Monthly Archives: May 2013

3 Fun and Simple AcroYoga Moves to Elevate You

How your already stellar practice can further serve YOU!
By April Laliberte
In Western yoga, asana has become a practice of yoga poses for physical fitness.  However, in ancient Indian traditions asana was practiced as a primer for meditation.  Working your body encourages your mind to be still.  Maintaining balance and using brute strength in moving from pose to pose will tire your muscles, making it easier for you to sit peacefully.
More and more classes are starting to incorporate an integral or full-spectrum yoga experience.  The integral yoga class includes asana (postures), pranayama (breath work), and meditation.  Classes are challenging and include a mix of twists, inversions, and back bends within a vigorous flow.  Keeping in mind your own personal yoga practice, these inversions and back bends do not have to be advanced postures.  They only need to be challenging to your body.
Meditation serves all human beings by slowing down our brains and allows us to get in touch with our subtle energy systems.  It is a method to still the mind and become more aware of our true identity as a spiritual being that ‘wears’ a physical body.
What you can expect out of meditation is a calmer existence, a less reactive response to life.  Meditation literally helps you deal with the ups and downs of your day with more equanimity—more stability in the moments of ups and downs.  We begin to understand that ups and downs are normal, continuing and ever shifting; we soon realize they are impermanent and do not warrant our mental angst.  Meditation is something that must be experienced to understand.  Just as T.S. Elliot said (paraphrased) information does not equal knowledge.  You need to do the work to gain the knowledge.
Try my integral classes on Yoga Download for at least a month and see how the practice changes and serves you.  I look forward to hearing about your experience!  Namaste.
April is a yoga instructor, a writer and an importer.  Feel free to contact her at April Laliberte Yoga Inclusive or Nomadic Import Traders on Facebook

Acroyoga blends the alignment wisdom of yoga, the steady power of acrobatics, and the loving intention of body work. Unlike traditional yoga, which tends to be a solo practice, acroyoga is a great opportunity to connect to another individual’s mind and body. The poses below are basic forms but require trust, communication, and presence from both partners. As a beginner, practice with a spotter for support and safety.

1. Bird

With the base lying on their back, legs lifted to L shape and feet separated to hip-width distance, the flyer stands behind the base’s legs and bends them to place the base’s feet. Positioning them at a slightly turned out angle, arrange the base’s feet so that the soles are directly on top of the the flyer’s hip bones. The flyer bends forward and the base rotates their hands to grasp the flyer’s hands from the outside. Both partners straighten their arms as the flyer keeps their spine, legs, and feet engaged to lengthen out. Retaining a 90 degree angle with their legs, the base releases the flyers hands as they lift them up and back, alongside their torso, continuing the extension through the crown of the head. To come out of the pose, the flyer releases their arms down and allows the base to re-grip their hands. The base bends their knees to bring the flyers feet back to the ground.

2. High Flying Whale

With the base lying on their back, legs lifted to L shape and feet separated to hip-width distance, the flyer stands the opposite direction and positions their feet also hip-width apart, on either side of the base’s head. The base grips the outside of the flyer’s ankles as the flyer bends their knees and bends back slightly to bring the base’s feet to their back, with the heels pressing in just below the flyer’s shoulder blades. As the flyer lengthens out in to a full front-body stretch, the base straightens their arms to lift the flyer’s legs up. The base keeps their legs at a 90 degree angle as the flyer bends back over the base’s feet. To come out of the pose, the flyer brings their arms down as the base bends their elbows to bring the flyer’s feet back to the ground.

3. Gravity Defying Backbend

The base begins by standing with the feet hip-width apart for balance and stability. Placing the hands about a foot behind the heels of the base, the flyer gently kicks up into a handstand, allowing their knees to bend and drape over the base’s shoulders. The base grabs each of the flyer’s ankles from the outside and with a firm grip, bends forward, lengthening the flyer’s feet away from their hands as the flyer stretches their arms overhead. To come out of the pose, the base continues to bend forward to bring the flyer’s feet to the ground.

Hope this tutorial has you soaring high with new perspective !

Video taken with gratitude by Michelle’s acroyoga partner, Agathe Padovani at  Swami’s Beach in Encinitas, CA.  

