200 hour RYT, 30 Hour Katonah Training
Healthy Ballerina, Founder
Los Angeles, CA
Introduction: Tell us about yourself, your story, where you are from, practice, etc.
Hi, I’m Alexandra Pullen. I was born in Nashville and grew up in Chicago. I’m a professional freelance ballet dancer signed with BLOC LA, yoga/meditation/ballet instructor, wellness influencer and blogger, writer, and student-- just to name a few things! I started off my journey as a professional ballerina, moving to New York as a teen to dance in the corps de ballet of the prestigious American Ballet Theatre. I’ve since forged my own path and fused my passion for dance with my passion for wellness and holistic health.
How long have you been practicing yoga?
I’ve been practicing yoga since I was 12 as a way to cross-train with ballet, but I only started consistently practicing and studying yoga in 2016.
How did you get started?
The ballet world is very cutthroat, demanding mentally/physically/emotionally, and harsh. Being in that environment caused me to suffer from body image issues, eating disorders, low self-esteem, and chronic pain and injuries. I decided to step away from ballet for a time in order to heal myself mentally and physically, which is what brought me to yoga and creating my blog titled Healthy Ballerina. Yoga opened my eyes to a physical practice not built upon outcomes or physical goals, but rather governed by intuition. Ballet is very structured and militant, whereas yoga offered an outlet to move my body in an intrinsic way simply for the sake of doing what feels good. I also discovered meditation through yoga, and full acceptance of the present moment--which brought me so much peace and clarity.
What type of yoga do you teach? (Please Explain)
As a professional ballerina, I apply my thorough body awareness and diligence towards alignment gleaned through my dance career to my teachings. My classes feature a strong focus on the breath, alignment, flushing stagnancy through fluidity and movement, and a meticulously curated playlist. Yoga to me is the path of undoing and resetting the mind and body. The style that I teach is called Katonah Yoga, which combines the practical magic of sacred geometry with the esoteric ideas of Taoism in an effort to substantiate the individual in one’s center by using techniques that expand the capacity for the physical body to move beyond its limitations. We will use imagery in a practical way in order to spark our imaginations and actually change the physicality of our processes. Katonah Yoga is a structural practice that works in the joints and bones, setting up a proper form so that we can flush the organs and glands.
What do you prefer/enjoy about this particular form of yoga?
I love Katonah yoga because it is very functional and practical. I love dharma and spirituality, but I think that asana needs to be grounded in alignment and attunement. From that centered place, you can transcend the physical. I also love the focus on pranayama and all of the brilliant metaphor and imagery.
Do you feel anyone can enjoy and gain from yoga?
I think that yoga is for everyone! My dream is to make yoga a more accessible practice. It breaks my heart when someone comes to my class and admits that they’re intimidated. Especially in LA, yoga can feel very shiny and elitist. I try to promote an open and accepting environment in all of my classes, so everyone feels that they are in a safe space free of judgment. Public yoga classes are a place of community and connection, not judgment! I also love all of the online platforms bringing yoga to the masses.
What has yoga done for you as person?
Yes, it sounds cheesy—but yoga has completely transformed my life. It has brought me another sense of purpose, body attunement, and skills to cope with the stress of everyday life.
Do you feel yoga is more mental or physical?
It’s so personal, but for me—the mental aspect is first and the physical is secondary. The goal of yoga is to unite with the present moment, so the asana is empty if that presence is lacking.
Do you believe it is an alternative form of healing and medicine?
I believe it can be! Stress, excess cortisol, and adrenal fatigue are huge contributors to inflammation and dis-ease in the body. Through yoga, mindfulness, and meditation, one can get these factors under control, which in a lot of cases can treat things such as anxiety. However, I also believe in the power of Western Medicine when necessary.
Do you associate yoga with Hinduism? If yes, in what ways?
I don’t like to associate yoga, meditation, or mindfulness to any one religion. It’s more connection to the self, and source energy that we all carry within us.
Is yoga a way of life or a way to exercise or meditate?
Yoga can be anything you want it to be—that’s the beauty of it. The word yoga means “yoke” or “unite.” It’s a practice to bring oneness and harmony to your being. So maybe one day that means focusing on the asana (physical) practice, or sometimes you just need to sit and meditate. For me, I don’t think of yoga as exercise. I often tell students to let go of that expectation at the door. That being said, I believe in generating heat from within. Heat is an element of alchemy, and is how you create change within the body.
What is your dharma, your life mission?
My dharma is to learn how to love myself unconditionally, and let that love allow me to be of service to others.
How important is living a healthy lifestyle (clean eating/eating healthy for example) important to the yogi lifestyle?
I think that it’s all connected. Yoga is oneness, so a general awareness of wellness are important for a true yogic lifestyle. I’m also a huge proponent of balance, and I don’t believe in extremes! So no need to go vegan (unless you want to), but what you put in your body can be a form of self-care or self-destruction--and we get to choose every day! This also includes what you consume in terms of the people you surround yourself with, the things you watch or listen to, and the thoughts you think. Create the life you wish to live.
Any natural ingredients and/or vitamins that you recommend? And why?
I love adding chlorophyll to my water in the mornings. I supplement my diet with Philosophie Superfoods, take a daily probiotic and Ritual vitamins, and eat clean and whole foods. I also love adding collagen to my coffee!
How important is hydrating/drinking water to the yoga lifestyle/your practice?
SOOO important! ESPECIALLY for my hot yogis! Water is so so essential. I recently learned that dehydration can lead to symptoms of anxiety. The dehydration can activate the sympathetic nervous system (fight-flight-freeze response), which causes the body to feel anxious. So, the next time you’re feeling anxious—take a few deep breaths and HYDRATE.
When and where do you currently teach?
I teach privately in Los Angeles. Public classes:
Sweatheory: Wednesday 6:15 pm, Thursday 10 am, Sunday 6:30 pm
Love Yoga East: Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday 9:30 am
Where can our readers find you? (Instagram, Website, etc)
Follow me on Instagram @healthy_ballerina. My blog is healthyballerina.com