A little over two years ago I was diagnosed with a brain tumor. The tumor was discovered by an onset of horrendous migraines, partial paralysis of my left shoulder and arm, as well as paralyzed vocal cords, and the inability to swallow food or water without it coming out of my nose. I had always identified myself as a strong and active person, and the loss of that identity shook me to the core. For a while, I gave up on physical activity, because it felt like, "what is the point of working out and getting fit if I am going to wither up and die young no matter what I do?"
The full roller coaster ride of my life after brain tumor is a story for another day. However, today's story started with a YouTube
video that my dear friend Misty
, who later became my yoga instructor, showed me shortly after my diagnosis. This video featured a couple known on Instagram as Yoga Beyond
, and it was my very first introduction to yoga of any kind. I fell in love with Claudine & Honza's AcroYoga flow instantly, and decided that pain or no pain, I was going to be able to do those moves by the end of the year.
Despite the hopelessness that tried to overwhelm me, I resolutely determined that if the tumor was going to destroy some of my muscles, then I was going to build up the remaining ones until they took over and I could function again. Watching their Cello Flow
video over and over again became a unique lesson in visual goal setting, which quickly spread beyond my yoga practice and into the rest of my life.
Now, two years later, thanks to yoga and lots of prayer, I experience miracles daily. I not only have nearly 100 percent of my muscular function back, but I have also found the courage to follow my dreams in the rest of my life. One of those dreams was founding Uniquely Yoga
, for the purpose of bringing fitness and inspiration into the lives of other people. And today, I am so thrilled to report that my acro yoga heroes were generous enough to grant me an interview and share their wisdom on dreaming big and making those dreams a reality.
When Honza and Claudine aren't busy teaching acro at their Sydney Studio, they are traveling all over the globe, teaching AcroVinyasa to others, and sharing their love of yoga with the world.
Alright. Intro over. Now on to the part you came here to read :)
1.) You guys are Instagram famous. How does that translate to normal life? Do people recognize you when they see you out and about? Or does that platform maintain a much more tame level of fame?
Instagram has certainly expanded the awareness of who we are beyond our Sydney yoga bubble! We have never really lived a ‘normal life’ but we do find that when we travel, we are recognized. We’ve been stopped in the supermarket, spotted on airplanes and on the streets in New York City but in the grand scheme of things with celebrities and mass scale attention, we are still living a pretty ‘normal life’ and we’re very happy with that!
And this is what they call normal life ;)
2.) What sort of process goes into creating a new Acrovinyasa move?
To be honest, we are not reinventing the wheel. While we pride ourselves on having brought more traditional asanas back into the AcroYoga practices, there are many poses that have been around for quite some time. What we have introduced into the ACROVINYASA practice, are very clear postures that can be taken from the Earth into the Air, namely on someone else’s feet or hands. Whenever we practice, we find a way to refine our existing Level 1 and Level 2 sequences by dropping into the breath, slowing down and creating more flexibility from pose to pose.
3.) One of the things that I admire the most about you guys is how you constantly appear to make your dreams a reality. What was your turning point / defining moment when you started to “follow your bliss” and make your dreams happen? Do you remember a particular event? Or did you just wake up one day and realize that you were in the middle of living your dreams?
Before we met, we had both done our soul searching and started asking the bigger questions about why are we here and what is our purpose. When we connected in person, fell in love and chose to spend the rest of our lives together, we both made a resolute decision to be happy no matter what. We may waver at times, like any human but we both feel that by focusing on positive thoughts with an attitude of gratitude, dreams can become a reality. There wasn’t a particular turning point for us other than a firm agreement that we made to create something together that would enable us to connect with and inspire people. We are both passionate givers and healers so when we unified our intentions it seemed as if the universe began to conspire in our favor! We have also worked hard at reaching out to many people in our local communities before our presence on social media. It has been an incredible, expansive ride over the past few years and every day we still wake up with tremendous gratitude for what we have created. You never know when something incredible may happen or who may walk into your life, unless you are receptive and ready to say yes.
4.) If you could give some advice for people who dream big but are struggling to see those dreams fulfilled, what would that be?
We would say that you have to feel your way into your dreams first. Envision that whatever you want has already arrived. The longer you can experience something in your mind and heart first, the more energy is gathered in the direction of your dreams manifesting in the body and in the rest of your physical reality. Next you have to do the work to start calling it in, vocalizing what you want, write it down, tell your friends and family what it is that you want to create, ask for support where needed and remain open to all the magic that abounds. Then it’s time to jump in and embrace what comes. Even if there may be some fear, staying open to all possibilities will never steer you wrong. It is much better to jump in with both feet and grab a hold of your dreams than to sit and wonder what may have happened. Even if you don’t catch this particular dream, keep going and know that there are as many dreams to catch as there are stars in the sky. The journey to making dreams come true, isn’t always easy but it sure is worth it!
