Yoga and the Alexander Technique

Many of my students enjoy yoga and I've found it beneficial to their Alexander learning to embrace that. It's been a while since I've personally done yoga, which I did as part of Tai Chi, but finding common ground is much more helpful than only focusing on differences.


If you already apply the Alexander Technique to your yoga, what's your experience? leave a comment in the video. 


Slight verbal slip at 5:55, I meant to say we top up our unconscious competence by working on our conscious competence.


A full transcript available under the video.


Today we're going to discuss yoga. We're going to discuss it in relation to the Alexander Technique  because, well, I'm a full-time teacher of the Alexander Technique. My name's Adrian, and should you be interested in online lessons do get in touch. So, a question I get asked occasionally, if I meet someone new and they ask what I do for a living and I say the Alexander Technique, they say something like "Oh isn't that like yoga?", and I quietly have to say no, really,  not quite.  And this is true, it's not,  but to be more helpful I think it's useful to look for the similarities in things, rather than the differences. 


I think we often emphasize the differences between things for marketing reasons, well not entirely, there are genuine differences as well, but I think it's helpful to look for the similarities, because I do believe that the Alexander Technique can help you do your yoga better. I don't see them as things that you do one or the other, you can do both, and you can use the Alexander Technique to help with your yoga.


So "what is Yoga?" I think is a good place to start, because I think many people think of it as some sort of stretch fest, and that's really not what it's about. What are the derivations of yoga? Well, in India it was a spiritual practice, and I don't want to go too far down the rabbit hole of what that means, but what's a yogi trying to achieve? They're trying to achieve a sense of presence, a quietness within. I'm using that as a very basic level of the spirituality within us,  that sense of presence and quietness. And they're adding these poses in because it makes it more difficult to find that presence,  so if you can do these poses with presence you've strengthened the quality of that presence, you're not so likely to be wrong-footed in everyday life with your sense of presence because you've strengthened that quality. And the more presence and quietness you can find, the easier those poses become.  And that's the parallel with the Alexander Technique, that we are also looking for a sense of quietness, we call it inhibition, and we recognise that when you move, that if there's not that quietness there, we tend to interfere more with the movement.  And then we practice movement to see if we can remain calm and quiet, to build that quality of presence, or inhibition as we call it, so that we interfere less in our movements.


So that's the parallel, you can you can do it through yoga or you can do it through Alexander.  The difference is that there aren't specific Instructions in yoga on not being reactive, there aren't specific observations of what that reaction looks like, what that interference looks like.  It's kind of "hope it comes out in the wash"  just through experience.  And I do think there's a problem with group psychology in a yoga class, such that it's often taught in gyms here, with people in their best lycra, and maybe competing a bit with the person next to them, let alone competing with themselves. A teacher can't always keep their eye on everyone. Even if it was taught well in an ashram somewhere in India, that same group psychology is still potentially there, and we want to realise that yoga is none of that., you're not competing.  So when you do your yoga you're learning about yourself, and you're using these poses to see if they upset you ,or not. That's my take on it anyway. Obviously the movement itself is beneficial, and is beneficial in itself.


In the Alexander we have no formal movements, we just use generic sitting and standing, and even to go as low down as a squat, because it's normal functional movement,  we're more interested in general functioning.  But we can take the same principle, can I take my Alexander inhibition, not reacting, and apply that principle to my yoga.  And do I recognize in my yoga what those reactions are, and what I can do to minimize those reactions, so you can do your yoga better. I am a big fan of my clients doing yoga because it gives them something to apply their Alexander technique too, it's something they're already interested in, it's something they do regularly. Because I don't think you have to go around trying to Alexander your way through every waking moment. We want to build some qualities, and strengthen those qualities in our presence, and our movement, so we don't have to think about it when we go about our daily lives. It becomes a new unconscious or subconscious habit. The thing is,  life being what it is, we do get a bit stressed sometimes, we have to top up our unconscious competence with conscious competence, as it's called sometimes, to maintain unconscious competence.


And yoga is great time to do that. It could be running, it could be anything frankly, it doesn't really matter, but why not yoga? And I think those similarities, if you recognize those similarities instead of getting too caught up in jargon, or would a yogi describe it in that way or not? Would an Alexander teacher described it in a yogi way or not? I don't think it's really the point here. They're human experiences, and if we interface with that, we say" can I  improve something from this?". And I just think that there's part of the Alexander Technique that does drill down into some observations of what interference looks like that's unfortunately, I think, it's slightly missing from yoga. I get a feeling it's not just yoga, other modalities as well. I've seen it in Tai Chi, I used to do a lot of Tai Chi. You can develop these same qualities of flow in movement and presence through Tai Chi as you can in yoga, but that same observation isn't there. Some people through experience and practice just seemed to get through it, and others struggle.  And for those that struggle the Alexander will go,  well this is why you're struggling, this is the hurdle you need to get over, or maybe this is the hurdle you need to get rid of all together. And that's why the Alexander Technique could be very useful to improving something like yoga, but why yoga itself has its own parallels to the Alexander Technique, and by recognising that maybe you'll get more benefit from it. I'd be interested to know what your thinking on that is?

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