Blog by Olivia Roney (CEO at Crouching Tigers, Registered Yoga Teacher, Kid Expert, Dog Momma to pup Walker)
What is AnimalSkills Yoga?
Mantras + Poses= AnimalSkills. AnimalSkills = Fun.
AnimalSkills Yoga is a fun, creative approach to yoga that promotes body awareness, confidence and mindfulness. In every class, students focus on a new animal, animal pose and mantra. The pose and the mantra together are what we call “AnimalSkills”.
It has been tested. I started teaching and training my staff on AnimalSkills curriculum in my Crouching Tigers martial arts classes last year. After a rebrand from a “martial arts” company to a “children’s wellness” company, the original intention with the curriculum was to incorporate an equal amount of yoga and martial arts in every class. The results of AnimalSkills were fantastic! The result of the attempt to have an equal focus on martial arts and yoga, however, simply wasn’t realistic. The yoga diluted the martial arts and created a substantial amount of brand confusion.
In the 6 months that AnimalSkills was a substantial part of the Crouching Tigers curriculum, we received amazing testimonials from parents and even more amazing memory retention from our students.
It focuses on the needs of children ages 2-10.
When it comes to curriculum writing, I start with a question, “what is a skill that all kids need?” and attempt to answer it by creating stories, games, activities and animal characters around the best way to make learning this new skill fun for kids. After learning that many of my students were afraid to sleep in their beds at night, I wanted to create a physical movement or pose that made them feel safe. I kicked off AnimalSKills curriculum with the TurtleSkill- I am safe and relaxed. The turtle pose is a variation of child’s pose that allows for kids to tuck into their “shell” to feel safe.
After numerous parents emailed, called and stopped me at schools to tell me how well the TurtleSkill was working, I knew I was on to something. After this, I created the KoalaSkill, The PlatypusSkill, the KangarooSkill, the FalconSkill and many more. I continue to write these AnimalSkills on a regular basis with the hope of identifying and testing 52 different AnimalSkills that can be taught over the course of a full year.
I'm excited for the opportunity to offer Animal Skills Yoga at Invoke Studio and Invoke Wellness Center in November! Enroll your 3-5 year old kidos through the links below or on Invoke's website under the Events tab.
Invoke Downtown, Thursdays 5:45pm-6:45pm November 3- December 1 (No class on November 24) (https://www.facebook.com/events/1797267493876453/)
Invoke Wellness, Mondays 9:30am-10:30am November 7-28 (https://www.facebook.com/events/678715408942718/)
Blog by Riley Missel (Student Athlete, Dedicated Yogi, and Finisher of Invoke's 30 Day Challenge)7 Things I Learned Doing Yoga 7 Days a Week at Invoke Studio:
For me, this challenge was the beginning of a wonderful (and more dedicated!) practice and a calmer way of being. To the instructors, friends, fellow students, and Otis the Dog at Invoke: thank you so much for making these past 30 days meaningful and memorable days of growth, exploration, and fun. Namaste.
Finding My Expression.
Blog by Riley Missel (Student Athlete, Spradic Yogi, To-Do List Enthusiast, Cat Mom)
I hate kombucha. I hadn’t tried it until recently, but danggg. It tastes like spiked vinegar and apple juice. No thank you. As much as the yoga blogs and Pinterest posts rave about its benefits… I can’t. On top of this aversion, I also don’t have long skinny legs, a calm demeanor, or cool tattoos.
But the good news is: I’m still a yogi.
But Riley! They exclaim. We can’t even tell by your Instagram photos. Are you sure?
Here’s how I started to see that deepening my yoga practice does not involve drinking bitter liquid or shopping at Lululemon.
On day 21 of my challenge, I toted my mat up to 86th and Ditch to check out the studio up there and take a class with Yvonne. In the middle of a flow, she said something that hit me right in the heart. We tipped forward onto one foot for a half-moon pose and she said “breathe, and find your expression of this pose.”
Whoa, whoa, whoa. My expression? Isn’t there a correct expression? Didn’t you have something in mind here Yvonne? I didn’t even know what to do with that freedom, so I just took a regular old half-moon. But as we flowed on, I continued to tumble that thought around in my mind.
