Critical Alignment Yoga (CAY) unites movement with meditation, intending to tackle chronic stress on both the psychological and physical levels. In this, CAY blends physical strength with emotional strength. It combines detailed physical knowledge with an experience of the body as a whole. It unites relaxation with willpower.
CAY offers a new experience of the word ‘yoga,’ which means ‘connection.’ It is a deep and concrete connection of the body, the breath, the emotional awareness, and the mind. These aspects are perceived by a silent and meditative brain: a consciousness that is ready to accept new experiences with confidence. This trust allows tension to dissolve in the experience of the body as a whole. The body can only be perceived in its entirety through positive, connecting feelings like lightness, spaciousness, and ease.
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Why Critical Alignment Yoga?
The primary goal of Critical Alignment Therapy and Yoga (CAT/Y) is to mobilize the spine and to restore the physical and emotional balance. When the spine moves freely, it can interact with gravity. In this collaboration, we can release tension even during active movements. When the arms, shoulders, pelvis, and legs are well connected to the spine, there will be no tension in the body during passive and active postures.
Restore the balance in the spine
Relaxation allows the dorsal vertebrae to come into a free connection with each other, in which each vertebra regains its freedom of movement. This connection activates the deeper muscle layers – the so-called postural muscles. These small muscles connect vertebrae to each other and to the ribs, keeping the spine stable and mobile. The postural muscles are the strongest in our body, and never wear out. On the contrary, they provide the body with energy.
Without free movement in the spine, the body will use the superficial muscles (the so-called movement muscles) to balance our posture for prolonged periods. However, these muscles are designed for short activity. A constant load of activity causes fatigue and acidification, which gradually tenses our body and limits the ease and pleasure of moving.
There are two power systems in our body: one becomes active through relaxation, the other through willpower. When these strength systems work together, for example, while practicing yoga, sports, and daily movements, we prevent injuries. There is one ‘but’: it only works well if we organize our actions in the right order. Our postural muscles (which become active through relaxation) must be activated before we add our willpower. If this is done in the correct order, our movements are safe and stable.
Stress is the leading cause of the gradual build-up of tension. Stress starts as a psychological phenomenon, and the foundation that determines our behavior is laid in early childhood. Specifically, in a period in which we are dependent and vulnerable. As adults we are independent, but we often look at the world around us from children’s eyes. The moment the brain detects stressful conditions (whether true or false), survival strategies take over. We fight, flee, or freeze. These strategies can also occur during yoga exercises when we feel pain as we stretch stiff muscles or release tension around our spine and joints. This leads to people “fighting” with their shoulders, lower back, or hamstrings. Despite the effort and good intentions, this stressful behavior blocks the process of deep tension release.
Stress, and thus our survival strategies, increases muscle tension, and makes us less sensitive. We increasingly distance ourselves from our bodies or harden into it. The resulting tension causes parts of our body to become immobile. Due to the lack of movement, we lose the sensory connection with these parts of the body.
This tension and lack of connection to the body have a significant impact on our emotional life. We become blocked to our internal “connecting” feelings such as lightness, energy, or space. Our stress conditions take over and create a troubling thinking world. The spine is in direct connection with the abdominal and chest area. If there is tension around the spine, then the abdomen, and chest – which are sensory areas – will also be suppressed. Only in a sensitive and free body can we make contact with a free breath in the abdominal and chest area. This breathing supports connective feelings such as space, peace, lightness, energy, and strength.
The connective feelings should be the answer to stressful circumstances in life. Under stressful conditions, it is crucial to not lose the internal relationship with space. Stress has no chance if there is a secure connection with feelings of strength, lightness, space, energy, and ease. In this way, negative survival strategies will dissolve in positive experiences.
When the mobility in the spine restores, the sensitivity in our body also recovers. When the body begins to speak its silent, non-verbal language – as it did when we were young – we learn to connect to stressful environments in a positive way. Our awareness and actions become meditative, resulting in a nonviolent interaction with stress.