A key therapeutic alignment principle is “curvature before length.” This in essence means that we want to get our skeleton into the basic form of its “optimal blueprint” before trying to create length or extension. Making sure the spine has the four curves it is meant to have — the sacral curve is convex, the lumbar curve concave, thoracic curve convex, cervical curve concave — does not only alleviate issues stemming from the spine, but helps the thigh bones fit better into the hip socket and the arm bones into the shoulder sockets.
How do we get curvature before length? It is just doing the Anusara principles in the sequence we are taught them: inner or expanding spiral, as it takes the thighs back, out, and apart, enhances the curve in the lumbar spine. We do inner spiral before outer spiral, which in addition to toning the low back and gluteal muscles, lengthens the low back. We do shoulder loop, which in addition to integrative the shoulders and hugging the shoulder blades onto the back of the heart, provides curve for the cervical spine. We only do skull loop, which lengthens the cervical spine, after we have done the integrating and curve-enhancing action of shoulder loop.
If you think about the shape of the body from that perspective, it makes perfect sense that you would want to shape and integrate before pulling, stretching, or extending. It is very hard to create a curve or integrate something if it is already pulled or stretched to or beyond its limit. In its broadest sense, “curvature before length” serves us the way “start with the foundation” serves us. We get into the right space and shape before going full out. With the open attitude fostered by “first principle” (remember, first principle is always first no matter what is the focus of your class, your practice, or whatever you are doing on or off the mat), the basic alignment must come ahead of striving to expand further into a pose. With curvature before length, we heal and grow. If we try length before curvature, we might feel stretched for a moment, but may feel worse afterwards or will only have temporary relief.