My expression…my expression…
On the next side, I bent my knee and took my foot into my outstretched hand. I’d seen someone do it once, and it felt fun. Was it my expression? What did that even mean?
My half-moon didn’t look exactly like the woman’s on the mat beside me. It was mine. My half-moon balanced on a leg made strong by miles and miles of riding a bicycle, and stretched shoulders stiff from a past snowboard wipe-outs and a broken collarbone. And it wiggled and wobbled in a new shape, because I was feeling brave that day.
Finding my expression means I can be me as I practice. I can move like me and breathe like me. It means I don’t need long legs or perfect standing splits to experience yoga the way I was meant to.
Everyone’s body has been through different things: broken bones, dance training, having children, working construction… things that alter the body, which in turn affect your practice. Some of us have tempers, eat junk food, and go weeks without practicing (hi!). But these are the things to be embraced. Because when we find our expression in our practice, we are honoring the wonderful body we’ve been given and the wonderful things it’s given us. That is the yoga I want to practice.
And I won’t even have to drink kombucha.
Blog by Riley Missel (Student Athlete, Sporadic Yogi, Do-To List Enthusiast, Cat Mom)
My orange Toms padded down Lafayette. Shattered glass and fallen mulberries crunch on the sidewalk beneath my shoes. My car broke down on Day 13 of my challenge (hmmm…fishy!) so I spent a good hour and a half using my feet as transportation until I could get where I needed to go.
Strangely, I felt a strong connection to the area I was walking. I’d driven down this street plenty of times before, but something was different as I shuffled along the patchy sidewalk. Most of the signs were not in English, and I’d never been in any of the shops I’d passed. But walking along the worn concrete I felt I was in solidarity with the area around me; the exhaling busses, the old man walking the other way, the strong wind, the woman and her child waiting at the bus stop. It’s funny the difference it made- being on foot versus being in a car.
Later, my bare toes spread onto my green mat in Ahna’s class. Everyone moved for themselves, by themselves, but in unison. Like a dance. Ahna focused the class on our root chakra. She described it as the energy that lets us feel grounded, safe, and steady. I imagined, like she suggested, my feet and legs tinted red as they formed my foundation as we flowed through class. I thought back to my walk down Lafayette, when my feet connected me to that neighborhood.
I lift my eyes to a studio filled with trees- tall trees, short trees, solid trees, waving trees. We were all standing in tree pose, our strong steady roots connecting us to the ground. I realized I was very fortunate and thankful for being able to plant my roots where I have, even if only briefly. I’m so grateful to be a part of a class rooted in tree pose, but also rooted in self-love and kindness.
Part of yoga is coming to be with yourself, sure, but I think another part of it is connecting with a community. And the more I focused on my feet, the more that feeling of connectivity returned. As much as it’s healthy to keep our eyes on our own mat, yoga is also about connection and solidarity with the community around us. We’re standing (or in my case, wobbling) there in tree pose, rooting down, and I felt connected to that class. Which is honestly a little funny, since we don’t have a whole lot of interaction with each other. We smile sometimes, scoot mats over to make space, and occasionally stretch out and touch their toes behind our mat. That’s about it. But rooting down in that forest, I was a piece of something bigger. Something accepting and loving and real- a room full of people on a journey inward and outward, people yearning to find light and be light, people just wanting to laugh and not be serious for a while.
I think we feel a strong connection to the place we connect our roots (aka our feet) to, whether intentional or not. I don’t know these people, but we walk the same streets and we plant our roots in the same studio. Different people, different intentions, different bodies, different lives. But similar pursuits. We’re all human, and what a great place to be human. Thanks Invoke, for giving us a place to root down and find a community.
Blog by Riley Missel (Student Athlete, Sporadic Yogi, To-Do List Enthusiast, Cat Mom)
7 days in! Wow. What a week. My bottom is sore and my wrists are creaky… but on the bright side I think all those chaturangas are starting to show (flexing emoji).
