Understanding Our Practice
Slackline Yoga has no originator, no owner, no patent. It is the practice of finding yoga in your slacklining. We happened to stumble onto this path in a similar way to many (probably you, too) through serendipitous acts. We were yogis who started slacklining. Given that our bodies, breath, and mind were already tuned into the physical practice of yoga, we naturally started practicing yoga asanas (poses) on the line.
Soon after we stepped onto the line for the first time, we understood the innate power of this flat webbing at helping us achieve the same state of consciousness that we strive to attain while practicing yoga and meditation. The vigorous shaking of our first attempt to slack made our mind lose track of everything else around us. All that was present was our breath, our body, and the line. For that quarter of a second when we found balance for the first time, we experienced a deep sense of stillness. We reached a state of calmness that we had only ever experienced after long yoga and meditation practices. But through slacklining, we accessed that state instantly. Slacklining provided us with a tool to access that space with little effort – without even trying to reach it – a space that although was always present, in us, seemed hard to reach or often completely unavailable until now. The line became a mirror; a reflector of our state of consciousness. It became a tool that connected our body, breath, and our state of mind to that place of inner stillness.
Learning how to slackline, back in the day, meant setting a line and spending hours of our days falling. There was no method, no poses, no progressions. Not only did it take us a long time to learn to sit and walk on a slackline, it took us even longer to realize that there were other ways to connect to the line. As we became better slackers, we needed harder and harder poses that forced us into that beginner’s mind again. Given the practice of yoga asana was so rooted in our daily existence, we soon started attempting traditional yoga poses on the slackline. Not only for inspiring others, but because after a while we needed more challenging poses that would require our complete concentration. We realized that we could go back to that beginner’s mind whenever we introduced an additional challenge. Traditionally slackers searched for this state by increasing the height and length of their lines. We searched for our beginner’s mind through a yoga practice on the line.
As time passed we continued translating more and more yoga poses onto the slackline. Soon our practice was nicknamed Slackasana or the practice of yoga asana on a slackline. Similar to our grounded yoga practice, our slackasana practice focuses on a full body workout. We strive to find balance in standing, seated, kneeling, supine (lying face up), prone (lying face down), arm balances, and inverted positions. More importantly, we strive to connect to our breath, and to regulate our reactions to the challenges presented by the line or poses.
Both our practice and teaching method has morphed throughout the years. In the process of observing thousands of people learning to slack, we took notes on the cues that increased the ease, safety and success rate. We focused on perfecting a method that made yoga slacklining accessible to people of all ages and fitness levels. Our goal has been to translate yoga poses done on a mat, into achievable poses on a slackline. In this website you will find poses to start, feed, develop, and inspire your slackline practice.
While learning directly from a qualified teacher is probably the fastest and safest way to learn how to slackline, we are confident that you can use this site as a tool to learn to slackline from day one. Study the safety protocol and the rigging of a slackline before you step on a line. After that, focus on understanding and mastering the foundational poses. These are the poses that will inform the rest of your practice. After you get these poses and the basic transitions, use the rest of the site as a guide for inspiration, progressions, and reminders of what is possible. You can find even more poses on our Instagram Account.
Remember that anything you can do on the ground is possible on the line! The best advice we can give you is to break away from any preconceived notions of what is or isn’t possible. Connect to your breath, focus on the present moment, and have fun.
What is Slacklining?
Slacklining is the act of walking or balancing on flat webbing that is attached between two points. It’s origins can be traced back to the slack wire, which in return, can be traced back to hundreds or even thousands of years to Greece, India, and China in the form of slack and tight rope walking.
While the reasons for someone to walk on a slack rope – probably the oldest variation of the practice – are unknown, we can guess that they were either bored, wanted to impress someone, or really needed to get from one place to another without a bridge or without using their hands. Who knows?! Regardless of the reason, we are happy they did it and that we got to follow them in this wonderful practice.
What is more interesting than the ‘Why?’ someone decided to walk on a slackline in the first place, is ‘Why?’ we all decided to dedicate our lives (even just hours of it) to become proficient at it. It is not as important to us, if you decided to start slacklining to impress a possible mate, to land a backflip, highline or even to get a yoga butt. What is truly important to us is – we dare to bet – that you continued (or if you are new to the practice, that you will continue) because you found something much more profound hidden in the practice.
