Freedom Style Yoga’s Universal Principals of Alignment:
1) Yoga joins an individual’s being with pure infinite being.
2) Asanas are painfree. If it’s painful don’t do it.
3) There is no single alignment or set of alignments for any pose.
4) Relax, relax as much as possible.
Anusara in Los Angeles is having its 2nd golden age right now. Thanks in large part to Yogaglo, excellent and less than excellent teachers are teaching in the Los Angeles area regularly and at a low-cost. But what I have to say has nothing to do with that. I want to talk about yoga teacher Erich Schiffmann and movement teacher Emilie Conrad. Emilie is really a freedom style yoga teacher too but more about that later. A couple of weeks ago, Erich Schiffmann gave a coming out workshop detailing principles of his Freedom Style Yoga. First the goodness. I love the principles! I numbered them and reworded them a little to love them more but the love is there. Principle 1 is open to grace, receive mercy, be. I think it’s the same as Anusara’s. Principle 2 is aligned with how Schiffmann teaches. He likes to explore the extreme ends of poses but if something doesn’t feel right his advice is always the same, “get out of there.” Come out of the pose if it doesn’t feeI good. Schiffmann shared a personal observation about BKS Iyengar that inspired Principle 3. Iyengar is famous and infamous for being rigid with yoga’s rules of alignment. But Schiffmann doesn’t believe Iyengar follows his teachings in his personal practice. There is a big difference between how he goes about teaching others and how he practices himself. “If you watch Iyengar closely, he is always exploring within his asanas and he doesn’t do the same asana the exact same way twice.” His teaching is codified but his practice is not. Were did Principle 4 come from? Softness and freedom (sukham) emphasized rather than strength and stability (sthira), or a balance of the two. I don’t care if this principle has an origin in classical yoga, I love it (see previous writings). Have I ever gone to Sciffmann’s freeform class? No. It’s because I don’t think Sciffmann takes principle 3 far out enough. I don’t think yoga should be posed based. Freedom Style Yoga wants you to download poses from the universe. In a freedom style freeform class students are doing traditional yoga poses in unique sequences but the poses from my universe don’t look like any chart or syllabus. It might be Freedom Style Lite Yoga but freedom should be free. Emilie Conrad teaches somatic healing movement in Santa Monica (continuummovement.com) but what I think she really is teaching is Freedom Style Hardcore Yoga. If you plan your movement or stillness around a fixed pose, eventually your body will deteriorate. The body breaks down in a closed off system of repetitive movement. Ask any athlete or dancer, over time the body can not sustain its range of motion, flexibility, and power. Anusara’s principles of alignment seem to assure a yogi or yogini that if your muscular alignment is there it will prevent/heal/maintain your musculature indefinitely. But yoga in a closed system (poses or sequences of poses), no matter how great one’s alignment, is not inherently safe forever, or for even shorter periods of time. For me, almost 20 years of chattaranga has been too much. The muscles around my elbows complain, my arms don’t fit into dress shirts. I don’t think there is any self discoveries to be found in my arms anyway. Describing what goes on in Conrad’s class is difficult. She uses sound vibrations, open attention, baselines and intuitive, watery, circular movements to slide and glide connective tissue rather than expand and contract muscles. The self created movements of each individual are dancelike if your idea of dancing takes place in a womb. There is a softness and beauty to the undifferentiated, unrestricted dancers that is beyond words. Conrad deserves much more words for later.