Slackline Yoga and the Environment

Meet the pioneers of a new yoga style and their quest to save the environment

Think crane pose is hard? Try doing it on a bouncy, one-inch wide, nylon line suspended three-feet off the ground. Or how about meditating in lotus position while balancing on the same bungy-like line? While to some this might seem one step below the mythical feat of levitation, for Jason Magness and Sam Salwei, it’s just another turn on the path to enlightenment.

Magness and Salwei are the creators of “slackline yoga,” a hybrid practice that transplants normal (and challenging enough) yoga poses onto a slackline — a thin strip of taut nylon webbing stretched between two anchor points. Originally created by rock climbers to enhance balance and focus, slacklining has steadily grown in popularity among outdoor athletes. For the last several years, Magness and Salwei and their band of extreme yogis known as the YogaSlackers have spread this new practice, along with messages of sustainability and positive change, to yogis, outdoorsy folk and anyone brave enough to walk the line.

And while they may live out of their vans and lack discernable job descriptions, with a growing variety of exploits and a steady travel schedule of workshops, expeditions and races across the globe, the YogaSlackers are not your typical gang of new-age vagabonds. What started with slackline yoga has grown to encompass adventure racing, Acroyoga (a new discipline incorporating Thai massage and acrobatics) and their own brand of eco-expeditions. They have even released an instructional DVD titled, Slackasana: The Art of Slackline Yoga. But the real synergy started when the group observed the yogic connection between it all.

“We realized yoga wasn’t just about what we were doing on the mat,” Magness says. “We gained perspective from slacklining and we realized we could do yoga while we were racing or climbing. We saw the connection between all these different things, and that eventually led to thinking about how we interact with the environment.”

Through the countless workshops and demonstrations that pack their travel schedule, the YogaSlackers have strived to spread the benefits of what Magness calls, “extreme living with awareness” and “the maximization of human potential.”

The group’s human potential was officially maximized during a recent expedition titled To Cross the Moon. On February 7, Magness, Salwei and fellow Slacker Paul Cassedy embarked on a 390-mile snowkiting (skiing or snowboarding while being propelled by a parachute-like kite) journey across North Dakota to help raise awareness about the state’s potential for wind energy production.
Magness and Salwei attempted the same trip last winter, but were cut short after 248 miles by low snowfall and dangerously thin ice on a key lake crossing.

“We figured it wouldn’t be a good idea to die promoting wind energy,” says Magness.
According to the American Wind Energy Association, North Dakota has the highest wind energy potential of any US state, but it isn’t even in the top ten in terms of current production.

“Thirty two percent of the nation could be powered solely on North Dakota’s wind,” says Magness. But with a heavy coal production industry and a conservative political climate, he adds, North Dakota doesn’t seem overly eager to embrace green energy. Magness hopes the expedition will raise awareness among residents about the state’s woefully untapped resource. “This is just North Dakota, and we’re not climbing a new mountain or anything, but we’re doing something that’s out there enough that people will really listen.”

Some people already have. An educational pre-tour which traveled to 16 towns across the state in January encouraged kids to write letters to state government officials about wind energy, and according to Magness, 1,700 letters made their way to the Capitol. The educational tour will also travel ahead of the group during the To Cross the Moon expedition and continue to spread the word on wind.

“Some of these small towns that maybe only have 1,000 people, they could potentially go off the grid with wind energy,” finishes Magness. “We have the opportunity to create huge global change.”


— Andy Anderson has been known to dabble in both yoga and slacklining, but most of the time he is just a regular ol' slacker

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