A Yoga Beyond Dream Session
5.) Were there any major roadblocks to forming Yoga Beyond? Did you ever wonder where the money was coming from next month, or almost give up before you got to where you are today?
When we decided to start YogaBeyond, we had both removed the obstacles in our mind that it would be difficult or that it wouldn’t be successful. Honza: Claudine had already been teaching yoga full time for many years and I had my personal training business, both of which were well established and supporting us well. When I returned from Nepal, I knew that we were meant to create something together. We choose to create this brand as a passion project to document our practice, try something new and to inspire others to do the same. It was not about the money, it was about creating something that we were adamant about sharing. There are many ways to create abundance and we have realized that money is not the only way. When you stay open to connections and signs from the world around you, you never know where they may lead.
6.) Did you always dream of doing what you are doing now (traveling, teaching acro yoga, taking killer photos)? Or did you plan for something else, and this life just evolved along the way?
Claudine: Yoga found me when I was 15. Before that, I had been practicing jujitsu so I knew that my passions were in movement. My parents are avid travelers and have made a living through the clothing industry, which has allowed them to travel for work and they have taken me with them for most of my life. I have a deep well of curiosity and am always looking for the next adventure, inside and out. I feel as if I am living my life on purpose as it is meant to be. We make a firm commitment to staying open to the possibilities of whatever may come, which has lead us to the right here and now!
Honza: My first passion was running and fitness, which lead me into starting my own personal training business which I successfully ran for nearly 12 years. Over the past decade, I have explored my creative and spiritual side through painting, meditation, yoga and photography. My ethos in life is to always find what makes you happy and move on when it no longer feels good. I’ve always wanted to turn my passions into my livelihood and feel that I have found a way to bring all of my gifts together into one place. Since meeting Claudine and creating this life together, we both knew that we would do something together that was meaningful, exciting, prosperous and most importantly FUN! The details didn’t really matter as long as we were both clear on wanting to carve out these experiences together with the same mindset, we believed our dreams would unfold just as they were meant to!
7.) They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and you guys have hundreds of gorgeous Acro pictures from all over the world. If you could sum up living your dream in just one of those photos, which one would you choose to represent your thousand words?
This was a picture taken in Paris, about two years ago. We had planned our own amazing race through Europe, planning to document our favorite poses in front of iconic landmarks. We had already spent the day galavanting around Paris, exploring this beautiful city and had found so many great spots to take pictures and make memorable moments but this one was by far the best. We met a photographer who was intrigued by what we were doing so while we were setting up our shot, he offered to take it for us and this was the result! Everything about this photo represents love, spontaneity, connection, synchronicity and magic.
What a beautiful "Thousand Words"
8.) I have learned, through my somewhat limited experience, that the physical stress of Acro can sometimes bring out tough spots in relationships. While It does build a lot of trust and joy, the pain of a poorly placed foot or a too tight hand grip can also cause tempers to flair. How do you use Acro to make you stronger as a couple rather than to create relationship stress?
The most important thing to keep in mind is that everyone is always trying to do their best. It’s so easy to point fingers (or toes) and blame. Do everything at least twice before talking about what may have gone wrong or what wasn’t comfortable. Remembering that this practice is about partnership, play and community building can help pacify a situation before it escalates. We also adopt the languaging around ‘we’ instead of ‘you’. A simple change in languaging can make all the difference in eliminating a potential blow up.
9.) Does the fun and adventure of travel ever wear off? Have you ever reached the point where you are hanging out on a gorgeous island somewhere, teaching yoga, and wishing you could have just woken up in your own bed that morning?
Nope! We love what we do and wouldn’t change a thing!
Yoga Beyond demonstrating how the couples who play together, stay together
10.) This question is less deep, but i’m dying to know… How many pairs of yoga pants does Claudine own? :D As the owner of Uniquely Yoga, I feel that I own too many pairs myself. But I must say, when I look at your photos on Instagram, I often admire the diversity of your leggings nearly as much as your gorgeous surroundings.
Ha ha! I think the last time I counted my yoga pants, I was at 120. I regularly give away pants to our students and friends because it always feel better to spread the love!
11.) Can you guys possibly get any more awesome? What is next for Yoga Beyond?
We are excited about our schedule for 2016 that will take us to new places and events - teaching at Bali Spirit Festival, teaching tour around China, intensives in Koh Samui, Thailand as well as our teaching tour around the States at festivals such as Hanuman and Wanderlust. The adventure continues and we are ready to walk forward, hand in hand and embrace it all!
Thanks so much to Claudine & Honza Lafond for sharing their wisdom and playful spirits with us. Blessings to you both as you continue your journey.