Stråla yoga – What is it?
Stråla is an easygoing approach to yoga that brings the moving and healing principles of Tai Chi and Shiatsu – moving like water, fueled by the breath. A moving meditation that will ease your way to a healthy and strong body and calm focused mind, to a happier you!
Stråla was created by Tara Stiles and Mike Taylor (http://stralayoga.com/). Tara, with a classical ballet and choreography background, has a long-life personal practice in yoga, and nearly two decades guiding classes and training guides worldwide. Mike, co-founder of Stråla, studied mind-body medicine at Harvard and complementary medicine at Oxford. Mike has practiced Eastern movement and healing, including Tai Chi and Qigong, for more than 30 years.
Philosophy and Principles
Please note, this is just a quick intro from my own perception and experience of Stråla. If you would like to learn more I recommend Tara’s website and books.
The mindset of Stråla is EASE. Stråla brings the Tai Chi principles of softness, breath and natural movement into the vocabulary of yoga; combined with an approach to touch and support inspired in Shiatsu. Stråla is an holistic approach that focuses in the HOW of movement rather than the end points in yoga poses. The result is a meditative flow state that helps you unveil the harmony in your body and mind.
- MAKE SPACE – Connecting breathe & body. Big inhales to lift, fill and expand, long easy exhales to soften, letting go tension. Using the breathe to create space in your body and mind.
- FEEL – Noticing the sensations in your body as you breathe and move. Connecting to you. Using the breathe as a spotlight, if you notice some tension, see if you can breathe into it. Noticing how your body responds.
- FLOW – Finding natural movement. Move easy, all the parts of you in every direction you can move them. Have a look at nature, at animals and young babies to find plenty of inspiration in natural movement. There are 11 principles, which are actually related to fundamental physics, the principle of conservation of energy, and of course the Newton’s laws of motion (Sorry, the scientist in me can’t help it!). However, the knowing and thinking may go against us sometimes, so do not worry too much about the details or memorizing names of poses in an ancient language. Many good things happen when bringing the focus to your own experience, on how you feel, on finding YOUR YOGA.
Head over to “Guiding Stråla by Tara Stiles, 2017” to learn all about Stråla’s ethos and the 11 principles of natural movement.
One of the firsts things that we were told in the Ready-to-Lead training, and that I am passing on to you, is ‘Do your own research – use your body as your own laboratory‘. You can read a huge amount of information on neuroscience and the science of stress, to discover how fascinating is the human body and how we re-shape our brain constantly. But be aware – from someone who spent years reading looking for answers – the magic is in the experience not the knowledge or the thinking.
Our bodies and minds are one, when things are not quite right in our body, our mind follows, and vice versa. What we do, our habits, and believes create our mindset, how we are. Often movement disorders, stiffness and rigidity, back pain, and many other health issues have their roots in our minds, in how we relate to ourselves, others and our environment. But it happens that, using our mind to heal our mind, can be tricky. In the same way, telling someone else what to do to get better doesn’t really work. Both should come from the inside out. Then, we can have a huge impact in our mind by bringing our attention to how we breathe and how we move.
How we breathe
Seat comfy and close your eyes, check in, how are you breathing? is it long, short, shallow, deep, fast, slow?? where does your in-breath go? to the chest, to your tummy, to your back?? There is not right or wrong, just notice what it does.
The breath is connected to our nervous system. Keeping it simple, when we are nervous, anxious, stressed, getting ready to fight, the stress response kicks in. Our breath is short, shallow, fast and goes into the chest area. Our heart pumps fast. The stress cascade is triggered leading to an increase of cortisol (stress hormone) levels in our bloodstream. This is the natural response of our body when we face a threat, ready to fight-or-flight. When cortisol levels are high too often or for long periods of time due to modern life stresses, our chemistry gets stuck into this stress loop, inhibiting our natural healing mechanisms.
We can revert this by consciously and softly controlling our breathing, without forcing it. By softening our body, we allow the air in, filling us up, this is like saying to our body “all is fine, go back to do your things“. We activate the relaxation response that triggers a different chemical response, increasing the levels of oxytocin (the LOVE hormone). This also happens when you hug someone you love, or like when you hug yourself!
Since becoming a mum, I am even more aware of these two responses. When having a newborn the chemical triggers are heightened, combining an alert state to answer the baby’s needs with “happiness shots” due to the massive release of oxytocin. The good news are that all settles down as the baby grows :).
How we move
If we move with tension, using force, locking joints, when we don’t move at all, or when we overdo certain linear movements, the energy in our body (Qi, Prana, soul or bioelectricity, however you want to call it) gets stuck in certain places, breaking the harmony within us. You can think of it as a branched electric circuit, if you put clamps in some of the branches, the electricity can not flow through, but it still needs to find somewhere else to go.
In Tai Chi and Stråla, easy, graceful, continuous movements that are gentle on the joints and muscles help to unblock the spots where energy is stuck, dropping the tension and resetting the energy flow. This combined with mindful breathing activates the relaxation response and our internal healing mechanisms.
So, I wish that by now you are rolling out your mat, or around the floor, playing, experiencing it yourself. Enjoy!