A weekend off the mat in Te Anau (from the Yoga Aotearoa Winter newsletter)

Te Anau Yoga hosted their first international yoga workshop in April this year with visiting Yogaslackers Jason Magness and Cheslsey Gribbon from Colorado. The event attracted 30 participants from New Zealand, the Netherlands, and the US. Kerri-Anne Edge, who teaches for Te Anau Yoga (a not-for-profit organisation who regularly host yoga workshops) and organiser for the event writes about her weekend off the mat….

Jason Magness demonstrates lotus on the slackline
Jason Magness demonstrates lotus on the slackline

There is a definite autumnal feeling as our group head outdoors from the comfort and warmth of the yoga room to an adjacent park in Te Anau. We have our mats but I suspect there won’t be much need for them this morning. While I have spent the past 12 months trying to convince every yogi and yogini I know to come to this workshop and have some fun I admit I’m feeling a bit nervous. I shouldn’t be though. All the indications from the previous evening’s introduction to acroyoga were that we were going to get a great deal out of our three days with Jason and Chesley: a fresh approach to yoga, and a means to play the edge in a very safe, supportive and fun way. After 3 hours of vinyasa, partner yoga and moving into groups of four (and more) to explore the basics of postures where the body and breath of the group become one it was obvious that our group (aged from 22-70) had connected on many levels. No longer was our asana just about moving with full awareness of our own body and breath – we had to expand that awareness to the other members of our small groups. If you had even an ounce of ego left it quickly diminished. This morning we are about embark on the basics of yoga on a slackline.

Alina on the slackline

Alina on the slackline

After a short walk Jason and Chelsey lead us to an array of eight orange lengths of webbing (25mm wide) strung out under some tall trees at varying lengths. We partner up on mats on the dewy ground kneeling side by side and Jason and Chelsey begin to outline the principals and practice of slackasana. They are careful not to put us off (at any stage of the weekend!) starting with the very basics and leaving any demonstration of more advanced practice until the end of the session. Jason instructs us to extend one arm forward and the opposite leg back placing our supporting hand in line with our supporting knee. “Now – just imagine your yoga mat has become very very long and very thin…”. We laugh….we know where this is heading. Over the course of the morning we practice “simple” postures on the line: kneeling, standing and “foot-swapping”, sitting and a variation of lolasana or pendulum pose. We work in groups of three and are encouraged to try everything at least three times on both sides, changing groups and experiencing different set-ups: long or shorter lines with different degrees of tension.

Slackasana was developed by Jason over six years ago in collaboration with his friend Sam Salwei – a climbing partner, and fellow yogi. Jason had spent 6 months trying to walk on a slackline, a hobby amongst the climbing fraternity. Undoubtedly Jason had the balance and strength, but – he admits – not the patience. Then he decided to approach the slackline in the same way he practiced yoga. Over time, he learnt to stand still until the line stopped vibrating. He started using it as a meditation tool. When he was distracted, the line shook. When he focused, it was still.

Since that time Jason and Sam have established Yogaslackers – a prominent group in the US that specialises in teaching yoga on a slackline (or slackasana) and acroyoga (acrobatic yoga). Yogaslackers have taught collectively to over 5000 individuals aged 2-82 and feature at many of the American Yoga Journal Conferences. They are offering their first teacher training programme in the US this year.

Jason and Chelsey encouraged us to discover how practicing yoga on a slackline develops focus, balance, strength, breath, core integration, flexibility, and confidence. Working in small groups with acroyoga was incredible for building up skills with communication, relationships and trust, as well as strength and balance.

Learning the fundamentals of Acro-yoga

Learning the fundamentals of Acro-yoga

While Yogaslackers also teach internationally this Te Anau workshop was the first of its kind to be held in New Zealand. We are hoping to make it an annual event and to encourage local participation as well as visitors from overseas. The dates for next year have been pencilled in for March 2012. While we don’t want to lose sight of our community objective – to teach a diversity of yoga styles locally that appeal to a broad range of age and interests – it would be great to welcome more visitors from around New Zealand and overseas and to encourage them to spend time in Fiordland while they are here. To that end Jason and Chelsey will be promoting the March 2012 workshop at some of the big American yoga conferences and festivals they will be teaching at including “Wonderlust”.

The Te Anau workshop will run over three days and cover some introductory and intermediate sessions. Participants are required to have had at least six months asana practice and the intermediate sessions will be open to last year’s attendees as well as people who have undertaken acroyoga workshops elsewhere.

I have received so much positive feedback from Jason and Chelsey’s workshop. The wide smiles and cheerful laughter of the group at the end of day 3 belied the fact that for many even enrolling was enough to put one out of their comfort zone. I’m so safe with my own practice. It was wonderful to come off the mat and to extend ourselves into a new realm with such a wonderful group of people.
Nameste, ka

Jason and Chelsey demonstrating slackasanaa

If you are keen on participating in March 2012 please contact Kerri-Anne at teanauyoga@ihug.co.nz to go on our workshop mailing list. More information and photographs from this year’s event will be posted on our website teanauyoga.blogspot.com soon.

Te Anau Yoga (Inc.) would like to acknowledge the generous support of Distinction Te Anau Hotel & Villas and Cosy Kiwi Backpackers that enabled us to keep the registration and accommodation costs low and make a workshop of this calibre accessible to the community in Southland and Otago.