Embodied Yogis

The Alexander Technique and Yoga

yoga and AT photo from MYC

One definition of yoga is to unite or yoke- mind and body, heart and mind, self and spirit. This uniting is an integration of the many parts of ourselves to the greater world and even to the universe! When we feel disconnected in some way, it is often the parts of ourselves crying out for harmony. It’s easy to see how life pulls us apart in many directions every day. This creates disharmony, angst, and physical and mental stress, which in turn can manifest in pain, illness, and dis-ease. You’ve heard it all before? Well, the Alexander Technique, like yoga, enables the parts of you to communicate and coordinate. Through mindful self-observation it’s possible to change, allowing the mind and body to organize and let go of unnecessary tension and stress. The Alexander Technique is a technique that   underlies all other techniques. It is a way of being, an attitude that supports efficient and comfortable movement in any activity.

Using Tadasana, or Mountain pose as an example, picture yourself standing, with hands in prayer position at heart center. Are your legs squeezing together and taut? Are your hands pressed tightly together? Are you holding and squeezing your shoulder blades into the back? Is your neck tense and jaw clenched? Do you NEED that much tension to have integrity in this pose? Effort and tension are not evil; they are necessary, but in the right amount and place, and for the right amount of time. The key is conscious choice in distributing our tension intelligently, so that the whole body shares the effort of the pose to create what in Sanskrit is called ‘sthirasukha’, steady alertness/lightness and comfort. Now, returning to Mountain pose, this time with an awareness of openness and stability in the legs, the pathway leading to the feet and into the ground, our ultimate support structure. Introduce a gentle smile to the face and feel the softening of the eyes, cheeks, skull and jaw, neck, freeing the breath. Bring your attention to your hands and lengthen and extend your fingers as the hands come together to connect and send energy back and forth.

By balancing musculoskeletal effort with a free and expanded flow of internal energy and breath, yoga asana becomes a harmonizing experience of mind and body. The qualities of strength and resilience are balanced. We can focus and concentrate without the contraction that leads to rigidity. The Alexander Technique teaches you the HOW of organizing your effort so that movement becomes strong and light, integrated and centered. You feel more in control of yourself, more poised, more able to use yourself consciously.

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