This week's location is Swami's beach, in Encinitas, California. Music by Kate Earl, Lupe Fiasco, Melanie Fiona, and G Love and Special Sauce.
I know many friends and readers who would have liked to attend the Ashtanga Yoga Confluence this year, but couldn't make it. Good news. I'm bringing you the video highlights!
The panel discussions were absolutely priceless. David Swenson made me laugh so hard the video shakes sometimes (sorry about that:). Tim Miller and Eddie Stern could also easily entertain for a living. Nancy Gilgoff and Dena Kingsberg were mesmerizingly powerful Ashtanginis. Nancy was ferocious but loving, and Dena was like your Fairy Godmother incarnate.
I implore everyone to take the time to hear the words of these brave pioneers of yoga. They traveled to a country and culture that were completely foreign to them, where they didn't feel particularly welcome to learn a practice they had mostly only read about, from a teacher who didn't speak English. As Westerners, they were expected to learn more, progress faster, and maintain greater focus than Indian students.
Through their panel discussions, Tim, Eddie, David, Nancy, and Dena brought Pattabhi Jois to life for those of us who will never meet him. They answered questions about yoga, traditions, history, science, and life. Each has their own unique personality and perspective. The thread that weaves them together in friendship is yoga. Looking at them, I felt like I was looking at the first bunch of YTT graduates in yoga history. They were so happy to be together again and delighted to reminisce about their teacher. They reminded us of the importance of sangha (community) and they made a beautiful example of the love, acceptance, compassion, and support that is inherent in a community that practices yoga beyond the mat, in their own hearts.
Here's a link to the Ashtanga Yoga Confluence 2013 video playlist on my channel, Amanda Manfredi. More videos will be added as I process them!
Acro Yoga is a relatively new love of mine. A true Ashtangi, through and through, I thrive on the discipline and quiet strength I find on my mat. But when I'm off the mat... well, let's just say... I like to fly.
I met my Acro Yoga teacher/partner at Bhakti Fest 2012. Always a warm, encouraging, safe, and enthusiastic teacher, Tim Moylan convinced me to set a little discipline aside and try something new. What I have discovered in my Acro Yoga practice is just as valuable as what I've learned in Ashtanga, and it definitely requires lots of limbs! While Ashtanga has opened a doorway through which I may examine mySelf, Acro Yoga asks me to study how I interact with others.
To be "successful" in Acro Yoga, I am asked to understand verbal instructions and physical cues while my equilibrium is turned upside down. I am asked to trust the human foundation beneath me. I am asked to find and let shine my own power, balance and grace. I am lifted. I am supported. Then I am reminded to smile. Acro Yoga is trust, communication, union, and liberation. It is also breath and strength and flexibility.
Now the fine print! I do not recommend that anyone and everyone run right out and practice Acro Yoga. My Ashtanga practice has given me the strength, flexibility, and proper alignment to practice Acro Yoga safely. I also learned from a certified Acro Yoga teacher. I truly believe that it's a very therapeutic complimentary practice to Ashtanga. Just make sure you begin with a strong yoga foundation and a knowledgeable, experienced teacher!
Here are some recent clips from my practice with Tim Moylan at Esalen:
I am a huge fan of enlisting gravity to help open my spine gently. Two great postures that do this for you are forearm scorpion (vrscikasana) and handstand scorpion (taraksvanasana, also commonly referred to as vriscikasana b). Here's a tip to help you safely get the most out of these inverted back bends. Once you're inverted, resist the temptation to bend your knees right away. Keeping the legs straight, active and strong while you enter your back bend keeps the pelvis properly aligned and tunes in lots of supporting muscles. This allows you to ease into the back bend with lots of balance and control. Push the ground away with your hands and lift the crown of your head straight up. Start to reach out behind you with your toes, keeping the legs straight. Spend at least 5 breaths there, more if you like. Then bend your knees and strongly activate the hamstrings to pull the toes in toward your head. Feel free to use a wall to play with these techniques. If you don't already practice handstands and/or forearm stands, don't start with this pose! I should note here that the exit I use in the video is not a proper exit. Don't try it on a hard surface. It feels nice on sand :)