Critical Alignment Therapy & Yoga
Institute, Moscow
What is Critical Alignment
Therapy and Yoga
The primary goal of Critical Alignment Therapy and Yoga (CAT/Y) is to mobilize the spinal column, restoring crucial mobility and balance. When the spine is mobile, it interacts with gravity, which means that we can release tension even during activity. Tension does not even build up in the arms, shoulders and legs when they are properly connected with the spine.
There are many benefits coming from relaxation. Relaxation gives us access to our primary strength system: the proper alignment of the spinal column
When the spinal vertebrae are in alignment, the deeper muscle layers (called postural muscles) are activated. These small muscles connect vertebrae and keep them mobile. They are the strongest muscles in our body and they never get tired. On the contrary, they supply the body with energy. Without this alignment, we use the superficial muscles (called movement muscles), which are designed for short bursts of activity, to hold our posture. Unlike postural muscles, movement muscles fatigue, and the constant load causes them to become strained, limiting our freedom of movement.

There are two strength systems in our bodies. One becomes active through relaxation, the other through will power. When they interact during the practise of yoga, sport and daily movements, we prevent injury and, in therapy classes, the healing process begins. There is one 'but': it only works well when we organise our movements in the right order. Our postural strength must be activated before we add our will power strength to it. Then we are safe.
Stress is the primary cause of the gradual build up of tension. Stress begins as a psychological phenomenon. The moment the brain detects stressful circumstances (regardless of whether they are true or false), survival strategies take over. We fight, flee or freeze. These strategies may also appear during yoga practise, because we feel pain when we stretch stiff muscles or release tension in our spine and joints. Many people fight with their shoulders, lower back or hamstrings during a yoga class. Despite effort and good intentions, this stressful behaviour blocks the process toward deep release of tension.

Stress, and, therefore, our survival strategies, increases muscle tension and makes us physically numb. We dissociate more and more from our bodies. The resulting tension makes parts of our bodies become immobile. The absence of movement makes us lose the sensory connection with these parts of the body.

This tension and lack of connection have an enormous influence on our emotional lives. We become blocked from our internal feelings, our inner worlds. Connective feelings like space, rest, lightness, energy and strength can only be experienced in a sensitive body through breathing in our chest and belly. The tension in our spine interacts with the belly and chest and those sensitive areas become suppressed, as well.
What is the alternative? These feelings—of space, rest, lightness, energy and strength—should be our response, our answer to stressful circumstances in life. We should not lose our own internal relation with space under stressful circumstances. We should not become victims of stress but stay connected with our own feelings of strength. But when these feelings become shallow and meaningless, we become victims of stress instead of knowing how to deal with it.

Restoring mobility to the spine restores the sensitivity in our bodies. Internal feelings can be experienced again to such an extent that our negative survival strategies can dissolve in them. When the body starts to speak its silent, nonverbal language—as it should do and did when we were young—we learn to connect to stressful environments.. Then our practise becomes meditative, and we respond to stress in a nonviolent way.

What is new about CAT-Y

1. Based on tradition and science

▪ CAT/Y has been developed through intensive study of yogic traditions, movement science and modern psychology, and the method uses a novel combination of these disciplines.
▪ In his book of 400+ pages, Gert van Leeuwen provides the philosophical, psychological and scientific background of the method, along with comprehensive, illustrated descriptions of human movement patterns and the exercises and poses themselves.

2. New insight into the body

▪ CAT/Y uses a system of 11 movement chains, based on connections between the bones. By following these sequences in the body, any asana can be constructed in alignment.
▪ The method is based on the notion that the upper back should be straight, rather than curved. The benefits of a straight upper back cascade to the neck, lower back and extremities.
▪ CAT/Y reconnects movement and relaxation through the distinction and differential use of the muscles used to hold our posture and the muscles used for movement.

3. New insight into stress- and trauma release

▪ The root of all tension is in the way we behave in social interactions. Our negative actions and behaviours are directed by old fears, trauma and stress and from the suppression of needs. Suppressed and damaged feelings tighten the body and block the relationship between our bodies and our inner worlds, expressed through connective feelings that are produced by the body: space, rest, relief and so on.
▪ Words cannot replace the experience of suppressed feelings. Therefore, whenever we want to make structural and emotional changes possible, we need to start from the body.

4. New insight into teaching

▪ CAT/Y uses a new, comprehensive, 'problem-oriented' teaching model.
▪ Effective teaching methods create a strong link between active yoga and meditation and support integrating practice with daily life.
▪ The method uses a specific style of language based on relaxation in action.
▪ Classes are built on a systematic and structural approach, in which each element of a lesson forms a coherent part of a larger plan.

5. New tools

Unique and ingenious tools enable mobilisation of inaccessible parts of the body, for example, by releasing tight upper and lower back muscles.

6. New therapy

CAT/Y is a logical extension of yoga, in which students make radical decision about their practices and their lives. This transformation is based on the fact that it is not the teacher or the method that is responsible for the process of healing. Clients themselves are the only ones who can go through their personal, deeper layers of tension that form barriers to relaxation and healing.
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