Aria Crescendo is a dancer, singer and yoga instructor with a kaleidoscopic life already behind her. She studied performing arts, joined the Crazy Horse troupe and then left to dance with them in Las Vegas. Her 17-year-old self was far from enchanted by the unwelcoming town. At the recommendation of some friends in the Cirque du Soleil, she took her 1st yoga class, just a way to pass the time and fight the boredom. It was a decisive moment, the practice began to take up all of her spare time.
Today, back in Paris, this glowing gal splits her time between the devoted yogi community she has brought together and the recording studio. Read on for her more on her path and unique philosophy.
Inside/Out: How did you get into yoga?
Aria: In Las Vegas, I was antsy and aimless. I was depressed and self medicating with Nutella. Some friends got me to join them for a yoga class. I was pretty skeptical at first, I thought I would be so bored...and the opposite happened. The students were doing all of these acrobatic moves on their arms, hands and heads. I was totally enthralled and was like, “I want to do that!”. My first teacher, Sean, was a lunatic. He was 80 years old and looked 60. I asked him how he stayed so limber and he told me that yoga was the path to eternal youth. I started a teacher training and became fully obsessed. For several months, I was practicing 4 hours a day, then performing at night. When I got back to Paris, I decided to make this my second career. It saved me. Danse is a really restrictive profession, so many rules, and I found this really heavy. Yoga freed me while also providing the container for a rather healthy life. It kept me on the right path, while so many others where losing themselves in parties and nightlife.
I/O: What type of yoga did you study?
A: I started with Iyengar. At that time, I knew nothing. In Los Angeles, I did Ashtanga, Power Yoga and Vinyasa. When I started getting certified here in Paris, the only school that I found was Iyengar-focused – pretty boring to me. I followed that with Ashtanga studies. Then I just mixed it up with what I had learned in the States and started teaching at L’Usine. I was their fist yoga teacher, in fact, and felt like quite the alien. I was barely 21, gave classes her and there and still dancing at the Crazy Horse.
I/O: Tell us about your experience with the Paradiso Girls.
A: I was at a gala in Cannes and met Bono, who then introduced me to Jimmy Iovine, the founder of the record label Interscope (Editor’s note: Lady Gaga, M.I.A., Madonna, Dr Dre, U2, etc.). Jimmy suggested I start a girls’ band and I jumped at the opportunity. I signed a contract and went straight back to Los Angeles, leaving everything else behind, and started the Paradiso Girls. Over the course of 6 years, I worked with Will I Am, Cee Lo Green, Pharell Williams...It was pretty amazing. We weren’t known in Europe, but in the US we did really well. During this time, I continued yoga. Not a day went by that I didn’t practice. I signed up for the Yoga Worksprogram and got certified in Vinyasa there. It became my second home, the people there were like family to me. There again, yoga provided a framework for me. In Hollywood, one day people love you and the next they don’t. It can be a tough place and yoga allowed me to keep my head on my shoulders. It also helped me with stress. Not only in my work, but also in my personal life – wherever things are tough to deal with. Yoga has saved me every single time.
I/O: What are your thoughts on yoga in Paris today compared to yoga in the United States?
A: Things are getting started here, things are changing. Maybe not so fast, because e are years behind. Like 50 years! It can still be hard to find good teachers here. The vibe is different, less positive, maybe? And the general level is less advanced, simply because people don’t have as much experience. Going to India for 2 weeks doesn’t make one a good yoga teacher. This takes time. Again, yoga is a style of life, not just a style. OR Yoga is a style of life not just a trend. (I like the 1st betteras it can be a pull quote.) It’s a shame because if more French people would leave their comfort zones, they would inevitably feel calmer, less stressed, more optimistic. They need to learn to live differently. Even if we work and have a family, it’s totally possible to wake up 30 minutes earlier to allow time for yoga and kick off the day in a positive way. My core group of students realize very quickly the impact that this practice has on their lives.
I/O: What brought you back to Paris?
A: I write, I play piano and after 6 years in California I wasn’t into it anymore. I had worked a lot and had not really taken advantage of so many things. And yet, yoga is about being in the present moment. I went through some really intense times there; everything happened so fast, maybe too much so, in fact. I am a really passionate person and I need to inspire people. The band took a turn that I didn’t like and where I felt stuck. So I quit, signed a contract with Warner and took off to come back to Paris. To Boulogne, actually. I had an apartment here back in my Crazy Horse days and decided to stay around here because of the proximity to the Bois du Boulogne forest.
I/O: Tell us about the style of yoga that you teach today.
A: I teach my own style, Warrior Yoga, which is a mix between Ashtanga (5 breaths per posture) and Vinyasa (for the cardio and flow), Power and Iyengar. I always play music and classes are very cardio, fun but also with a focus on safety and alignement.
I call it warrior because I ask people to come to class with the idea of surpassing their limits. No excuses. Will power more than flexibility. In my classes, I get to the inversions pretty quicky as I find that these are among the most beneficial. They’re good for circulation, for skin – the best anti-wrinkle treatment! – we should go upside down every day. I always tell my students:“Keep an open mind and be ready to do things that you have never done.”Don’t get stuck, try. In this way, progress is very fast, no matter what the age or body type. With a strong mind, we succeed. Then, keep this attitude in every day life. This is yoga.
I/O: You spent 6 years living and working with the Crazy Horse dancers. What is your vision of female empowerment today?
A: Here again I see a big difference between France and the United States. In the US, a successful woman inspires her friends. While here in France, woman are often reproachful of the success of others. I don’t have a lot of friends here. Competition is omnipresent. We are able to come together for certain causes, but on a daily basis we tend to bring each other down. In yoga here, it’s the same, unfortunately, while in LA I feel like there is a still a sense of hippie culture, sharing, and community. I would love for this to change. We need to learn to inspire each other more. And to bring each other up. This is truly my vision for Paris: to teach new yogis. This is why I opened my studio. The larger the community, the more positive things will become.
I/O: A few words to describe your teaching style.
A: Precision. Determination. Flow. Fun. I should lead with fun, in fact, as we really do have a great time in my classes. A mix of fun and discipline because discipline leads to progress and progress is motivating.
I/O: Is Healthy Warriors a community?
A: It’s more like a new movement. My version of Power Yoga for Paris. An army in the making. With new disciplines to be created.
I/O: You mantra or motto?
A: You must do the things you cannot do.
I/O: What makes you happy these days?
A: A studio in Paris. A yogic army. And my new album!
Healthy Warriors Studio www.healthy-warriors.com