We talk a lot in yoga about “being in alignment”. You’ve heard it before. It’s tossed about casually while some Coachella-looking hipster waves a burning stick of wood at you, smiling like she knows something you don’t. It’s ok if you want to slap that smug look from her face, but take a deep breath. Phrases like that or “finding your center” tend to sound like woo-woo bullshit. Aligned to what? Center where? We end up thinking we have to be initiated into the divine secrets of some mystery cult and scour the recesses of Amazon for authentic sandalwood beads and little statues of Hindu deities.
Don’t get me wrong – I love a good sandalwood bead mala as much as the next yogi, but terms like this need more explanation and we don’t need to study ancient Sanskrit to understand them.
In fact, being in alignment is similar to a car. Over time, we travel far, we come upon obstacles and bumps in the road, we make hard turns left and right, hit the brakes hard, and swerve to avoid things we didn’t see coming. Just like we take our car to Jiffy Lube for a tune-up, we take our bodies to the yoga mat to work out all the kinks, reset our spines, lubricate our joints, and stretch our muscles.
A car would never need an alignment if it stayed on a straight road its whole life. Likewise, our bodies would never need the kind of healing that yoga movement provides if we weren’t being normal, active human beings. Since this isn’t possible, things like yoga exist to help us feel good in our bodies.
However, we’re doing much more than just physical work. When we talk about being in alignment, we’re also and more so talking energetically. I’m going to do my best to make this sound as little woo-woo as possible.
Being in alignment means acting from a place of pure love within you. This is the love that shines unceasingly from your heart. It’s the love that transcends special relationships. It is undying and the home of our truest, highest selves.
We get out of alignment when we start to source the power of love from anywhere other than that place within us. A car gets its power from its own gas tank. When we take love from someone or demand it with guilt and fear, we are way off base. It’s like we become spiritual Nosferatus, drinking life from sources that don’t belong to us. So what, then is the fuel?
Your source of life and power is the same as everyone else’s, so there’s no need to take it from anyone. It exists within you already. Alignment means extending love freely from your own limitless reserve and not placing it in a box – or another person or object – and labeling it with our limitations or judgments.
This point of perfect alignment is also what we mean when we say “center” – At your center, your heart, that energetic point within you that is undeniably fierce and strong, there is your power and your joy.
Look, I’m just as punch drunk stupid on love as the next human. I have my own layers of abandonment and perception of self-worth that I struggle with, especially when it comes to romantic relationships. It’s usually in romantic relationships where our sense of alignment is tested most harshly, but that’s just another big pothole or detour on the road of life amongst many others.
Whatever happens to you, it is your sacred mission in life to stay aligned to your highest self and steady at your center. There’s a force within you and all of us that’s got your back. This doesn’t mean don’t get involved romantically or shut the door and draw the shades on life’s many experiences and opportunities. It’s like building muscle memory: The more you test yourself and return to your sense of alignment, to the God at your center, the more resilient you’ll be in the face of the chaos of the world.
Let the power of love within you be the hands on the wheel. Don’t let the ego do what it loves to do – careen about wildly, smash mailboxes, toss trash out the window, and honk for attention. No – let love guide your way on the road of life. If you take a detour, you’ll come back to the way that is meant for you. If you have a passenger and they have to get off at the next exit, bless them on their journey. That’s it. That’s all you can do.
Jack Kerouac said it best in Desolation Angels… though most people snip off the first part of the quote, which in my opinion is the most important:
So shut up, live, travel, adventure, bless, and don’t be sorry.
Here’s a stupid selfie of me looking exactly like that bead-wearing, self-knowledge smug, hipster yogi. Oh well – Embrace it!