Foundation of Excellence:

Alice Christensen

Alice Christensen is a Yoga teacher with the rare ability to make the often-complex ideas and techniques of Yoga accessible to our Western outlook and lifestyle. For nearly fifty years, she has consistently presented Yoga in a clear, classical manner as a potent avenue for individual inquiry. Alice’s teaching demonstrates that the classical, inner-directed practices of Yoga can be combined with a contemporary American approach, resulting in healthy, creative, clear-minded, and happy individuals.

Yoga entered Alice’s life suddenly and dramatically on a warm summer night in 1952. She awoke in the middle of the night to see a huge column of light at the foot of the bed, filling the room with its radiance. The light had no shape that she could see, but it was rapidly coming closer. In terror, she tried to wake her husband, but was unable to speak or to move. The light advanced and gradually covered her and entered her body. She knew nothing after that and awoke in the morning in what seemed to be a normal state.

As Alice thought over what had happened, she wondered if she had fainted from fear or if it had just been a dream. But, as she put her feet on the floor, the word "Yoga" sprang into her mind. She had never heard the word before.

At first, life seemed to go on as usual for a young wife and mother with two sons — except for the push of the word "Yoga" in the back of her mind. In those days, no one knew much about Yoga. She searched every library near Willoughby, Ohio, including the extensive White Collection in Cleveland. But she found no books on Yoga at all except those written in Sanskrit or German, and she was not fluent in these languages.

People came in dreams and visions to teach her about Yoga and tell her about her life. One man appeared more and more often: He was the great Sivananda, who was then living in Rishikesh. When she got over her fright and accepted his presence, he began teaching her in earnest. After a while, he told her how to find his address and they continued her instruction by mail.

Alice was preparing to go to India to meet and study with him in the early 1960s when word came that he had died. Devastated, Alice tried to give up Yoga, but found that she could not. A few years later, she met Rama, the man who would become her Guru. He was brought to the U.S. by a group of students unknown to Alice; one day she got a telephone call out of the blue from one of them, who asked her to meet Rama at the airport. A beautiful Indian man in a brown bathrobe walked off the plane, came to her, and said, "Alice, I have come to get you." Alice accompanied Rama as often as she could as he visited students in the U.S. When it was time for him to leave, she returned with him to India, to his ashram, which was a simple hut on the banks of the Ganges River at Haridwar, for several months of advanced study and silence. Her story of Yoga in her life and her study with Rama is told in her book The Light of Yoga.

Alice began teaching Yoga as soon as she returned from India, and soon she was lecturing across the country. In the late 1960s, Alice began teaching what would later become her nationally recognized program Easy Does it Yoga, for seniors or others with physical limitations. The program promotes independence and health for the aging population of the United States.

Alice was the first woman to lecture on Yoga at the University of New Delhi and was a delegate to the International Congress of Yoga in New Delhi in 1970. Under Rama’s guidance, the American Yoga Association (then known as The Light of Yoga Society) was formed in the late 1960s —the first nonprofit organization in the United States dedicated to education in Yoga. Rama also supervised the production of the American Yoga Association’s first book, The American Yoga Association’s Beginner’s Manual, now in its third edition.

Before Rama died in 1972, he had told Alice that she should go to Kashmir to find his friend Lakshmanjoo, who would continue her training. She went, as instructed, in 1974, and presented herself to Lakshmanjoo.

He accepted her as a student, and for nearly twenty years, until Lakshmanjoo’s death in 1992, Alice traveled to Kashmir each summer to study with him. He trained her in the philosophy of Kashmir Shaivism. Lakshmanjoo was the last living master of Kashmir Shaivism in an oral tradition spanning centuries.

In Alice’s own words: "There comes a time in Yoga when a teacher is absolutely necessary. The constant support and love of my teachers has sustained me greatly over the years, and I am fortunate to have known three great masters of Yoga. It is their truth and wisdom that continue to inspire and support me in my life and work in Yoga every day. It is my memory of them, what they taught me, and the excellence of what they represented that are the energy and source of my teaching."

In a career spanning nearly a half century, Alice has written twelve books on various aspects of Yoga practice and philosophy, including Easy Does it Yoga and its companion The Easy Does It Yoga Trainer’s Guide; Yoga of the Heart; and The American Yoga Association’s Yoga for Sports. She has also produced a DVD, Basic Yoga, and two CDs on meditation techniques. (For a complete product list, visit our online store.)

Alice has lectured widely at universities and professional associations across the United States, and American Yoga Association programs have benefited from several research studies confirming their effectiveness in improving health and well-being. In a field where charlatans often take advantage of innocent searchers by teaching Yoga routines along with religious doctrine and developing cultlike followings, Alice’s leadership of the American Yoga Association has maintained an honorable presentation of Yoga in the United States that stresses individual objectives and a self-directed study.

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