Bay Area innovators take this timeless practice in new directions
I met Amsterdam through the YinYoga classes that she teaches at Yoga Tree, classes that involve holding postures for extended periods of time — from a few minutes up to a half-hour — which can open up both joints and deep emotions as practioners breathe through their resistance.
But Amsterdam says that YinYoga is just part of InnerYoga, which involves active and passive poses, meditation, and teachings and exercises designed to connect yoga with a mindful approach to life. Its four foundations are "awareness, kindness, breath, and ease."
"I'm teaching people self-care practices both on the mat and off the mat," Amsterdam said.
That idea was the basis for OTM, which is "in the business of creating leaders and helping leaders connect to their passions," says Rebecca Rogers, who splits her professional time between teaching yoga and working for OTM on its seva fundraising campaigns.
"When you slow things down, you have more time to make choices," Rogers said, describing the notion of mindfulness that yoga helps create. "A big part of mindfulness is the ability to tune into the world."
That bridge between the yoga and political worlds will be tested this year as yogini and renowned author Marianne Williamson runs for Congress in Southern California, promoting mindfulness, a campaign that OTM's Yoga Votes project is supporting.
Between the connections to self and to the world, AcroYoga is a hybrid of yoga, acrobatics, and Thai massage, a fluid practice where partners use one another for pressure or as a plaform for poses.
"I don't think there's enough safe touch in the world, so AcroYoga allows that," says Tyler Blank, who discovered the practice in 2004 and became one of its first certified teachers.
Later, in Hawaii, Blank discovered the concept of ecstatic dance — with its "contact improv" techniques that are similar to AcroYoga — and brought it to the Bay Area, where its twice-weekly events in Oakland have grown in popularity.
"I realized we could take partner yoga and start to dance with it very slowly," Blank said. "I think yoga is evolving into dance."
However yoga evolves, the Bay Area is likely to be at the center of that process.