Here it comes…the countdown to BURNING MAN 2014 is on! As the final preparations take place, we canvassed the most seasoned Burners of the Numinati to compile the ultimate pre-playa check-list…Images: Reka Nyari and Michael Chichi
Over six years of teaching yoga, Erica Jago has developed her own practical yet deeply intuitive methodology for designing a sequence that will heal the body, open the mind and touch the soul. She shares her process here – which can be used to design a group class, or a solo sequence just for you.
YOGA BY DESIGN: STEP-BY-STEP
sankalpa – Begin by writing three to five sentences in the form of a sankalpa that can be used at the opening of your sequence to set to the mood.
anatomical focus – Next, define the anatomical focus in a short bulleted list. For example, if I want my class to land in the heart, I would instruct this: “Lengthen the sides of your waist upward,” “Fearlessly move the heads of your arm bones back,” “Bring the tips of your shoulder blades to the back of your heart,” “Expand your collarbones.” This becomes the alignment you will cue in every pose.
sequence – Next comes the sequence. By drawing out the sequence using Asanaglyphs you can record the progression of poses you want to flow through over the course of the class.
three wave grid – That progression of poses is mapped out over a three-way grid that 1) warms you up, 2) takes you to the peak pose and 3) winds you down for shavasana.
peak pose – consider what you want to be the point of highest activity.
talking points – Lastly, I further develop the theme by writing down bite-sized talking points that can be used sporadically to help deepen the meaning of the poses.
DO YOU USE THE SAME PROCESS WHEN YOU’RE DESIGNING A SEQUENCE FOR YOUR PERSONAL ‘USE’? Yes. I don’t teach a sequence unless I’ve fully embodied the language of those truths within myself. This has taught me how to listen to the tone of my voice, remix inspirations and to choose themes based on what has momentum in my current situation. The themes I choose come from a deep desire to master a concept more fully.
DO YOU SPEAK THE ORAL CUES TO YOURSELF WHILE PRACTISING THE SEQUENCE? Hilariously, yes. And I’ve even filmed myself, which was horrifying! But this methodology ensures a sense of clarity for me, even before I step into the classroom, because I’ve contemplated it, practiced it, and experienced it first hand.
WHAT IS A ‘SANKALPA’ AND WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO BEGIN WITH THIS? A Sankalpa is the mood you want the experience to be infused with. This feeling and intention is what you return to again and again as you design your own yoga sequence, to reiterate the teachings at the cellular level.
WHAT’S A GOOD WAY TO GUAGE WHAT KIND OF THEME IS GOING TO BE MOST USEFUL FOR YOU AT ANY GIVEN TIME? The chakras. Feeling for what’s happening at these energy centers in our bodies that will bring about magic every time. Concentrate on one of these channels at the start of your sequence and continue to tune into that frequency, pose after pose, and you’ll find that you are opened up to deep seated memories and even spiritual experiences.
WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO GO ABOUT DEFINING THE ANATOMICAL FOCUS YOU WANT TO WORK WITH? I believe setting an anatomical focus is a methodical and logical way to learn how to serve and nourish our own hearts. Using a series of arm balances or backbends, for example, with simple, relevant cues, grants us access to those areas of the body that can otherwise be merely esoteric. The clichéd concept of “love yourself” is more easily grasped when you align the architecture of your body and attention of your mind with the latitude of the body that’s known for generating and broadcasting love.
DO YOU HAVE TO BE AN EXPERT ARTIST TO DRAW THE ASANAGLYPHS? Absolutely not. If you can draw a straight line you can draw them, while grid paper will help with the scaling. The Asanaglyphs are scaled three squares wide by four squares high. Most yoga poses are set at 90°angles, and I’ve learned over time that the figures look better when you keep the heads small (no pun intended!)
