Secrets from The Chakra Cave: Yoga with Alejandra Parada


Posted by Nikka on September 1, 2015.

It’s a bright afternoon, especially here on the shores of the Columbia River.  The tide is high and the sun is low, both taking their time to meet at the horizon.  This is where I am meeting with Alejandra Parada, an aspiring yogi and my very good friend from Portland, OR, to talk about her budding career as a yoga instructor.

In the time that I’ve known Alejandra, yoga has always been at the forefront of her personality.  Most of our hangouts include her suggesting that we bring out the mats and stretch, or offering to guide me through a warm-up – she is eager to learn and be critiqued on her teaching methods.  In addition to teaching at various yoga studios and fitness centers, she is also the founder of The Chakra Cave, a one-on-one yoga and meditation practice.  You can find Alejandra at her website and on Facebook.

Organic To Green: What got you started in yoga?

Alejandra Parada: It was right around exam time during my junior year of college and I was feeling stressed, so I took a yoga course at my gym.  It turned out to be the most relaxing yoga class I’d ever had.  I never got the instructor’s name and I never saw her again, but I felt so powerful afterwards, like I could conquer my exams – and I did!  It’s a good high for me.

After that, I started doing yoga once a week and started getting into meditation.  Then I graduated college and got a job at a yoga studio as an assistant - that's when I fully immersed myself in the practice.  I moved to Portland to start my official yoga teacher training.  I recently graduated and now teach every day!

O2G: What is the definition of yoga to you?

AP: Yoga is a balance of being able to control the physical and your mind and emotions.  If you’re angry, you’re angry.  Observe the emotion, but don’t let it overtake everything around you.  For example, basic Chaturanga is easy to learn once you understand how your body works and what it can and can’t do.  Yoga is about mastering the connection between your body and mind… it’s reconciling the physical and spiritual aspects and achieving a balance.

O2G: What’s your favorite style of yoga?

AP: The first book I ever picked up was by David Swanson, an American-based yogi who focused on Sri K Patthabi Jois and the Ashtanga style.  Jois is the heavy metal of yoga – he forces you to get all of your emotions out.  As for my personal style, I would describe it as physical Hindu, spiritual Buddhist.

 

Upper Left: omnomyoga.com | Lower Left: Organic To Green

O2G: What are some of your favorite products to use during your practice?

AP: My yoga mat is from Jade Yoga, which is nice because you can get different styles of mats from them.  If you want to invest in a good brand, I definitely recommend Jade.  (Plus, they plant a tree for every mat they sell!)

I know many people like using blocks, but if you don’t want to spend money on them, you can use tennis balls and hardcover books instead.

For my skin, I really like using ORGO's Coconut Oil Jasmine Infusion.  It’s fragrance-free and organic, so it works for all skin types.

When I meditate, I like to use Diagen-koh incense by Great Origins.  It helps me feel zen for a more spiritual practice.

O2G: What are your plans for the future?

AP: One of my dreams is to do traveling yoga.  I want to collaborate with other Yogis and Yoginis around the world to help preserve and grow yoga in the United States and abroad.

O2G: What is your advice for people who want to try yoga?

AP: Seek.  Seek and you shall find.  Go to a lot of donation-based classes.  There are many different styles – some people will try yoga only once but never take another class because they tried a style that made them feel bad – so seek the one that fits you.  You can go to hot yoga if you like being in a sauna, or if you like outdoors, take classes that are held in parks.  It all depends on what your body and mind needs.

Another piece of advice is to find your community.  If you can find those people who don't make you afraid to try new things, that's when you know you've found your family.

 

The Warm-Up:

1. Cat Cow Stretch – Cow
Before going into sun salutation, stretch your back with the Cat Cow stretch. Begin on all fours and inhale, bringing the shoulder blades together to make a "U" with the spine.
2. Cat Cow Stretch - Cat
Exhale, Curve the spine up and gaze at your bellybutton.
3. Sun Salutation: Mountain Pose
Begin the Sun Salutation by reaching upwards through your fingers and lengthen the spine
4. Backwards Bend
Reach up and backwards, keeping a steady balance with your hips.
5. Low Lunge
From backwards bend, raise back into mountain pose, and then bend forwards, bringing your torso to meet your thighs. Rest your palms on the floor, distributing weight between your hands and feet.  Bring your right leg forward and bend the knee to rest your right foot between your hands.  Alternate with the left foot.
6. Plank
Start your plank position with a high plank first: Bring both feet behind you so you form a straight line with your body. Bring the elbows to the ribcage, hugging in.  Make sure your toes are facing towards your head. Lower down slowly into Chatarunga (low plank).  Your entire body from your head to your feet will be straight.
7. Cobra
Move from Chatarunga so that your entire body is resting on the floor. Flip your toes away from you (rest on the top part of your foot). Inhale, extend and open up your shoulders, pointing the shoulder blades at each other.  Keep your chest open, head up and keep weight on top of your foot and your palms.
8. Downward Dog
Exhale into downward dog. Push weight onto your palms and extend forward.  Raise your hips up and keep feet 4-5 inches apart, with big toes slightly facing each other.  The knees can be bent slightly.  Push down on your heels to get a stretch in the back of your legs.
9. Now work your way backwards to Mountain Pose and repeat.
Photos by Nicole Manguramas

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