With a passion for building community and teaching others about connection, Claudine and Honza Lafond created their brand YogaBeyond® and the practice ACROVINYASA. The husband and wife duo live in Australia, but they actively teach across the globe and host teacher trainings in Bali and sometimes the US. As prolific figures on social media (they have combined Instagram and Facebook followings of over 400,000), and recent partners of the Wanderlust in Australia, their schedules are full, yet they make sure to always have fun.
“We’re working hard. We’re getting it done; and we’re always having fun in the process,” Claudine said.
Honza added, “We get some slack for being this picture of fun, happiness and perfection on our Instagram feed. It’s been a challenge to explain to people that for the most part our lives are what we authentically put out there.”
We spoke over Skype after they finished a photoshoot for their latest teacher training manuals.
How did you start practicing acroyoga?
Claudine: I started practicing acroyoga about six years ago with a friend on the beach. I instantly fell in love with the upside down world and was totally hooked from the first pose. I was so enthralled of the possibilities of what I could do on somebody else’s feet. During that time in Australia there really wasn’t much acroyoga. My friends and I would drive five hours for a one day workshop or fly north to do a 5-day course. After a year I flew to Greece for a Level 1 teacher training with Jason Nemer and Jenny Sauer-Klein. I realized it was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
While I was exploring the world of acroyoga Honza was doing his own thing working in finance and working with clients in his personal training business. He was doing really well but realized it wasn’t what was making him happy. He decided to go to Nepal to find something to fulfill him more and take a step away from the day-to-day realities. During that time he became a certified ashtanga yoga teacher, and he went to the base camp of Mount Everest. When he came back he was ready to do something different. That’s when we decided to collaborate and started YogaBeyond®.
How is ACROVINYASA different than acroyoga?
Claudine: ACROVINYASA is devised into two levels. Each level has 45 earth asanas and 45 air asanas. They string together into a continuous sequence to make one vinyasa flow. The primary distinction is that each pose that we do on the ground has a correlating pose that we do in the air. It’s really simple and straightforward in the sense that you can see and experience the poses on your mat before you do them on someone’s feet. Aside from the vinyasa competent, we always focus on inversions. In every ACROVINYASA class you spend time with a partner learning how to get upside down comfortably and how to coach somebody in an inversion.
We found that the practice of acroyoga was more geared towards acrobatics, which deterred a lot of people from trying it. Honza and I developed ACROVINYASA to create a practice that was accessible on a really basic entry level for everybody to try. Creating our school was the perfect manifestation of that to have a home where people could come and try the very basics of the practice and feel successful within it. (The school has since been passed on to one of their ACROVINYASA certified teachers.)
What inspired you to follow your bliss and inspire others to do the same?
Claudine: Staying connected to things that make me feel good, happy and fulfilled are the most important things in life. I think back to my first few yoga experiences and how I felt so calm, peaceful and happy. I felt this instantaneous urge to show other people that they could also feel like this. For years I felt like yoga was a secret that everyone should know about and how important that is to show with others.
What sources do you draw upon to guide your teaching?
Claudine: Alan Watts, Joseph Campbell, Eckhart Tolle, Michael Franti. As far as yoga teachers go: Les Leventhal, Seane Corn, Ana Forrest.
Honza: An endless list of musicians and artists. Alan Watts, Charlie Chaplin, Jim Carrey, Albert Einstein. More often, it’s not people that inspire us, it’s the force or the intention that beings put into the world. I would say that my biggest inspiration is not particularly coming from human beings. It’s one thing to copy what someone else has already done, which can be very inspiring to you. But I think a true spark of inspiration actually comes from each one of us. That’s unpredictable. That’s very unique to every one of us. Contrary to common belief, I think that for the most part every human being is an artist. The fact that a human being is in existence comes from inspiration. We’re all here to create. We’re divine creators. What we create and how we create makes up our reality that much more.
What are tools people can learn in ACROVINYASA that they can incorporate into their relationships?
Claudine: Acroyoga is a practice of listening and developing sensitivity and communication. All those things pull on your heart and demand your attention and presence. It’s a really amazing metaphor in this practice of ACROVINYASA, which doesn’t just show up on the mat, it’s how you show up in all parts of your life and how you communicate with someone honestly and openly. It’s a really honest practice. You can’t hide your insecurities or your lack of trust.
Every practice starts with a focus on the breath. It’s so simple but I think it’s a great tool that couples can use before they do anything together to pause and breathe. There’s so much checking in with acro, “How does this feel?” “How’s the weight?” “Can I do something different?” There’s always checking in to make sure that whatever you’re doing is mutually beneficial, you’re supporting each other and that you both are committed to doing your best. You can take all these things from the physical practice into your life.