Alex Atherton, the intrepid director of YYoga Richmond, is the rare male teacher that I’m comfortable with. It’s curious, perhaps, but I like female teachers better. Anyhow, his best classes (I find) are for power and anusara. At this time these two classes are the challenging ones for me, but Alex makes them very mellow. I like the styles a lot, it’s just that some days I’d like to do them without warping my bone structure.
I credit Alex with facilitating my progress. After doing the 30 Day Challenge in August of 2010, everybody that took part would be entered to win a slew of prizes for their participation. I happened to win a 3 Month Pass (whether by luck of the draw of some meddling) and my practice went off the deep end from there. Encouragement, which is relatively abundant in the yoga community, is a huge factor too. That pass was like someone tossed me out of an airplane again with all the exhilaration and fear that goes along with it.
He gets you to push a little further class by class and even though he can make some poses look very easy he doesn’t hide his threshold. Him admitting his difficulty with some of the nuttier poses is refreshing. Some teachers I’ve had in the past made it look as if they were invincible (which I may not doubt), but pointing one’s own wobbliness can do a lot to bolster the confidence and adventurism of others. There’s always a different way to inspire people. Some do superhuman things one after another to get the blood flowing. Others point out the human limits to encourage and lead through prudence.
From what I know, Alex had a major injury years ago. I believe it was to his neck/spine and his healing process eventually moved toward yoga. It’s pretty amazing at how many teachers and students I know who’ve recovered from what would have been debilitating injuries. The snippets of his past life that I’ve gathered are markedly different from what he is (or at least how I see him) now. He sort of saunters around, perhaps wisping even, and can give off a discombobulated feel. Don’t be fooled by his swaying and slow drawl as he’s 100% present. He’s got a quick wit and he’ll bloody well use it.
He renamed one of his classes as “broga” one day. His rationale was that it was quite a sight to see as many as 10 guys in his class (but this is still against 30 women). His said he wasn’t sure how he’d ever react if he walked into a class of just guys, though he’d up to the challenge regardless. His humour is, for lack of a better word, grounded. Nothing really goes over your head since he pokes at things that are happening right in the room. Again, he’s only one of two male teachers that I’m okay with. Nothing against anyone else, but I’ve felt uncomfortable in quite a few other male-lead classes. A big factor is the attitude and personality.
Alex makes sure the atmosphere is super-chill and he won’t go gallivanting into La-La Land with dense scripts or sutras; he keeps his words and sentence structures very clear and concise, so he ain’t a blatherer. His classes are the same way in that you can anticipate and mentally prepare for the next posture and/or relax because there are no surprises. Well, that’s not true. He helped me into a handstand from Hanumanasana on a whim. It caught me by surprise but he wasn’t intrusive nor was he pushy. He knows his yogis and their capabilities and I sometimes think he changes his class on the fly depending on who he sees in class.
He also has a tendency to rearrange mats, placing the advanced kids in the first two rows when they turn their backs. It’s not malicious or anything since he does it to help the class by placing leaders at the front. This way others can get a grip on some advanced postures while those up front are being encouraged to step outside the comfort zone of tucking into the middle/back of the class. He’s one to help others get out there and shine, but without the over-exuberance that can lead to miss-timed jumps or rocky foundations. Alex will remind you to keep a level head and stay in the now so you don’t crash and burn.