Applying Alexander Technique To Yoga
“How you think is how you move,” said Ann Rodiger, a yoga teacher who has taught the Alexander Technique for 30 years. “If you think you’re heavy, you’ll be heavy. If you think you’re light, you’ll be light.”
By approaching the body as a dynamic organism, Alexander Technique can remove obstacles ranging from writer’s block to jammed prana, Rodiger, also the founder of Balance Arts Center in Midtown, informed me.
Alexander is the focus of the center’s fourth annual Freedom to Move conference, which will be held May 15–17. Offerings will range from dance technique to yoga, tai chi to sipping tea.
Developed by F. M. Alexander in the 1890s, the technique was first applied to elocution. Later, Alexander introduced these principles to actors and the medical community. A major theme is that the head leads and the body follows. It can also be explained as a non-doing, a re-learned ability to “allow” natural patterns, she said.
“We often put pressure on ourselves by developing poor postural habits that allow us to collapse, dropping the weight of the head on the neck, down the spine and through the whole body,” Rodiger said. “By releasing the downward pressure at the top of the structure, the body is allowed to lengthen and widen.”
The Friday session will consist of an Alexander introduction and social hour from 6:45pm–8pm. Saturday’s all-day courses will include Yoga and the Primary Control: Poses as Procedures and What Do I Do with My Head? Yoga and the Alexander Technique. The afternoon will end with a performance and discussion.
Sunday’s 9pm–3pm sessions will include Rodiger’s Guided Improvisation with a Focus on Inhibition. Geared toward students and teachers of dance and movement, the conference will enable networking and meaningful conversations related to Alexander Techniaue.
“There’s a sense of discovery in these sessions that will be a lot of fun,” said Rodiger, whose
teachers will travel from as far as Amsterdam.
While most of the conference is dedicated to dance and movement arts, Alexander Technique can be applied to simple activities, like walking and sitting at a computer. Some practitioners have used the technique to alleviate TMJ. For yogis, it can provide balance and integration. It can also work with thoughts, to change negative actions.
“Alexander is a fundamental aspect of how we move all the time,” Rodiger said. “One thing yogis can learn from it is the sense of flow. I see people in yoga making those shapes and trying to push themselves into ways that their body doesn’t necessarily want to go to.”
In Down Dog, for example, some students lock knees and shoulders. They are in the position, but they may miss the connectivity that comes from lengthening the joints and back. As a dancer, Rodiger was almost too flexible. Alexander helped her to control her flailing limbs.
“I had hypermobile joints, which means I had too many choices,” she said. “Alexander helped me organize and align myself. I was flexible, but it didn’t serve me.”
Rodiger started her own Alexander teacher training course, 12 years ago, at the Balance Arts Center. She has taught extensively in Europe and the United States. In New York, she has led classes at The Juilliard School and The City University of New York.
Cost of the Freedom to Move conference is $250 by May 1, and $275 after May 1, with special rates for students with current IDs. Individual sessions are $45.