Written by Molly Kampf
Yoga provides practitioners with a form of ritual, movement, stillness, challenge, a reminder to breathe while bringing attention to physical, mental and spiritual self. An underlying practice in Alexander Technique can increase benefits and awareness in this supportive atmosphere. Alexander Technique will help the yogi dive even deeper into awareness, bring to the forefront how you execute and talk about movement, what you are unknowingly holding and find places within the body and mind that are hidden to you and how they can be integrated.
Alexander Technique offers varied language to incorporate into yoga teaching. A yoga teacher presents the directions of movement, encouraging integration, awareness of sensation and effort without overtaxing. Unfortunately, what works for one student does not for another. The most integrated yogi can find themselves describing Warrior Pose the same way every time. Or use a catch phrase that does not quite define individual personal experience. Having more resources will enhance how to talk about movement and bring attention to wording that causes excess effort.
Alexander Technique can expand understanding of personal anatomy and kinesiology, often beginning with the relationship between the head and neck. The head guides our body through primary control, therefore this place of movement is an excellent starting point. The top joint in your body, where your head meets your spine is called the Atlanto-Occipital (A-O) Joint. This joint and the small area surrounding it has many important roles: the carriage of the weight of the head, the balance mechanisms in the inner ear, jaw movement, passage for the spinal cord to the brain and nerves to our body. Changes in the A-O joint affect the response throughout the neck, arms, back and rest of the body. If you tighten this area, your body responds similarly. If you are able to release and create ease, then your body will respond with less effort to execute the same movements.
It is common thinking that humans need to work to remain upright. On the contrary our body does this by itself through coordination and balance. We tend to interfere by thinking we are helping but are actually holding. Imbalances develop due to a life of furniture not made for our size, hiding our stature, watching others or remaining in a habitual posture, just to name a few I often address.
Many typical issues surrounding the A-O joint include:
Lack of movement
When these issues occur at the A-O joint, they will affect how the entire body responds and relates in yoga class and in life. Refining sensation in this area to integrate continued attention of non-doing takes practice. Time well spent, and yoga can offer a form to include this responsiveness. Three words that are important to understand when changing the way you think about movement are:
Sensation-our felt sense: proprioception (self) and kinesthetic awareness (self and environment)
Non-Doing-letting balance happen through homeostasis
Doing-actively forcing something within your body
When you allow your neck to be free from overuse, your A-O joint releases, causing an active change throughout your body. Through hands-on instruction and description with an Alexander Technique teacher, the heightened kinesthetic sensation focused in this area will redefine how you execute any movement and re-shape your yoga practice.
I offer writings to assist students and bring awareness to what the Alexander Technique is. These readings are helpful, but the Alexander Technique is a somatic practice and cannot be learned through reading alone. Working with a teacher in person will bring to life what you have read. There is a progression in the studies where you take what you learn, try it out in life and then bring your experiences back to the studio to continue. This continual attention creates deep integration and physical understanding of how to free holding, misunderstandings and thinking that interferes with good use. Study at Kansas City Alexander Technique will further your practice by finding movement that is otherwise unavailable, provide more flexibility through integration, explore body mapping of muscle location and will address actively stretching muscle instead of ligaments and tendons. Hyperextension in joints will be addressed when present and solutions to overcome the harmful habit offered.
About the teacher:
I began training as a dancer at age 19. I studied the forms: Modern, African, Ballet, Improvisation, Yoga and Pilates. I learned to distinguish between parts of my body, to respond to the space around me, to embody vocal and visual directions. Constant curiosity led me to my first workshop in Alexander Technique, where for the first time, I encountered inner sensing of movement without trying to fix and become something other. I realized that throughout life I created misunderstandings about my body, and I moved following a guide that was inaccurate and opinionated. With the Alexander Technique I was able to identify misunderstandings that caused a shoulder injury and unnecessary holding within my body. It was through the guided hands of an Alexander Technique teacher that I discovered an underlying wisdom within myself before physical execution. This changed my perception of being. I was then able to incorporate my professor’s instructions in a way personal to my sense of self and movement. In Alexander Technique I found a new way of being through felt sensation, not attempting to fill a form and judging the execution. This physical understanding can be a part of any movement; shoveling dirt, factory work, dancing or on the yoga mat.
I trained to teach Alexander Technique upon receiving my BFA. Along with extensive training in Alexander Technique, I have studied Body-Mind Centering®, Developmental Movement, Laban Movement Analysis, Bartenieff Fundamentals and Buddhism. As I continue to seek out more information, I integrate this back into Alexander Technique, which I consider my foundation and a base for anything to follow.