HOW MANY POSES SHOULD YOU AIM FOR IN A 30-MINUTE SEQUENCE? That depends on the style of yoga you’re practising. Vinyasa will include more poses, with cues to “pulsate” between them, while Restorative or Yin will feature less. I’ve begun to study and value a slower, more cooling practice. A 30-minute flow that I do before bed includes forward and backbends that stimulate and nourish the kidneys and adrenal glands. Sphinx pose, Saddle pose, Seal, Butterfly, Half Butterfly, Caterpillar, Reclining Twist.
IS IT A GOOD IDEA TO DECIDE YOUR ‘PEAK POSE’ BEFORE YOU BEGIN? Occasionally, if this is what inspired you to design the sequence. The peak pose traditionally happens in Wave Two and gives you a starting point to work backwards from to create Wave One. Think; what needs to be open in order for you to come into the full expression of the peak pose? And with Wave Three; how can I counter the peak pose and gradually bring myself back down? After some thought and contemplation, notice if these series of expansions and contractions change your perception of the pose and how you practise it.
IS THE PEAK POSE THE MOST DIFFICULT OR CHALLENGING POSE, OR THE POSE THAT GETS DEEPEST INTO YOUR THEME? Traditionally, Peak Pose means the most challenging, but I would love to think that by using this creative process, it would allow for both options to be true.
IS IT A GOOD IDEA TO PRACTISE THE SEQUENCE AS IT DEVELOPS TO HELP IT EVOLVE MORE NATURALLY? That is the only way to do it! Spread your mat on the floor, grab a cup of water, your Jambox, your timer, your source of inspiration, a pen and two sheets of 8.5 x 11 grid paper. On one sheet sketch out the three wave grid and keep the other sheet for writing out your talking points. Begin by moving your body and breath, stopping to take notes as you go, and recording the poses with Asanaglyphs. Give yourself one hour of uninterrupted time, meaning no getting up to check your mail or do dishes, but staying close to the earth, candle lit, and letting the design of your sequence be an intertwined act of creativity and spirituality.
The best part is that by recording it this way, your sequence becomes a work of art. I can come back to the sequences I’ve designed again and again, and so eventually each one becomes part of my DNA. You can find some of these drawings on my Pinterest and Instagram accounts: @Jagoyoga.
I first came across the work of Erica Jago and Michael Chichi in Art of Attention, the book Erica co-authored with NYC yogini extraordinaire Elena Brower.
The book opens with instructions for a fast-paced flow sequence to Reduce Tension and Find Forgiveness, and I was blown away by Michael’s accompanying images of Erica and Elena, set against the backdrop of Burning Man’s Black Rock City.
This was yoga FROM ANOTHER PLANET. One where fierce postures were infused with fashion, sex and a powerful and raw femininity. At the time, The Numinous was still in the very earliest phases of conception – but; “look,” I would tell people, “THIS is Numinous.”
When I reached out to Erica and Michael about creating some images for the site, I was beyond psyched when they said yes. Here are the results. And here is Erica on her yoga, her man and how she believes “my spirituality, sexuality and creativity” are one and the same thing.
ERICA, I FIRST CAME ACROSS YOUR WORK IN ART OF ATTENTION. HOW DID YOU AND ELENA FIRST CONNECT? Elena’s poetic yoga classes came into my life right when I needed support and inspiration. I was transitioning out of a 13-year relationship, my job had just laid me off and I had no choice but to take my dreams seriously. Terrified of failure, I reluctantly sent her a pdf of my book and within days she responded with; “Could we / should we work together?” DREAM COME TRUE! Our relationship since has completely changed the course of my life. Not only did Elena bring me into her world, but she encouraged me to elevate mine on every level.
AND HOW DID YOU AND MICHAEL FIRST MEET? Michael! My twin flame. I was kind of stalking him online, because his photography and artwork made me swoon. It’s like he spoke the language of my heart through his visuals. Again, it came down to ASK and you shall receive. When I first reached out, we agreed to met in person about web design and photography. What I thought was a “business meeting” turned quickly into a discussion about relationships, spirituality and…Burning Man!