We often describe our slacklines as thin yoga mats and our practice as yoga because the practice encourages you to focus your mind and control your breath and body; to focus on the present moment and to let everything else go. Even if only for a few microseconds, the slackline practice allows you to enter that zone in which you find a quiet mind and that little part of you that is more You than anything else – that place where your troubles disappear and all that is left is a sense of belonging.
History of Slacklining
Written in collaboration with Chris Carpenter
While rope walking has been around in one manner or another for thousands of years the history of slacklining is fairly recent. It all started in California’s Yosemite Valley. Where as early as the late 60’s, climbers started balancing and walking on the chains of parking lots. The birth of the slacklining as we know it can be attributed to two climbers visiting Camp 4: Adam Grosowsky and Jeff Ellington.
In the early 80’s, Grosowsky and Ellington, attempted to walk across a steel cable between the Lost Arrow Spire’s tyrolean traverse gap, next to Yosemite Falls. While the highwire walk was never completed, they did manage to create and inspire the growth of a new balancing sport: slacklining. During their practice sessions for the highwire walk, Grosowsky and Ellington rigged the first modern slacklines, no wires, no cables, no rope, instead they used 9/16th tubular climbing webbing.
Their ~25 foot long lines had tension, anchored about 5 ft off the ground with a lot of stretch, which allowed them to bounce and swing on 9/16th tubular nylon. At that length, they were still pretty high off of the ground. Surfing the line was different back then; they used the line’s bounce, extensive stretch and swing to ultimately draw an ellipse with their feet. Other tricks included Grosowsky’s amazing demonstration of a lengthy handstand on a lower, tensioned line and juggling. The two athletes passes clubs between them while standing on their own line.
The main trick at that time was to surf the line, with the goal of bouncing, unweighting, and pushing/stretching the edges of the line for as long as possible, while listening to music on a walkman. Basically drawing large ellipses with their feet. Soon after Jeff Ellington developed a special technique, the Ellington – a self locking pulley system – to tension the lines with ease. The added tension increased the walking area of the line and gave rise to modern day slacklining. (A soft release system is now known as an Ellington.)
Inspired by Adam Grosowsky and Jeff Ellington’s attempt to cross Yosemite’s Lost Arrow Spire on a highwire, Chris Carpenter and Scott Balcom rigged the first documented highline on nylon, after teaching themselves how to slackline, innovate rigging, and mentally train for about a year. In 1983 Carpenter and Balcom rigged a 2 inch-wide line under a freeway bridge near Rose Bowl in California. They fondly referred to this area as “The Arches” from their childhood explorations on that set of bridges. On a fall day in 1983, both successfully walked The Arches Highline, in both directions. They returned to The Arches over and over throughout the following months with various highline configurations in preparation for something bigger. The ultimate goal was to walk the Lost Arrow Spire on nylon webbing instead of wire. In the summer of 1984, they attempted this line for the first time. Unfortunately, at that time neither of them was able to cross that more exposed line.
The following year, 1985, Scott sent the first crossing of the now famous Lost Arrow Spire highline. His trick? He created depth perception and visual reference points below his feet by draping a climbing rope below the surface of the line with a daypack attached in the middle. This allowed him to maintain visual focus. Or as we yogis like to call it: Drishti.
For decades the sport continued to exist on a small scale as a hobby, thanks to Yosemite’s iconic dirtbag, Chuck “Chango” Tucker, who told stories about Chris and Scott’s early slackline adventures that he’d witnessed, first hand. One superstar, among a group of talented climbers in Yosemite’s Camp 4, who truly felt a calling after hearing these stories was the ultra talented alpinist, Dean Potter. It wasn’t until the early 2000s that the sport started to spread thanks to Potter’s high profile abilities as a climber, slackliner, and base-jumper. Potter’s media presence and daredevil missions placed the sport in the eyes of people across the world. The sport grew considerably in the years to follow, but it had not yet inspired the masses to practice.
