Kevin Saunders and the path to Yoga and Alexander Technique Teaching
I’ve been on this journey for a while.
When I was around 13, my father published a book. He shared his editor with Wilfred Barlow. And she gave him a copy of Barlow’s ‘The Alexander Principle’. My 13-year-old self read it with curiosity and not a little bafflement. It was full of somewhat disturbing photos of semi naked people knackering themselves. One of an elderly dentist hunched over his patients particularly stood out.
Eight years later, after I left uni and decided to be a classical guitar teacher, I started taking a lot of Alexander technique lessons. I went to Fran Robinson in Hampstead. I remember being impressed with her teaching skills, she not only helped me enormously in my body, she was able to engage me as an equal and explain what she was doing very clearly. My motivation for taking lessons was performance anxiety. I gave a guitar concert in a church and somewhere in the middle my legs began shaking so badly that I nearly couldn’t play.
From my lessons with Fran I discovered that when I become really alive, my body changes, I simultaneously fully inhabit my body and at the same time my body disappears and reappears in a different guise. I become freer to fully inhabit the full range of my lived experience. Sometimes I’m light and easy, sometimes solid and impenetrable, sometimes in my periphery and my responsive contact with the world, sometime deeply in my centre and untroubled by my surroundings. Yoga practice becomes satisfying and at times, even easy.
While I was working in an office job in the 90s, I had done a Japanese form of yoga called Oki yoga. It was miles away from the stuff you see in normal classes, we did lots of hands on partner work with each other. We played at interacting with our environment in lots of different ways. We learned about food. Every now and then we did some of the usual yoga poses. I loved it, it was full of quirky people who were shiatsu practitioners or body therapists, my kind of people. Then the main teacher died unexpectedly and his wife took over. I wanted to explore the bigger world of yoga outside Oki yoga; and I decided to do the British Wheel of Yoga training.
I was enthusiastic at the start of the BWY training but grew less so as time went on. It was a good foundation course for starting to teach yoga but left me wanting a more personalized approach.
I decided to explore a small number of poses in much greater depth and figured out lots of things by myself in the process. I read widely in the field of embodied movement, particularly stuff outside yoga. My reading list included Liz Koch, Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen, lots of Alexander Technique books, Feldenkrais and many others. I went to workshops from disciplines other than yoga and I regularly brought my poses to my Alexander Technique lessons. I had one to one lessons with different yoga teachers in London so I could explore my issues in greater depth.
My teaching is more about exploration and working with students as they are, rather than delivering set content. I see the poses as families of shapes that are expressed differently according to the person they live in.
My body training has come around a full circle back to the Alexander Technique. Training with Bruce Fertman and the Alexander Alliance as an Alexander teacher from 2013 to 2017 has helped me bridge a lot gaps between a form based Alexander Technique approach which I started with and the more experimental bodywork I had been doing for a while.
I look forward to telling you more about this approach in order to serve you and bring you on to next level: whether that is in your mat practice, your everyday life or if you are a teacher; your yoga teaching.