When Conforming is Good.

photoFor most of my life I knew that conforming was not ideal. Creativity and vision are ideal. But in asana practice, I’m learning that there are archetypes that help us stay internally spacious, buoyant, and healthy. I began studying with Nevine and Abbie at Katonah Yoga this year, and now I understand that conforming to the archetype of a well-aligned form is actually the best idea for this body. Why?

We all have personal habits. Not just our love of chocolate, coffee, tobacco, (name yours here), but habits in our yoga practice. My left hand turns out. My left knee wanders in lunge. My right shoulder is on its own trip for decades, making me think I’ll just never have real range there. (I was wrong – a few months of practicing reverse namaste and I’m back.)

The stuff I “do” blindly, when I’m not paying attention – that’s my first nature.  Our first nature is where we go first, our subconscious, the way we cope.

What I’m learning now is that good alignment, in combination with internal calibration, informs our second nature. The Katonah Method utilizes our imagination to map our body within the grid of a specific archetypal, geometrically proportioned form. Once I see my body superimposed on that imaginal map, it’s clear where my propensities are, and where my work is.

What’s more is that this body map reveals a clear emotional map, affording us information about how our theories and our thinking are actually shaping our bones. With this knowledge, we arrange our bodies to harmonize our organic function. This harmony affords us the benefit of both aligning and calibrating the internal landscape of our body/mind. So when we conform to that archetype, we create a good strong housing for our organs, and we can feel more dimensionality within our form. More fullness, more health, more clarity, more capacity. More bounce. That’s when we have access to our highest vision. As my teacher says, when we have everything sorted out foundationally, we can “rise up into the view.” See it all, and stay steady.

But that creation and cultivation of a second nature is not natural, easy, or free. It takes effort to clean up personal habits and preferences, take the correct form and catch a full breath of true potential. It mirrors what we do in coaching work with the Handel Group – when we clean up our habits we can glimpse our second nature – how we wish to be with regards to certain areas of our lives. It all fits.

In practice, first comes good structure. Good foundation. Strong bones. Well-measured placements of feet and hands. Good connections, bones in sockets. Which leads to good circulation, and well-organized neurology. How? Good alignment yields good relationships amongst organs. Well-functioning organs means a calm mind. A calm mind yields an available heart.

In practical terms, set your foundation well. Feel how your hands and feet relate to your organs and notice how the external architecture translates into a full feeling of vitality internally. More stability gives us more range. Cleaner angles give us richer curves in our postures. So we don’t just hold our poses, we conform to the archetypes, clean up the lines, and become more buoyant – even as we experience more stability. And we don’t just open up, we release what needs to released, then fill up. The postures are ultimately pure nourishment for us. More on that in a future post.

For more on Katonah Yoga, read their blog posts, take their classes and workshops – superb teachers offering profoundly helpful wisdom for our daily lives.

Thank you Bill Gluck for your wisdom and contribution to this post and this student. Thank you Danielle Rosati for your persistence of vision and generosity of spirit. 



  1. Laurie Mortrude says:

    … this piece about conforming and alignment and paying attention in asana is very helpful – “good alignment gives us a second nature” – that really resonated with me, getting out of the “automatic” reflexive kind of thinking to a “second ” nature, a more intuitive nature. also, the thought that a calm mind yields an available heart… beautiful.
    Thank you.

  2. Ty for sharing your wisdom!❤️

  3. Your teaching makes my heart sing Elena! Thank you so much for opening up my heart and mind to so many new and wonderful growth opportunities. Through you, I’ve done some work with the Handel Group (love what it’s done for me). I’ve also been really enjoying taking classes with you through YogaGlo. I believe that some of the teaching you are learning at Katonah Yoga is coming through in your newest classes. Thanks for sharing so much of yourself, your transparency. In doing that, you lead the rest of us to growth too! xo

  4. Rima Rabbath says:

    This is brilliant Elena. Oh, how we are programmed to feel that conformity or foundational structure or alignment with Mother Nature are a threat to our being when they are actually there to give us a glimpse of our potential, a taste of the freedom that lies within boundaries – true freedom that is…

  5. This is a very thought provoking piece and after digesting it couple of times I started to think about how this relates to the pace of practice. While there is a time and place for a very fast paced asana practice, giving yourself or your students time to find that alignment to create the space and second nature would seem to require a consciousness to slow things down. This idea resonates with me and I have always felt more internally connected during a slow flow vinyasa practice versus the sensation of just trying to keep up. Pace is relative and each must their right fit at the right moment, but this post has helped me put words to feelings and experiences and prompts me to explore further. Thank you Elena!

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