Dear Me: You can just come for the Savasana

During the first few months of each year, I meet many new students in my classes and workshops. It’s always exciting to see new yogis as they start down this path and begin to explore their personal practice. Whether you’re new to the practice or a seasoned veteran on your mat, there’s one thing we should all try to remember during each moment and every pose: the pose is not important! Remember those feelings of excitement when you first began your yoga practice? Remember how each pose revealed new things to you about your body and your mind? These are the things that kept you coming back for more. Our asana practice helps us discover new things about ourselves or rediscover parts we’d hidden away. Over time though, we have a tendency to get caught up in the poses. We’re too worried about perfecting our peacock and eventually we forget that our favorite pose was always savasana.

If you’ve hit that point in your practice (which we all have!) where you’re too focused on perfecting that next big pose, then it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture. When we become obsessed with a pose, we give up the beauty that’s found within. Years ago, I became obsessed with “perfecting” my headstand. It was all I worked on in my free time. I would practice every night and even gave myself a deadline. I told myself and all my friends “I’ll be able to do a headstand in the middle of the room by July.” That determination paid off. By June I was showing off my headstand to all my friends. But once I’d conquered that pose, I moved on. My next obsession was a handstand. A few months later, imagine my surprise when I couldn’t find my balance and stay in a headstand! Once I’d conquered the pose, I’d stop working on it. It just wasn’t important anymore. This was a huge wakeup call for me. I realized it’s not about the pose; it’s about the journey and having gratitude for every moment in our bodies and minds. These days I’m focused instead on finding gratitude for everything my body can do. Each morning that I wake up is a miracle. Each movement my body allows me to make is a gift. When I think of my practice as an opportunity to explore myself and what’s happening that day, I find that beginner spirit that I had been missing for so long. And then I remember “I’m just here for savasana.”  On your mat today, give yourself the freedom to fail and the freedom to love yourself exactly as you are in this moment. That’s the beauty of the practice and that’s what will keep you coming back to your mat for more.

How Yoga Teaches us Self-Awareness

Svadhyaya is the fourth of the five niyamas or personal observances as described in The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.  The term svadhyaya means”education of the self” or “self-study” in an effort to live mindfully and with intention toward greater self-awareness.  Traditionally, svadhyaya has included mantra repetition and scriptural study as a way of revealing the immense potential and goodness within. 

For example, many of us may have chanted “OM” at the start or close of class or participated in a kirtan. We chant specific sounds or mantras to invoke the energies we want to draw closer to us; to bring insight toward greater self knowledge, contentment and awareness.

Scriptural study, for example studying the Rig Veda, Bhagavad Gita, Bible or Talmud helps us connect both within and around.  By studying, we gain knowledge of ancient texts and teachers that came before us.  To that we add practice and over time, we gain wisdom.  These texts, and others like them, reveal the nature of humanity; how we act and react.  The practice of svadhyaya can now be seen as a mirror to reflect back to us who and what we truly are-embodiments of universal energy and potential.

An asana practice can encompass svadhyaya when we practice with the spirit of self observation and inward focus.  This is not always easy; we can become distracted by noises or other students and almost all of us are susceptible to comparing ourselves to other yogis.  When a distraction disconnects you from your practice, return to your breath in an effort to maintain keen awareness of the sensations within your body and your reactions to them.  Contrary to how it may seem, yoga is not a competitive sport in which we should judge ourselves against other students or keep score, but rather is an internal practice of seeking the questions and answers that bring us toward fullness.

Tantric asana can also be thought of like an experiment when you practice with deep focus.  As you complete a forward folding practice, consider how you feel physically, emotionally and energetically as compared to finishing a back bending class? When you complete a practice of pranayama or breath expansion, what do you notice? Experiment and take note of the results. Practically speaking, svadhyaya on the mat also helps prevent injuries.  When you are finely attuned to sensations in your body, you can modify and adjust as needed before an injury occurs. 

