Critical Alignment Yoga has a strong focus on precise alignment in every asana. This type of yoga was founded by Gert van Leeuwen, who developed the Critical Alignment technique, which engages deeper muscles that surround the spine and joints of the body.
A basic principal of Critical Alignment Yoga is that with proper alignment, your body can move freely without tension. The movements in the body are linked together like chains to build the asana with the correct alignment.
Throughout daily activities, we tend to spend quite a bit of time hunched forward. Often, the surface movement muscles become tight in this posture and reinforce poor posture. The result is pain in the back, neck and headaches. Through Critical Alignment Yoga, you learn to release areas of tension and find new alignment and ease of movement.
Tension and stress build up in the body with poor posture. In critical alignment yoga, the asana is built up using a specific combination of strength and stability in the deeper muscles, as well as releasing tension from the body through relaxation exercises.
The practice of critical alignment yoga improves flexibility in the body and in the mind, as you release tension and stress and soften the body and mind. Breathing techniques are used to help create a sense of balance and lightness in the body. The focused attentiveness and breathing in this practice is a type of meditative state.
This type of yoga is practiced in yoga therapy and in critical alignment yoga classes. If you have pain in the back, neck, headaches, carpal tunnel, sciatica, or upper back and shoulder pain, this practice can help you realign your body and release stress and tension.
Once critical alignment is learned, the technique can be applied to any asana. There are books on this type of yoga, but in order to properly learn this technique, it is good to attend classes, yoga therapy sessions, or private yoga lessons.