More awesome things have been happening, too. Previously, when I came to yoga to ‘practice’ I was really coming to give myself a performance. Since I didn’t make it to the mat (publicly) very often, I wanted to make the most of it (as in, take all the advanced options and showing off my headstand). But on Monday in class, Erin offered that we take side angle pose further into a bind, or bird of paradise. A woman to my right stood slowly, her left leg wrapped up in her arms and pointed at the ceiling. You can do that, my brain reminded me. So I wrapped my arms around my lunging knee, and tried to stand. I wobbled, and fell out of it. I re-bound, and fell again before I even stood up. My brain stalled for a minute. I decided not to give myself the usual runaround about being lame today. Instead of continuing to wrangle my body into something it wasn’t interested in, I settled back onto both feet. Welp! Not today.
In Andrea’s class, she suggested we try an arm balance from a seated twist (If you had to reread that don’t worry- my reaction exactly). It seemed as wonky as it sounds. But instead of guessing ahead of time what my body could or couldn’t do, I placed my palms on the floor and lifted my bottom off the ground…I did it! I had it!
Then I teeter-tottered my face into the floor.
As I peeled my cheek off the hardwood, I smiled –it was funny! And I knew I could try again, and practice more tomorrow. Practicing every day takes all the pressure away. Daily practice has been allowing me to be who I am that day, and present with my body as it is in that moment. I can play around with what I’ve got that day and let go of how I thought I should be, because there’s always tomorrow.
Some days your legs feel like flying in bird of paradise, and some days they don’t. When I can make it more frequently to practice, it feels much more like that- a practice. But I think I’m learning that this practice will never make perfect, not permanently. I can do the straightest handstand on Friday, but that doesn’t mean I’ll be able to pop right back up into it on Monday. I’m always going to have some off days, some tired days, and that’s absolutely okay. In the same way, the more I practice being kind to myself or being grateful or patient or strong, the better at it I will be, but I’ll never out-practice my off days. I’ll never be perfectly perfect. And isn’t that the fun part anyway?
One down. 29 to Go! “That’s exactly how it is in yoga. The places where you have the most resistance are actually the places that are going to be the areas of the greatest liberation.” -Rodney Yee
Blog by Riley Missel (Student Athlete, Sporadic Yogi, To-Do List Enthusiast, Cat Mom)
Hey out there! I’m Riley. Yesterday I began the Invoke 30 Day Yoga Challenge, and I stuck a little yellow star on the board, celebrating my first of 30 classes in the next 30 days! Am I crazy? Am I bored? Heck no! So why take on this challenge?
As a constantly buzzing student-athlete with two jobs and two cats and a crazy family, my stress levels are pretty average for a normal human being (so, high). I didn’t think my brain had room to think about making yoga a part of my busy days. Sometimes I feel like a frantic hummingbird, flitting and darting between school, work, training, and the people in my life. I basically live off my to-do list, even penciling in ‘call Granny’ and ‘shave legs’ every so often to make sure I don’t forget. Most attempts at ‘Me Time’ are quickly shut down by “OMG I should be writing that paper” or “Maybe I can meditate while I foam roll my legs…” (nope).
Generally, I zip over to yoga every other week or so. I love it, but my mind always told me it was something I just couldn’t afford to spend an hour and a half doing, let alone pay for on a college student budget.
When Kara introduced the idea of the challenge at the beginning of class a few weeks ago, I considered it for about 17 seconds, then I thought there was no way I’d have time for it.
Yet somehow, the more I thought about the challenge, the more I listened to the little light in my belly that said, “Hey, this is a good idea.” After putting it off, changing my mind, and changing it back, I put on my big girl tights and signed up.
So after class, I put my first sticker on the wall, and also took my first big step away from being constantly wired and a step towards getting to know a healthier, happier Riley.
I’m excited! I’ve already planned the classes I’m going to take for the next week (they’re on my to-do lists) and come to terms with the fact I’m going to have to do laundry twice as often. Follow my Down Dog Log here on the Invoke blog for the next few weeks to join me on this journey of balance, exploration, and fun!
Blog by Jole Kelley (Yoga Teacher, Tom Petty Fan, Vinyl Collector, Live Music Addict, and Button Maker)
For over 2 years now I’ve closed my yoga classes with the following statement: “Bring your hands to your heart in gratitude. Grateful for the body you’ve been given, the body you have today, for each moment, each breath. Namaste.”
