Witold Fitz-Simon recently started teaching his nine-month program that introduces Alexander Technique to yoga teachers. This combination of Alexander and yoga helps instructors develop a non-doing somatic approach to asana, in practice and teaching. Today, Fitz-Simon shares his approach with Utkatasana.
YogaCity NYC: What pose did you choose and why do you like it?
WF-S: I chose Utkatasana (Fierce Pose) because of the relationship between the head, neck, back, and legs. When you get the pose—with your head leading, your back long and wide, and the dynamic opposition of your legs moving away from your torso—you can find an integration of all your limbs with your back. It becomes a poised and balanced place from which you can move into a number of different poses with ease and adaptability.
YCNYC: Describe the anatomy of the first pose and the body parts engaged.
WF-S: In this first variation, the organization of the pose is similar to what is thought of as
the final shape, but the demands placed on the body are less. You can organize your head, back, and legs before having to fully support your weight and raise your arms. You are hinged forward from the hips, which means your head is no longer balanced on the top of your spine, as it might be when you are seated normally. This can reveal where you might be narrowing your back or pulling your front down, or pulling your legs in. You can send your head out and let your whole back lengthen and widen so that your torso can follow your head without interference. You can activate the dynamic oppositions of your
legs—knees forward and away, heels back and down, hips back and up—in such a way
that they will support you better when you are fully on your feet
YCNYC: What body parts are engaged in the second pose?
WF-S: In this second variation, you are up on your legs, but you still have a little bit of
support with your pelvis against the wall, to help with the organization of your legs and
back. With your arms raised horizontally, as they are shown, you have an opportunity to
see what your habit patterns might be around the way you support your arms. Can you
raise your arms while still allowing your neck to be free and your back to be long and
YCNYC: What is the overall effect of the third pose on the body, and what does this
one add to the understanding of the pose, and mind,?
WF-S: Having the arms raised overhead this way gives an additional challenge to the ease
of your neck, the poise of your head, and the length and width of your back. As with any
pose, you have an opportunity to observe what your mental, physical, and behavioral
habits are. You have the opportunity to let them go and to redirect them to find a more
expansive and easeful way of thinking, doing, and being.
YCNYC: Tell us a little bit about your style, where you teach, and if you have any
new workshops we would like to attend.
WF-S: The form of my style of teaching comes from years of studying with Donald Moyer at The Yoga Room, Berkeley. My classes feature short movement sequences, longer holdings, and the creative use of props. I use that structure to explore the primary coordination of the head-neck-back relationship as taught by the Alexander Technique (I am a trained Alexander Technique teacher), and principles of developmental movement and embodied anatomy. It is ultimately a somatic style, so the focus is the experience of the student as we explore all sorts of different poses, and the relationship between the body and mind as we do them.
Witold Fitz-Simon teaches weekly classes at Yoga Union, in Manhattan, and at