In 2006 – we – the YogaSlackers started teaching slackline yoga, opening up the practice to yogis and adventure enthusiasts around the US. While the practice started to spread in the US and Europe it was Andy Lewis who gave slacklining the final kick into the eyes of mainstream America. During the 2012 Super Bowl’s Halftime show, Lewis performed with Madonna, landing the first live streamed backflip in slackline history. This was the final push needed for slacklining to become widely known and practiced.
Still to this date the sport is fairly new. Records are constantly being challenged. New poses and moves are constantly being developed. Practice and teaching methods are constantly being improved. Slacklining is a sport in which people are still figuring out the limits of its expression. Isn’t this exciting? We are all practicing a sport in which any of us could discover something new. Part of the magic of slacklining is that we are all still learning and growing together.
Why Slackline Yoga?
In the beginning there was Yoga. Meaning that before we became YogaSlackers or even slackliners we were yogis. Yoga is our founding principle. It is what distinguishes and informs our practice and teaching from any other style.
In its simplest definition, yoga means union and the method to attain that union. What needs to be united depends on the yogic tradition that you decide to follow. In a simplistic approach we can say that yoga means the union of the breath, body and mind. It is through this union that we can discover that we are much more than those three things and we can transcend the incorrect identification with the breath, body, or mind and connect to our Supreme Consciousness. The process of connecting to the Supreme Consciousness and realizing the ever present Self (Self Realization) is the goal of yoga.
The goal of Slackline Yoga is to achieve that said state of Self Realization through the practice of Self Regulation. Our practices focuses on putting ourselves in different asanas (postures) while balancing on a thin piece of webbing suspended over the air, in hopes to regulate our stress response and learn to connect with our calm and centered selves, regardless of the situation.
You do not need to adhere to any strict form of yoga to enjoy, feel, or observe its benefits. The same state of mind coveted by the yogic tradition can be easily found in other practices. Often described as ‘The Zone’, that space, where we connect (yoga) with something that makes everything seem to move better, with less effort, where we become one with nature, the universe, others or ourselves. That is the goal of yoga and of slackline yoga.
One of the beautiful aspects of slacklining is that, slacklining is one of the few practice that allows you to enter the zone from day one, with little to no proficiency. It will also allow you to observe when others enter that space with ease. It is our mission to provide people a glimpse of that zone in hopes that they continue searching for union as they discover their desired path.
Benefits of Slackline Yoga
The physical and emotional benefits of slackline yoga are very similar to the benefits provided by the yoga practice. With the added benefit that it can be practiced light heartedly while having fun, alone or with friends and family, and in a short period of time.
- Builds muscle strength and tone
- Improves your posture
- Strengthens the core
- Improves balance
- Strengthens stabilizer muscles
- Increases breath awareness
- Improves flexibility
- Develops awareness of how to use tension as a tool
- Helps you focus
- Clears the mind
- Calms the senses
- Connects the effects of the breath with the body and mental states
- Develops discipline
- Builds confidence
- Increases an inner sense of balance
- Increases your self-esteem
- Builds awareness for transformation
- Encourages self care and care for others
- Makes you happier
Like any other practice, slackline yoga is a tool. As any tool it can be used to create positive or negative change. It is up to you how you approach the practice and how you use your skills. A simple goal to have in mind is increasing your happiness level while inspiring others to be happy too.
What defines our practice?
YogaSlackers practice is characterized by a strong focus on fundamentals, safe and thoughtful progressions and success by practice and repetition.
The main focuses of our practice are to:
(1) maintain a calm state of mind and
(2) utilize the least amount of physical effort to attain a pose.
During our classes and practices we work with our breath to calm our mind and constantly monitor both our effort and our mood. Quite often the inability to breathe smoothly or increased frustration are signs that we may need to step back a few steps onto an easier exercise. Both as teachers and practitioners, we are not afraid to return and practice foundational exercises.
The main secret to our practice is exactly that: it is a practice!
We repeat exercises over and over. We geek out on how little tension we need to hold a pose. We focus on smoother, gentler transitions and economy of movement. If something is not working out today, we do not get too attached to a move or a pose. We go back and rework our foundations until the ‘next’ pose comes to us with ease. We hope that this site we can inspire you to do the same.