An occasional series reviewing the offerings of yoga teachers online
REVIEW: Alexandria Crow’s DeConstruct to ReConstruct
One of the premises behind this course is that many of the postures used in popular yoga classes – including many considered basic – require our joints to work beyond their functional range, or that for which the body has evolved to be healthy. Doing this repeatedly has the potential to injure you, as many modern yogis have discovered and are increasingly admitting.
Indeed, Alexandria Crow, pictured, was one. She was a popular mainstream teacher of the kind of flashy vinyasa-style practice that is the bread and butter of the studio industry, twice even gracing the cover of the magazine Yoga Journal. Her musculoskeletal system eventually ended up so damaged that at one stage she was unable to walk – not what yoga was designed to do.
The year-long DeConstruct to ReConstruct course is the result of her intensive anatomical and neurophysiological studies to figure out what went wrong, and how to practise yoga safely. It’s all there in the name: you learn to deconstruct the major yoga postures that crop up in lessons these days, precisely identifying where they might be resulting in potentially harmful stresses to the joints, then reconstruct them in a functional way.
The course is delivered via online webinars, each lasting up to two hours or so. You can watch live when they’re delivered if the time zones work for you (Alex is in the US in California) or view a recording later. To start with, there are five introductory sessions once a week for five weeks, before the course settles into a long-haul pace of a monthly update for a year. The sessions are backed by a comprehensive PDF work manual, links to related material online and a closed Facebook group for discussions with Alex and other students.
At first glance, the material seemed a little daunting to me. The deconstruct/reconstruct process is quite technical to start with – you measure the angles of joints with a piece of equipment called a goniometer and compare what you find with ranges considered functional. Once you’ve done it a few times, though, the process rapidly becomes intuitive (to the point where I soon stopped using my goniometer); when you know what functional is, you know what its opposite is and can investigate how to work with it.
There’s a lot of anatomy in the course, but it really comes to life because it’s 100 per cent functional. My previous studies in this area have been very dry and textbook driven, primarily learning the names of bones and muscles and describing their actions in academic language. Here, however, you learn how it all works in real humans, an absolute joy for someone who previously hated studying anatomy and did so only to pass exams. Clearly, if you’ve done some anatomy before it’ll help, but I don’t think it’s essential for this course – this is what it teaches you.
All very geeky sounding, I know, but the material is delivered in a such a relaxed, natural way that the process of learning it is extremely enjoyable. Each webinar is a skilful mix of scientific content interwoven with discussions applying it in a very practical way to all areas of yoga, from body politics and accessibility to class planning and the ancient philosophy underlying the practice.
As the course progresses, in fact, you begin to realise that fundamentally Alex is trying to teach yoga in a way that honours its roots. You don’t get the Yoga Sutras rammed down your throat, but their influence is ever present on a subtle level essentially exploring how, if we’re going to do an asana, or postural, practice, we can do it in a way that reflects the philosophy of yoga.
For me, one of the most striking features of the course is how much individual attention you receive from Alex. Get in touch with questions, or simply observations, whether on the course’s Facebook group or directly, and she invariably gets back to you rapidly and with full engagement. This is in marked contrast to a couple of other online courses I’ve done where the teachers remain somewhat distant. I have nothing against that, provided the teaching material is good. I’m simply making the point that the personal touch is what has elevated this course for me, leaving me feeling like I have an actual yoga teacher rather than simply a video online.
Another thing that makes this course stand out is its extended nature, so you are learning at a high level for a whole year. Depending on how much homework you choose to do, you could in fact make this a full-time pursuit. Alex has been doing the course for a few years and it’s freshly recorded each time, so definitely not a simple video dump. Its live nature also means it’s constantly evolving, inevitably getting better as Alex’s knowledge and experience grow.
Alex has a cool merry-pranksters vibe; fun, provocative, compassionate and, in an understated way, radical. There is a bit of a trend in the yoga industry of teachers passing themselves off as rebels reinventing the practice for the modern world; in fact, much of it is mere marketing, a rebranding of studio-driven yoga adding on extra layers and gimmickry. Alex’s style of radical is in fact a simple return to the roots of the practice, in a very smart, scientific way.
To my eye, thus far, she appears to be the genuine article; she’s not trying to sell a branded system or method as some do, but encourages her students to think for themselves and use what she offers however it suits them best.
I am still figuring out what that means for me, but I have been truly inspired by what I am learning on the DeConstruct to ReConstruct course, which has utterly transformed both my practice and teaching. It’s been one of the most engaging learning experiences of my life. I had no idea studying online could be this good; worth every penny.
NOTE: This course is geared very much towards teachers, but I believe it would work for any serious student of yoga who is interested in examining the practice on a deeper level. If this is you, I’d recommend getting in touch with Alex to discuss whether it might suit you.
- The next DeConstruct to ReConstruct course, costing $450, begins in July 2019; if you’re interested, you can put yourself on the waiting list here. You can learn more about the course on the info page here.
- If you’re interested in seeing how this kind of teaching plays out in practice, Alexandria Crow has a collection of excellent guided yoga classes here.
Martin Yelverton is a yoga teacher and Pilates instructor working in East London; more information here.