center, you will also come across as more confident and knowledgeable. Sleep like it’s the end of yoga class. My default sleeping position is not one of a rested, at ease body. With one leg and hip pulled up and over and my neck shifted off to the right, it’s no wonder I wake feeling unrested and sore many mornings. Even when I follow through with tips to get to sleep properly, I can sometimes stare at the ceiling for hours or toss and turn all night. Recently I’ve found a light guided meditation for relaxation in savasana (yes, in bed). It sends me off to dreamland much faster than fighting to find a comfortable spot. And, as an added bonus, on the nights I remember to access dreamland this way, I wake to find myself mostly in the same spot—and without aches or pains. Don’t forget to breathe. How many times during the day do you feel frustrated? After an email with a testy coworker, an argument with my spouse, or dinner time with particular children, I know I’m left feeling a little grouchier and slouchier for the wear. Taking a few minutes to breathe deeply, whether while washing the dishes or walking outside for some fresh air, can help me realign my emotional and physical being with my intentions for the day. If I don’t take the time to do so, it’s inevitable that a minor infraction by a third party later in the day will send me into an unnecessary tailspin. For me, sitting and standing properly remain the most challenging aspects of staying aligned during my daily routines. I’m diligently working on being more body and self-aware as I look to lead a more peaceful life in and out of the yoga studio. I’ve already noticed that by paying more attention to my posture during the day I’ve been carrying less physical stress in my shoulders and lower back. So what’s going to happen when you leave class? Photo by Guy Thorsby — Jenna Hatfield is an editor, writer, and storyteller. She also loves to capture little moments of daily life with her camera. She blogs at Stop, Drop & Blog and has also worked as a photographer, though currently she prefers photographing her two sons, her husband, their zany German Shepherd, and six bossy chickens. Beyond writing and photography, Jenna also enjoys running (currently training for her second full marathon), cooking, and reading all the books. You can follow Jenna on Twitter and Instagram.