Mana Yoga Center Over 30 years practicing yoga, Michaelle has developed a unique inspiring core based yoga practice, Yogalign.

About Michaelle Edwards


I was born in Turkey, the daughter of a WW2 P-51 fighter pilot and a registered nurse who served in North Africa, where they met and married in Tunisia. Nothing I will ever do in my life comes close to the sacrifices my parents made and to their service to all of us in WW2. I grew up as an Air Force brat and a child who loved nature, riding horses, swimming, and doing cartwheels. I created the YogAlign method during the course of my over 40 year personal yoga practice, 25 years of teaching yoga, doing posture therapy, and performing bodywork as a trained, licensed massage therapist.

I began my study of yoga with Swami Satchidananda in 1972. Asana or posture study was only one of the 8 limbs of yoga I studied with this great yoga master. Sitting for satsang and learning yoga philosophy, meditation, and pranayama from Satchidananda is an experience that set my course on the path of yoga and I have immense gratitude for the time I spent in his presence. Satchidanda was a true yoga master who had a keen mind and a huge heart and I very much appreciate the teachings I was given when I spent time with him when I came for weekends to Pomfret Center in Connecticut. We did asana for an hour in the morning and evening but we did not dwell on asana or postures as the most important aspect of yoga as we were seeking to direct our mind and heart energy to connect with our higher selves and merge with our divine source. I was attempting to free my mind of excess chatter which I felt was at the root of my suffering, and I truly wanted to connect with the divine love of god or source. I put in a request to join the ashram but it was decided by Satchidananda that my work was out in the world.

I had several intense spiritual experiences when I was a young woman that helped set me on the path of a yogi including a near death experience with lightning, and an intense kundalini awakening when I tried my first meditation at age 19. There are many other experiences that have occurred that I may write about someday, but I feel what is most important is the work that I have created to help others align so that their body can heal itself. We do not have a health care crisis at all, we have a self care crisis and I have innovated tools so that people of any age and income level can heal.

Soon after I left the east coast, I decided to travel on my own in Mexico and Alaska and always continued my daily yoga practice, meditation, and my inner quest to become 'enlightened'. Moving west to Montana in 1976, I found out that there were no yoga teachers available anywhere in that state at that time. Nature became my 'guru' and I was lucky to have a surveying job where I was paid to hike in the back country of the northwest. Nature is the greatest healer, and I began to open up and connect on a deeper level to my inner voice about what I needed to do. I stopped surveying and became a professional musician and also I decided to study yoga more intensely, but now on my own using Iyengar's classic Light on Yoga text. That book became my bible and when I was not playing music, I spent hours every day reading it and teaching myself every aspect I could of Iyengar's yoga.

Years later, when I moved to Kauai in 1983, I married, had a child and started a business. When my son was one year old, I began to practice Ashtanga yoga and continued with a full practice until I was injured after about a year and a half of practicing this intense vinyasa style. I was doing a standing forward bend in half lotus while reaching around holding my big toe, I felt my lateral collateral knee ligament tear. For almost a year, I could no longer do lotus or run the beach, and I was forced to rest and let my knee heal. I meditated, journaled more and decided to go to massage school where I became fascinated with studying human anatomy and physiology. I have massaged thousands of people during my career as a bodyworker and many would tell me they could not 'do' yoga because they were not good at it, or because it hurt. I tried to explain that yoga is a spiritual path, not an activity like playing tennis, but I realized that most people had no interest in the deeper aspects. To them, yoga was some kind of weird stretching exercise from India. Little did I know that yoga would someday become mainstream!

My knee finally healed, but then I began to have pain in my hip and groin whenever I did triangle and especially in revolved triangle pose. My neck was going out of alignment frequently after a long practice of plow pose. I began to feel like my athletic body was becoming unstable. I also noticed that my body felt better if I missed practice for a few days. I had to face the truth, the yoga poses seem to be causing my pain. At first, I was in denial but my body and higher self was telling me to listen, so I did.

I started to wonder what the point was of doing yoga poses that put the spine in positions that do not simulate how we are actually designed to move. I began to practice in a different way by listening to what my body told me to do and making sure that I did no movements or poses that seemed to cause any strain in any part of my body, or compress the movements of my diaphragm. I began to feel like I was 'floating' after each session and my body stopped hurting. I added even more self-massage to my practice and devised ways to keep the spine aligned as though I was in movement, rather than holding static positions as I had been trained to do.

I analyzed the function of yoga poses questioning each movement the way an engineer would look at a structure. Through this I began to realize that some yoga poses are not natural for our human design, and that there was really no "right" way to do them. The poses are the ones that make our hips and trunk form a right angle, because no matter how flexible you are, when done with both knees extended, the sacral platform and lumbar spine get compressed. I noticed that many yogi women looked like they had a flat butt, and many had forward head carriage, hyper-extended knees and even rounded shoulders. I began to question the value of many yoga poses for other too because I met so many people who had seriously practiced asana for years but still had poor posture habits.

