Body alignment is about getting your body in it's best position for your well-being, your physical comfort and your yoga. As an initial exercise it is helpful to look at your own body and explore your posture and shape. If you have a partner who can help you that's hugely beneficial (especially for the parts you cannot see), but you can also get a good idea by looking at yourself in a mirror. Remember this exercise is about developing an awareness of your body and how it interconnects. At all points celebrate your body and admire how awesome it is!
Start in a standing position and look at your foundation and how your feet are grounded. Do you turn your feet in or out? Do you scrunch your toes? How does your instep lie in relation to the rest of your foot? See if you can make some slight adjustments to the positioning of your feet and explore how these movements impact on the rest of your body.
Next look down at your knees. How do you hold yourself? Do your knees bow inwards or outwards? Again make those subtle adjustments and feel the changes in your body. In my own body I noted that my knees bowed inwards, the simple act of just shifting the angle of my knee alignment automatically improved the alignment of my hips. It's these subtle shifts that can help us in our yoga practice.
When looking at your hips it is helpful to compare the back, the front and both sides. Place your hands on your hips and feel how your pelvis sits. Look in the mirror and note whether you tilt forwards or backwards. Does your pelvis comfortably accommodate weight distribution and balance?
Moving up the body to the spine it is important to consider that our spines have a natural curvature. When you look at a back from behind, the spine should be straight and centered over the pelvis. However, when you look at your spine from the side, you should see two alternating curves in the shape of an "S". These spinal curves are designed to support the body's balance. Note how the distribution of weight on your abdomen and/or chest can change the alignment of your spine. Play around with your body and see what happens when you engage your core muscles and/or shift how you hold your weight.
Now move to your shoulders and your upper back. Many of us have one shoulder that sits higher than the other - this happens as our bodies repeat certain patterns of movement that can shift the balance of our alignment. Are you shoulders hunched forward? Do you push out your chest? Note how open you are across your chest. With your fingers feel the top of your cervical spine (the section around the neck) can you feel your vertebrae or are they buried in your posture? Again observe your body and become aware of the areas that you could help to balance more.
Look at how you hold your head - is it held high or low? Where is your chin in relation to your throat? Do you hold your head to one side? Again make those subtle adjustments and become aware of your body. Finally step back and admire the wholeness of how amazing you are! Look at how your body holds you up and how it allows you to move.
Knowing the alignment of your body is a useful tool for all of us. The simple act of becoming more aware of our bodies and how all our parts interconnect can help us become more active in maintaining good alignment and help us to work on any areas that are out of balance.