There are certain phrases yoga teachers use when giving instruction for poses and how you’re supposed to feel in them. It takes a bit of getting used to the yoga-speak, but one day, it just “clicks” when you find the proper structure.
Lengthen. Reach. Sit tall.
These are all frequently used to describe a similar subtle adjustment as you bring more awareness to your body. When the teacher talks about lengthening the spine, it means relax the shoulders down, inhale, and imagine someone gently pulling your spine in opposite directions so there’s a little more space between each vertebra.
See Illustration 1:
When reaching with your arms, again relax the shoulders so they sit in the sockets and then imagine stretching all the way through to the fingertips. Many times, length is achieved by the idea of opposition. In warrior 2, you should feel like your fingers are trying to touch walls on either side of the room.
When the teacher says to sit tall or get taller, relax the shoulders and imagine there’s a string on the top of your head that’s being pulled upward gently. You should literally feel a little taller by an inch or so as your spine is no longer compressed.
Figuring out how to properly lengthen your spine, your neck, and your limbs will help you to fold deeper over time and find stability in difficult balances. You’ll get closer to the full expression of poses, and your muscles will get longer and more toned to hold the posture.
(Don’t tell my mother that she’s right, but it also helps everyday posture, i.e. slouching.)