October Featured Teacher: Francisca Alexander



How did you start practicing yoga? Tell us about your early yoga experiences.

I felt drawn to yoga for a long time even before taking a class. I bought “ The Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga” by Swami Vishnu-devananda and my curiosity grew. It was in the late 90’s when I signed up for this really chilled out intro to yoga class that was offered at the Open Center when it was located in SoHo. It was held in the evening and we learned basic postures in a cozy environment. The teacher was extremely welcoming and provided an atmosphere of self acceptance. What a blessing. It was so interesting to me that placing the body in these basic postures with attention to breath could have such a great impact. There was a sense of comfort that wrapped me in those classes like a blanket.

When was the moment that you know that Yoga was different or special- more than just another “exercise” or way to be physical?

The experience of the powerful science of yoga was immediate in those early classes and continues in my practice. In those early days I felt such a new overall sense of well being. I felt awake in my body, my breath was fuller, my mind was calmer and when it wasn’t I got glimpses that I could observe the mental chatter. I am not the mind…..thank goodness!! There is so much wisdom and help in the texts of The Yoga Sutras and the Hatha Yoga Pradipika for understanding yoga as a practice to discipline the mind.  Those ancient texts on the science of yoga really blew my mind when I first read them.

What is your favorite and least favorite pose and why?

Being upside down is fun whether it’s balancing on the head, hands or forearms. Looking at the world from a different viewpoint helps with a fresh perspective internally as well. Those postures have taught me a lot about being playful and having patience. The asana with the best lessons for me of finding comfort while experiencing discomfort has been Halasana (Plough Pose). My back tends to feel tight in the posture along with feelings of claustrophobia that show up from time to time.

What practices do you use to feel more peaceful, present and content?

Meditating daily on the cushion as well as trying to stay present in daily activities.   Surfing is on the list too!

 What Yama or Niyama do you find most helpful in your daily life and why?

Satya (truthfulness) is essential in promoting harmony within and in relationship to others. It feels clean when the thoughts, words and deeds are in alignment.

 How do incorporate Ahimsa in your Yoga practice and into your life?

I work on being compassionate and patient with myself on the mat and developing the same qualities in my interactions in the world. The practice of nonviolence cultivates universal love. Good stuff!