jason’s yoga = my yoga

Jason Crandell - PeacockLast Saturday, I had the pleasure of practicing with Jason Crandell at Moksha.  WOW!  I was only able to attend one of his workshop sessions, but you all know how I feel about hand balances, so I picked the right one – Power and Precision in Arm Balances.

There is always something new to learn about arm, er hand, balances.  I mean, come on, there are hundreds of styles of yoga and each one offers a slightly different way to practice asana – including hand balances.  The really creepy thing is, I realized very quickly that Jason teaches my yoga.  Of all the yoga studios, in all the towns, in all the world, he had to walk into mine….and teach my yoga.  This made me a very happy practitioner.

Now what exactly do I mean my yoga?  One simply cannot own yoga – you may be thinking.  But let me challenge that thought – Bikram Choudhury trademarked his yoga!  John Friend created Anusara yoga!   And I want nothing more than to follow in their footsteps.  <– that was a joke

You’re correct, one cannot own yoga – I mean you can see how successful Bikram and Friend were…

That being said, I believe strongly that as students of this great tradition there are definitely styles and techniques that resonate best with each of us.  We are predisposed based on our previous experience, body type & energy level (our dosha if you take the Ayurveda approach) and current lifestyle, to like some aspects of yoga and types of practice better than others.  And for me, Jason’s yoga, is my yoga.

Get this:  since the very first day I felt my ‘call’ to teach yoga, before I even knew that Jason Crandell existed, my mission has been to teach ‘creative and challenging vinyasa flow.’   Jason’s teaches ‘strong, smart vinyasa yoga’ – interesting, huh?!  One of the initial things that drew me to vinyasa yoga is how much fun I had in class.  No class was ever the same and vinyasa yoga provided a way for me to turn inwards through a physical outlet.  I noticed very early on that the physical fitness provided through vinyasa yoga was just the beginning – the real fitness was happening in my mind and in my heart.  Now how does this make Jason’s yoga my yoga?

Well, here’s my support:

1)     He started class by saying: “Hard postures are valuable for the mind – they keep us entertained so we can continue to do basic postures that ground and soothe the nervous system.”  I’ve never fully able to articulate why I think challenging asana like hand balances and inversions are so powerful – especially for Westerners, but I this hits the nail on the head.  They keep us coming back to our mats and that’s what is important.

2)     Every single cue he offered us to make hand balances easier to access focused on alignment and techniques that I have been inherently practicing to ‘unlock’ hand balances for years.  Ex: Jason’s cue when working with the arms in eka pada galavasana – “Now, you really want to do just one more chaturanga” – my tip in a previous post.  I wish I could have recorded this class because it was kind of scary.  I mean, I’m no Jason – he’s an epic teacher, but it was just strange to see some of the crazy similarities.

3)     I was so happy when I left.  Yoga asana always lifts my mood, but I was just glowing after this practice.Jason Crandell - Bakasana

Some random, yet amazing, insights offered by Jason:

  • “We need to stop, slow down and break things down to understand the mechanism of the balance.” 
    Jason said that all too often we are instructed to “just work harder and you’ll get it.”  There is absolutely truth to the idea that a dedicated practice will help you access new asanas, however, Jason reminded us that working harder is not always the way to get there.  He said “we must understand the objective and understand what is necessary to get there.”  As a master teacher whose practices are steeped in deep anatomical understanding, I believe that what Jason was saying here is that there are certain techniques that we can do to make challenging asana easier simply because the body is built to move in those ways.  Ex: He instructed us to lean forward to come into bakasana (crow) rather than lift the toes up.  Obviously as you lean forward you’re lifting your toes up, but let me tell you!  Just a slight lean forward makes this so, so much easier.  To access parsva bakasana (side crow), his instructions were slightly different that most teachers.  (Here was another moment where I realized Jason’s yoga was my yoga – because this is exactly how I found side crow more accessible through my own self exploration!)  He asked us to squat down, knees pointed forward on tip toes, twist to the side and place our hands so that our finger tips were facing straight forward, same direction as our toes.  This seems counter-intuitive, but try it!  I think you may find parsva bakasana a little more accessible using this method.
  • “We have an inherent desire to do things that are aesthetically pleasing – and that’s okay.  We just can’t be bound by this desire.”
    More support for why hand balances are  integral to a well rounded practice – they look cool.  And as human beings, we must admit that sometimes we like to do things that look cool.  So long as this is a fleeting thought and we remember the true reason we are on our mats (to turn inward, to meld mind, body and spirit) then this desire is okay.  Jason shared a common yoga quote here: “Check your ego at the door.”  He asked us to honestly consider if this is possible and I think we all agreed, it’s not fully possible.  He said “the ego will arise in some sort of way in these postures” and, again, that’s okay.  We just have to keep our intention top of mind and simply be aware of our ego coming out to play.  In fact, I think that sometimes, things like nailing bakasana with straight arms can do wonders for self confidence.  And as a young woman, I know how hard confidence can sometimes be to find.  So, if flying in hand balances is the way that I can turn it on, I’m okay with that.  I just have to remember not to let it get out of hand.  I mean, really, whether or not I am able to soar in tittibhasana (firefly pose) will not affect who I am or help me serve my purpose here on earth.  But, it will help me feel strong in my body and, thus, strong in my mind and in my spirit.

What yoga is your yoga?  What type of asana helps you feel strong, confident and happy?