Alignment Principles for your Asana Practice

I do a fair amount of anusara yoga in my personal yoga practice. Although I am not ayoga, Anusara, alignment, certified anusara teacher, I often use the anusara principles of alignment because they make sense to me. By using these principles in your practice you allow the energy to flow more freely through your body which in turn allows you to open more, to come deeper into poses than perhaps you could before, and align more deeply with nature and spirit.Anusara is known to some as the 'heart yoga' because of the philosophy behind it. It is based on the idea that we are all co-participants with the Supreme; it is to step into alignment with the Supreme and to flow with Divine energy. The poses are meant to be heart-oriented -  done from the inside out - and are meant to be expressions of our divine nature. There are five principles of alignment, described here:

Opening to Grace This principle asks that you allowing you to align with spirit with an open mind and a soft heart. In doing so, you begin to feel your inner self light up just as you begin to soften your outer being. By softening in this way you begin to let go of ideas of what you should be able to do in favor of what feels right for you.
Muscular Energy This principle asks that you draw into your core by engaging different muscle groups. In anusara there are three focal points that are used to draw energy into from the periphery. The pelvic focal point is located in the core of the pelvis and is engaged by drawing energy upward at the pelvic floor. Especially useful for standing and seated poses, this may be the most used focal point in a typical asana class. The heart focal point is located at the bottom of the heart. Think about drawing energy inward from the abdominals and chest toward the heart area. This focal point is especially useful in arm balancing. The last focal point is the upper palate. Here we draw our energy into the palate to make our neck longer and stronger. This is used whenever the head is in contact with the earth such as in sirsasana, headstand. All three focal points are used in a variety of poses.
Inner Spiral The inner spiral principle asks that we rotate the inner thighs toward the back plane of the body, move the thighs back and widen through the thighs and pelvis. Inner spiral is also used in the arms whenever the hands or forearms are in contact with the floor. This spiral brings the forearms toward each other at the front. It is an isometric contraction at the forearms.
Outer Spiral The outer spiral draws the legs closer to each other by drawing the tailbone and thighs slightly forward and rotating the legs outward so the hips and outer thigh draws toward the back plane of the body. In the arms upper arms move out away from neutral; this allows the heart to open more freely.By engaging both inner and outer spiral in poses, you allow muscles, bones and other tissues to line up in a way that brings more freedom to the body. Often you can open more deeply in a pose when you are aligned in this way.
Organic Energy Just as muscle energy draws inward, organic energy expands. When we draw toward our core first and align our limbs properly with inner and outer spiral we can then expand our energy outward in bliss.  This is where your flexibility and freedom are expressed.