Imagine yourself in warm water, feet grounded and spine tall. As the water laps at your chest, you inhale deeply while extending your arms overhead. With arms descending to prayer position, elbows now in the water and the breath leaving your body, you feel calm, supported, and light. Welcome to aqua yoga.
I became certified to teach Aqua Kriya Yoga in June 2013. In the few months I have been teaching classes in my backyard pool, I have built a loyal following of people who are keen to reserve their place in the pool. The women who attend regularly represent the diversity of my community: a 13-year-old girl who hates “exercise” but likes being in the water, a woman who is carrying a surrogate triplet pregnancy, two sisters-in-law who wanted something fun and healthy to do together on their weekly night out, a medically obese woman who has just started her wellness journey, and a 73-year-old Indian woman who practiced yoga much of her adult life until she had a double-knee replacement 8 years ago. Despite their varying backgrounds, they all say that aqua yoga is the most relaxing and refreshing hour of their week.
As a yoga teacher, I love offering a class (http://balancepft.com/home/our-services/aqua-kriya-yoga/) that is so inclusive. The participants have incredibly different body types and fitness levels, but aqua yoga allows each person to work to her own ability. A gentle reminder from the deck that the most important part of the class is to connect the breath to the movement and to be grateful for what we can do gives everyone the permission to honor her body and her self. By taking yoga off the mat and into the buoyancy and support of the water, people can focus on what they are able to do rather than on their limitations. How freeing is that!
People unfamiliar with aqua yoga are curious about how the asanas really work in the water. Again, it’s helpful to think of the similarities rather than the differences. Remembering that all movement starts with the breath and is done intentionally grounds the practice of aqua yoga firmly in greater yoga tradition. While it’s obviously impossible to do downward dog, we can adapt the asana to reach similar parts of the body and encourage release and opening. Furthermore, advanced aqua yoga students who are willing and able to explore inversions in the water may find a confidence in the asana that will translate to their land practice. All aqua yoga classes end with savasana, either supported with noodles or relaxing at the side wall or steps; we still want to encourage the mind to still and allow the body to synthesize the work of the class.
The most exciting part of teaching aqua yoga is that I know that offering this class gives otherwise-disenfranchised people the opportunity to experience health-building movement in a welcoming and supportive environment. When you teach from the heart and offer people what they want and need, the rewards are great for both student and teacher.
Namaste. And see you in the pool!
Karen Shopoff Rooff is a certified personal trainer and pre/postnatal fitness specialist in Austin TX. She is the owner of Balance Personal Fitness Training (www.balancepft.com), where she seeks to supportively guide people along their wellness journey. Karen also owns EQUIP Fitness Business Development (www.gotoequip.com) where she shares her experience, expertise, and enthusiasm as a business coach. Fitness entrepreneurship allows Karen the work-life balance to be a loving wife and a goofy mom to her three young children.
We had an amazing yoga practice outside last Friday! It was a de-stressing, grounding, and freeing flow leaving all feeling great. Be part of it this Friday and next (August 9 and 16) to take advantage of this short summer series. Class begins at 6pm ~ park at the tower ~ just a $10 donation.
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