When Alexander Technique Clashes With Kundalini Yoga

I just completed my twelfth week of training to become a teacher of Alexander Technique (AT). I am one-ninth of my way through the program.

I heard today from a great AT guru that I have "sensitive kinesthesia."

My knowledge of the Technique and my knowledge of yoga are shallow, which is why I have not seen serious clashes between these two practices.

Until today.

I met a woman this week whose neck was not her own. She’s had multiple surgeries and had stuff implanted into her neck and as a result she has to be very careful not to strain it.

Prior to surgery, she was an avid practicioner of Kundalini Yoga. After the surgery, she said she had to cut it out because it put too much strain on the neck.

I didn’t think much when she said this. I was a little miffed that she couldn’t join me at yoga class but I moved on with my life.

This was stupid of me because one of the main precepts of Alexander Technique is avoiding strain to the neck. Anything forbidden to this woman because of the strain it places on her neck is forbidden to me too.

I have my priorities. I have 20 years and most of my sense of self invested in Orthodox Judaism so it comes first in my life. I have about $5,000 invested in Alexander Technique, so it comes second in my life. I have $1,000 invested in yoga, which is about one-fifth of what I have spent on my car in the past year, so it comes fourth (being a kind and good person is in my top ten!).

So when yoga and the Technique clash, I side with the Technique because I spend more money on it.

Can’t get fairer than that.

Today at Alexander Technique training, I asked my teachers what they thought of "Breath of Fire" — a rapid breathing technique in Kundalini Yoga. Breath work is a big part of this discipline.

The teachers had me sit on the floor and do some "breath of fire."

They noticed that when I did it, I constricted my neck and hunched my shoulders and did other things completely against the teachings of F.M. Alexander.

One teacher mentioned a famous Alexander Technique instructor who recommended against all forms of breath work.

I did a couple of yoga poses that troubled me and my A.T. teachers pointed out how these poses tightened my neck and constricted my back and chest (very bad things in the Alexander world).

One teacher said that when I have better use, I might be able to do more yoga stuff without hurting myself, but at my current level of Alexander Technique expertise, such yoga meant trouble for me.

I found this shocking. After twelve weeks of three hours a day of rigorous performance of the Technique, sometimes I feel like I’m going to burst I’m pushing so hard, I was appalled to find that I am not yet regarded as a master.

This useism is just the latest example of white male cultural imperialism. It damaged my self-esteem which in turn shortened my neck and back and caused me to narrow my shoulders and gulp for air like the most primitive Aboriginee.

When I went to yoga class today, I skipped all the breath work. I skipped the poses that weren’t kosher according to F.M. Alexander. And I skipped all the stuff that was forbidden by Orthodox Judaism.

As a result, I lay on my mat for an hour and listened to the gongs inside and outside of my head.

That is all that’s left to me after I pay complete obeisance to Moses and Alexander (and give ol’ Yogi Bhajan the short stick).

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been noted in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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