Teacher of the Month: Alison McLean
Alison is a doctor of physical therapy, certified Yoga teacher and teaches Happy Back Yoga classes and Yoga Therapy workshops at Prana.
How did you get into teaching Yoga?
I fell in love with Yoga in the early 2000s but was always intimidated of teaching Yoga. However, combining Physical Therapy and Yoga always has had a strong pull with me, in fact this was part of the reason I went back to school for my Doctorate in PT. My mentor at the time encouraged me to complete a Yoga Teacher Training so I could formally combine Yoga and Physical Therapy. I got certified through Prana Yoga’s 200-hour Teacher Training with Gerhard in 2012. The training really changed and evolved my life in a such a positive way.
Being a doctor of physical therapy you bring a unique approach added value for yoga to yoga. How has your training and work as a PT influenced you as a yoga student and teacher?
My PT training has taught me to slow down my practice and really evaluate how I am moving. I encourage my students to do the same. All of us have patterns of moving, some are functional and some dysfunctional. In a Yoga class, if we just go through the motions, then we always move through our familiar patterns. But, if we slow down and focus on the breath and alignment, we can teach the body to move in new ways. This will help heal any injury or prevent future ones down the road.
What does your own practice look like?
My own practice is continually evolving. Especially now following pregnancy and an cesarean. I had to let go of “I will get back to” and just embrace a new practice without forcing. It is such a gift to give life, so I want to respect my body where it is now. And, truthfully being a new mom, any time on the mat feels good right now. Even if this time is a short 15-20 minutes or a partner practice with baby. Someday I’ll hop back into my Ashtanga class again when the time is right. Currently I think my body is still healing from the surgery, so I am being a little more gentle. Plus, since I’m hyper mobile in many joints, the strengthening from holding poses longer is very helpful.
Do you incorporate yoga in your work as a physical therapist when treating clients?
Yes, I love adding Yoga to physical therapy work. Sometimes it’s just an intro to Yoga or sometimes the session is mostly Yoga. It depends on the patient’s goals and desires.
Besides seeing private clients as a physical therapist and yoga instructor you also teach public yoga classes and workshops, as well as anatomy trainings. What fascinates you about anatomy?
I am an anatomy nerd. The body fascinates me, it is so complex. However long you study anatomy, you can never know it all. Science is always discovering something new, either a new connection, function or even part. When you think you have finally got it, then something new is added to the mix changing everything. This keeps you on your toes and is forever evolving. The workshops I teach are just an extension to this knowledge combination. The workshop in June will focus on the Neck, Upper Back and Shoulders. With all the advances in technology we seemed to be glued to our devices, myself included. This posture can lead to lack of movement in some areas of the upper, back and chest, and poor positioning of the neck. We will use the Yoga Wall to reverse the effects of sitting and hunching to lengthen the spine and improve alignment. This will relieve a lot of tension in the neck, and top of the shoulders.
Who are your favorites teachers who most inspire you?
Some of the teachers who most inspire me and I have studied with are Judith Hansen Lasater, Ginger Garner, Roger Cole, Shelly Prosko, Jules Mitchel and Neil Pearson.
Join Alison’s Happy Back Yoga Wall classes on Wednesdays at 10:00am and Tuesdays at 7:30pm.
Her next Yoga Therapy workshop “Free your Upper Back, Neck & Shoulders” will be June 5 at 2-4pm.