AH, THE BURN. IT’S IS OBVIOUSLY A SPECIAL PLACE FOR YOU TWO… When I finally started attending these transformational festivals with Michael, I found myself moving my body and expressing myself ‘wildly,’ in a way that used to invoke caution to be careful, to be realistic and remind myself of my own limitations. Instead these experiences liberated and revolutionised my self-confidence. After years of putting out the request to learn self-love, I believe the Universe conspired the union between Michael and I that brought me to the Burn through the spiritual law of attraction.
WHAT ARE YOUR SIGNS, AND WHAT PART DOES THIS PLAY IN YOUR RELATIONSHIP? Michael is Sagittarius, I am Leo. Both Fire signs! I believe Michael appreciates the way I’m not afraid to shine and take the lead, and I respect his outward focus on the world.
WHAT DOES IT FEEL LIKE TO CONNECT WITH EACH OTHER ON A CREATIVE LEVEL? Michael’s favorite line is; “When two people are saying YES, anything is possible…”
CAN YOU DESCRIBE THIS PROCESS TO ME? You can count on me to take the lead in many, if not all of our creative projects. Michael shows up with a willingness to work as a team and there is a clear understanding on both our parts that there is something much larger at work here. We both know our place in the process, and our fiery passion to express beauty is magnetic to the type of work we attract. Hence working with The Numinous!
WHAT WAS THE INSPIRATION FOR THE PROJECT YOU SHOT FOR US? Our inspiration for this shoot was really the sculpture. Michael knows both the artists, so we sought their pieces out specifically. Also, we always tried to shoot at 6am or 6pm, which we call ‘magic hour,’ that cinematic time of day with its soft luminosity.
YOU REALLY KNOW HOW TO PUT A LOOK TOGETHER. WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR CLOTHES AND HOW DO YOU STYLE YOURSELF? My favorite designer is Lurdes Bergada. I found them in Barcelona while biking near the Rambla Catalunya. The window display stopped me in my tracks; feminine in nature but with that REVOLUCIÓN androgynous feel. I seek contemporary clothing with soft lines, clean shapes and natural fabrics for practicing yoga in, but which still have a sensual side for bopping around town and meeting friends out. The saris women wear in India are a huge inspiration for me and I love to adorn my body with bangles and bracelets…and body paint!
ANY RULES FOR THRIVING IN THE DESERT ENVIRONMENT? Love your camp.Have a cushion for your bike seat. Plenty of baby wipes
SO WHAT’S THE PHILOSOPHY OF YOUR YOGIC PRACTICE? When we meet on the mat, I believe we are doing the work to become whole. This is an act of remembering who we really are, when all the outside programming and input is brought to a minimum and we resolve to stay present in the heart. In fact, the heart breath is an excellent way into our wholeness. Keeping our awareness right above the heart and below the throat is how we align all aspects of ourselves with love. It means seeing this life as a gift that we are the caretakers of.
AND DO YOU HAVE A PERSONAL LIFE PHILOSOPHY? I think everything we say, do and think has to be a “win, win” for all concerned, otherwise it’s not worthy of the heart space. And that if we practice together, we are in it together..
WHERE DID YOU GET YOUR NATURAL AFFINITY FOR SPIRITUAL TEACHINGS? My grandmother was one of the first evangelical women preachers in Ohio and my father has saved cassette tapes of her voice in church. When I listen to those teachings I can hear the same inflection in my voice when I’m guiding a group. So there’s a lineage here that my soul signed up for, and it’s like my body is equipped to further the universal messages of love through art and design. I know my grandmother is very proud.
FINALLY, IN WHAT WAYS IS ‘BEAUTY’ AN EXPRESSION OF THE SPIRITUAL? I love this question. I see no difference between my spirituality, sexuality and creativity. All three are working to evolve us into the next level of love through beauty and attraction. Beauty drives the feeling of peace and until each one of us knows how to find that place in ourselves, and to align with it, we will never have world peace.