I don’t know how those words found me but they fell out of my mouth one day and I’ve been saying them ever since. Maybe it is because I watched a neurological disorder physically take my mother. First her speech, then her mobility, then her ability to breathe, leaving her mind perfectly intact and trapped. Maybe it is because like most women, I struggle with body dysmorphic disorder and had an eating disorder in my 20’s. If there is any person in my class carrying that same burden I want them to know the body, in any shape or form, is beautiful and a gift.
But perhaps my connections to the words was a foreshadowing to prepare me for what was on the horizon. Last Fall I was diagnosed with fibroid tumors so significant that the only way they could be removed was through a hysterectomy. The “lady” parts that had tortured me my entire life were going to leave me and I was not ready.
My initial reaction was that "God" was taking something away from me. And while I felt blessed to keep my ovaries, postponing menopause, my uterus had to go. A uterus that I always thought, well, maybe someday I might use. My mother was 46 when I was born. I always thought there would be time. Now there wasn’t. I’d never know what it would be like to have my own child. I didn’t know if I was truly regretful or just feeling nostalgic. It didn’t matter which it was, it hurt like hell and I was feeling all of it.
On top of that sadness was the fear of being weak. Fear of someone having to take care of me, even for just 24 hours. I’ve been lucky. I’ve prided myself on being as strong as a man. If you’re a Kelley woman, you stack hay and wood. You dig gardens and holes for fence posts. You know how to shingle a house. I’ve seen my mother do all of these things as well as my beautiful and freakishly strong sisters. Even the smallest one with chronic asthma worked as a roofer for a time. Now she would be taking care of me. GULP.
Then there was the fear of losing this life.
As with everything I contemplate, I turned to yoga. I recalled my teachings. That we are all so more than our physical bodies. I remembered the words of one of my favorite teachers, Kathryn Budig, who said your body is just a temporary meat suit you get to wear while on Earth. The practice of yoga class is a reflection of the cycle of life. As in life, you begin with the breath and then you start to move. The transition from pose to pose is a reflection of your journey through life. It ends with Corpse Pose, Savasana. If you can allow yourself to let go, you are transformed. I knew all this but I never believed it in my heart. In fact, I hated Savasana. That’s right, a yoga teacher said “hate.” To be told to rest, to relax, to let go…just those words made me want to sit upright and scream. I spent my time in Savasana thinking about food and music. Staying active. I knew I was in trouble.
For those of you who know me, I am a huge fan of George Harrison. So I of course thought about him. He wanted to die a “good” death. He spiritually prepared, partially through chanting, for years before his own cancer diagnosis. He wanted to be wholly prepared for the transition. Fully prepared and without fear. How it haunted him that John Lennon was not given the opportunity. I was not spiritually prepared. Not even close.
But sometimes your life has to be turned upside down in order to find your way. For you to transform. And that’s exactly what happened to me.
So I chanted. I stopped trying to rationalize and just chanted. I didn’t even know what I was saying. I chanted even more. And it worked. I was able to turn off my brain and feel the words, their vibrations, the breath it took to make them real. It graciously consumed me. There was no space left for fear. I was able to be at peace with whatever was about to happen.
As the anesthesia took hold I was mid “Jai Shri Radhe Krishna Krishna.” Even if death was going to take me I was completely at peace. I trusted whatever was about to happen. Before the surgery I remember dramatically telling people I was not allowed to practice even the gentlest of yoga for at least six-weeks. SIX WEEKS!!!! The shock and horror in my face was reflected right back at me. But in fact I would be practicing yoga the entire time. I awoke in that recovery room smiling and ready for my 6-week or more pending doctor approval Savasana.
The idea of being physically broken almost broke me. I had kept myself so busy for so long, working since I was 15, usually 2 jobs, school, etc., that I never stopped to actually feel and see what was in my heart. What my soul needed. I'd been running for so long that once I stopped and REALLY rested I discovered what truly makes me happy and what I need for the next chapters of this life. I do not believe I could have found this without the time I spent resting. I know now that Savasana isn’t finite at all. It’s a Ctrl+Alt+Delete for your life. It’s a reset so that you begin again wiser. Be that in this life or the next. Starting over with an open heart and an open mind. Namaste.