This niyama also reveals habitual tendencies or repeated patterns of behavior called samskaras.  You can think of samskaras like grooves created over time.  When left unchecked, those grooves become deeper and wider. (Think here of the how the Grand Canyon was formed.) Samskaras can either be life affirming like the pattern of going to a yoga class regularly or a daily meditation or journaling practice or can be harmful like the tendency to overeat when you aren’t really hungry or to react immediately with anger or self-defensiveness when someone offers you unsolicited advice.  Before you can change your usual reactions and tendencies, you need to become aware of them first.  This is a very humbling, yet fulfilling process that can be undertaken through a committed and mindful yogic practice.  . 

We chant to invoke specific energies, study ancient texts of the sages and yogic masters and experiment and asses the results on and off our mats. Acknowledging the process of and becoming willing to carefully self-observe and modify brings us back to the highest reasons for why we practice; Sat-Chit-Ananda, Being-Consciousness-Bliss.

Life is Practice. Practice is Life. Namaste.

7 Ways to Ground Yourself and Prepare for Spring

1.     Write goals and intentions for yourself. Make them big goals for all year as well as little ones

2.     Cleanse your body and purify. So much accumulates from the stagnant colder winter season. Plus with all the holidays and celebrations out bodies get rather toxic. The best time to cleanse is always in the Spring. Check in with how you feel, and find a cleanse that can work for you and your needs.

3.   Mediate and take time to be in nature. Winter season we are stuck inside so much. Now with the Spring the sun is out shinning, flowers are budding, and luscious greens everywhere. Go explore a trail, walk the beach, bike, get out and enjoy the fresh air! Breathing in newness will help calm your mind with all this fiery drive energy too.

4.    Check out the farmers markets. So many new foods in season! Fresh veggies and fruits, do explore a farmers market and experience the fresh local and organic food options not available. Treat yourself and cook a nice healthy meal too to nurture yourself.

5.     Spring cleaning, get rid of your junk. Go back into your closets identify those clothes you have not worn or thought about putting on in the past year. Be okay with throwing things away and allow yourself to create more room. Declutter, throw those possessions out, and live more simply.

6.    Do yoga. Relax and take time for your. Breath work is great to help move energy around and rid yourself of anxieties and fears. Twists are a great to integrate into your asana practice to cleanse and get your digestive fire moving and rinse out the old. Connect back to your intentions and surrender to you.

7.   Get out in nature for some therapeutic inspiration. You’ll feel better, fresher, and clear. Watch the sunrise and set, enjoy the sounds, and muse yourself with the pure rhythm and feel of nature. Enjoy the natural beauty all around!

5 Tips on How to Cope With Change

Change is important in our lives, it’s the one thing that is truly constant.  It is how we grow and learn.  Although change can be intimidating it can also be extremely positive and healthy.  No matter the size whether it be a simple diet change or a major life change it will keep you from becoming stagnate.  I am welcoming a major life change.  At times I become overwhelmed by the thoughts of the unknown, but then realize the positive that is being introduced back into my life.  I have been recognizing the simple strategies, which help me calm the transition time.

1. First I remember to breath with intent.  As we all know from practicing yoga breath is a very grounding and opening practice.  It gives you time to focus and settle your mind.

2. Find your activity, which relaxes you or helps to create clarity.  It may be restorative yoga, reading a book, writing, cooking, knitting or something more active like Vinyasa flow yoga, or running.  Mine is rock climbing.  This allows me to get out my large amounts of energy and focus on my goals instead of unknowns in my life.

3. If it is a major change welcome the input of others.  Often as humans we focus on one viewpoint…our own.  It is great to hear other peoples’ views, as they tend to shine light on paths you may have never considered.

4. Organize your thoughts or tasks; I love to make lists.  I think, I more love the crossing off and sense of accomplishment.

5. Set goals for yourself short and long.  This may give you a sense of ownership of the change occurring in your life.  It will allow you to reflect and step away from the scared negative emotions you may be feeling.

I am not sure that this would work for everyone, but I do feel they are simple options to help with the stress, which sometimes surrounds change.  Even the hardest changes, tend to bring positive aspects to your life when you are able to step away from the negative thoughts and emotions.  Keep these tips in the back of your mind the next time you are considering a major life change or one is put upon you.

- Written by Cozy Orange Luminary Jackie Maher, who is currently touring North America on a year long rock climbing adventure in sponsored activewear by Cozy Orange.