Critical Alignment is a method of yoga developed by Gert van Leeuwen, founder and director of the Critical Alignment Institute in Amsterdam, Netherlands.
Developed over decades of deep practice and enquiry, Critical Alignment uses a specialised set of props to release tension and restore mobility and strength. It works first from the upper and lower back and the core, transferring to the extremities from those two centres of gravity. Critical Alignment's unique approach works from relaxation and awareness, rather than willpower and concentration. The principles, skills, and techniques directly apply to daily activities of work and play.
In this day and age, lots of jobs are specialised, which means that we practice the same craft most of the time. Repetitive tasks—even the most exciting ones—can wreak havoc on our musculoskeletal system, not to mention our overall wellbeing. If there were a centre to the havoc, it's in the upper back. Whether we're working with our hands or on a computer, repetition and fatigue can lead to strain and rigidity that starts to limit range of motion. Over time, the strain cascades to other areas of the body, especially the lower back, neck, and shoulders, but also the extremities.
The physical feeling of strain makes us feel mentally stressed, and vice versa. This tension can limit our ability to do our best work, negatively affecting our sense of self-worth, as well.
Critical Alignment helps to dissolve tension and strain at the same time that it supports us to gently interrogate their causes. The result is a set of skills for mitigating physical and mental stress in the workplace, including techniques for carrying out normal daily activities that can be practiced at any time.
The human body in motion is a beautiful thing indeed, and movement is one of the most liberating feelings there is. As athletes, we can develop physical fitness, mental clarity, emotional balance, and spiritual awareness through the sports that we do.
We also confront our habits, patterns, imbalances, and limitations. Stress and strain that we build up in other parts of our lives manifest in physical activities. For example, working at a desk during the day can reduce the spinal mobility required for fluid movement. Relying on sport for stress relief or happiness can backfire if we become injured. Living for a single sport can lead to repetitive strain that affects daily activities.
Critical Alignment works into the muscular and skeletal imbalances that flow between life, play, and work. Physically, it improves freedom and performance through releasing strain and building strength in the deeper, postural muscle layers. Mentally and emotionally, it helps us to approach our habits with curiosity so that we can work through the tendencies that might limit us. Spiritually, it gives us a sense of connection and expansiveness that makes being active that much more meaningful and fulfilling.
Critical Alignment has a strong anatomical and practical focus, but don't be fooled—there is a lot of soul-searching to be done. For many centuries now, we've been living in a social system dominated by mechanistic and dualistic views of the world. More and more, we're realising that everything is connected, including within ourselves.
Yoga is a centuries-old practice that causes us to challenge our assumptions. In Critical Alignment, we delve into how we have internalised societal expectations and cultural norms. What causes stress and strain? What lessons did we learn as young people that might no longer serve us? What is the relationship between our mental and physical states? How do our concepts of status and success influence the way we carry and use our bodies? What belief systems do we need to question?
Critical Alignment practice provides tools to help us on this quest for meaning.
Learn about the Critical Alignment Institute in Amsterdam (in Dutch - best viewed in Chrome with Google Translator)
Learn about and order the Critical Alignment props (in Dutch - best viewed in Chrome with Google Translator). For shipment to Australia, best to contact them direct at email@example.com.
Order the definitive text on Critical Alignment in English. Most useful as a companion to classes and to learn the principles behind the approach.