Because we now spend so much time in chairs, our natural curves needed for shock absorption have been compressed as well as our diaphragm and internal organs. Many people suffer from back pain simply because the intrinsic postural muscles which should extend and stabilize our spine have been deactivated and atrophied from letting our chair back hold us up. We enlist our extremities in our upper trapezius and neck muscles to hold the weight of our forward head, and our trunk muscles shorten and weaken. Many of us roll backwards and our pelvis tilts posteriorly leading to more misalignment. As fast twitch muscles in our extremities take on the roll of slow twitch postural muscles, most of us suffer from chronic pain and strain and feelings of exhaustion and depression. I saw the basic problem as being the chair itself, but also the exercises we create to strengthen our core often just make our anterior flexors shorter, which leads us to be more forward and have more back pain.

Learning abut the anatomy trains, and how our connective tissue is an organ of posture that lays down substance to support whatever posture we are in, led me to begin to devise methods that would allow everyone to work on their connective tissue balance in YogAlign. Thomas Myers, Rolfer and anatomist has been a huge influence on my work because I studied his fascial trains models and cadaver films showing how the human body is strung in distinct lines of pull. I have now worked with him in person and he has endorsed my system and there are plans for me to work with his bodywork school in the future. www.anatomytrains.com

It makes no sense to try and stretch individual muscles, because fascia is our organ of posture and muscles are wired together in long chains that are held together by lines of pull created by the fascia. What gets us aligned is balancing these lines of pull as in Buckminster's model of tensegrity, because our body is actually strung in a web of tension. What Rolfers like Tom Myers do is try to open up the shortened lines to balance the tensional forces.

I found that by waking up the postural forces using breath with a technique I developed, there were ways to balance all of the other lines of pull in the body. But in order to achieve this natural dynamic state of balanced tension, one has to use yoga exercises that simulates how the body moves in real life situations.

In our quest in yoga to stretch the 'parts' , our hamstring muscles, we are creating the same shortness that is straining our back body, giving us poor posture, and making our hamstrings feel tight. As I began to design each pose with the idea of the body as a global continuum rather than focusing on the 'parts', magic began to happen. There is much more to the system, but I began to see that many exercises that man has devised are based on trying to make the outside tight to control the inside. The oxymoron is that the more I train people how to let go of the external tension, the less effort they feel; aligned posture becomes easy and natural.

Thousands of hours later with the help of many clients with injuries, pain and misalignment, I created the YogAlign system that would be pain-free, and yet give the body strength and suppleness. the really fun part is that the new posture would be innate and not require a lot of effort to maintain. The body begins to uptake the new posture software even while we sleep, and helps us do the realigning. We have a lot of fun in Yogalign, people learn about their anatomy and also how to work with the intelligence of the human body, the fascia and the nervous systems. I am here to help yoga asana evolve because I have treated a lot of injured yogis and heard many sad stories of people doing yoga for back pain and ending up with back surgery. This should never happen!

The ancient philosophy is not what I question, it is the poses that flex the spine and reverse the natural sacral platform or require us to bend with our knees straight, which is unnatural for the way we are designed. I now know that although yoga poses are shown on ancient temple carvings, many yoga poses are not ancient like the 4000 year old yoga sutras. Many yoga poses and salutations are only 50 -100 years old and are based on Westernized military drills, woman's gymnastics and contortionist moves. This has been researched and documented by Mark Singleton in his book "Yoga Body" published in 2010. But I am not here to argue how, when, why, where and by whom asana was developed. I am here to help people use yoga asana to create fast, painless, dynamic shifts to naturally aligned posture using poses that simulate real life function.

I am adamant in my desire to help people understand that over-stretching our ligaments, compressing the spine, and doing extreme yoga poses can cause more harm than good. Yoga is not about tearing ourselves apart at the seams. Yoga is about removing the obstacles that obscure our true nature whether in the body or the mind. The work continues as I see there is no end to learning and everyday I discover new ways to extend and align the spine and reveal the effortless ageless "kid" body from within.

Recording and performing professionally as a guitarist,vocalist, and song writer for the last 35 years has also helped me to develop many of the unique aspects of YogAlign. I love to sing and connect with source through using my voice and guitar skills. I participate in many sports including swimming, surfing, windsurfing, kayaking, biking, hiking, skiing, horseback riding, running and growing organic food. My most important job is being a mother and I am truly blessed to have a wonderful son and I look forward to having grandchildren. I am injury-free and I feel more mentally, emotionally, and physically fit than I was as a teenager. I hope you find your natural alignment and that YogAlign gives you the important tools to allow your body in its own innate wisdom to heal itself.

with aloha,
Michaelle Edwards
Hanalei, Kauai Feb 2013

 
   






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