Those who can’t fly do AcroYoga

Combine the lightness of acrobatics, the flexibility of yoga and the beneficial touch of Thai massage, mix well and here you have it—AcroYoga is born.

The discipline invented by Cirque du Soleil gymnast Jenny Sauer-Klein and Olympics acrobat Jason Nemer in 2003 will fill your daily practice with playfulness. These stretches are good not only for tight hamstrings, but therapeutic for the mind.

Aerial back bend pose

Aerial back bend pose

I was first tickled by the idea of trying to ‘fly,’ as the more intense part of the practice is called, a few weeks ago when I found myself wandering around  the World Wide Web in search of inspiration for some new freelance story ideas. I found a video on Acrobatic Yoga practice and just could not get my mind around it! How was it that I was not aware of what AcroYoga was? Was the traditional yoga teacher in me so attached to the beneficial remedies of pranayama breathing and spine elongation getting in the way of pushing me to try a more modern and creative way of unwinding the body? Was I not doing my homework correctly?

No, none of that actually… It’s not a crime to be unaware of new mind-body awareness disciplines that are born daily, is it? No, I wasn’t a poor student, just unaware: but I am thankful to discover new practices and try them myself!

So here I am bordering on guilt, blogging about my very first encounter with the AcroYoga world. And the outcome is more than enthusiastic: Striking a pose en plein aire is almost too good to be true.

Human Pyramid or Staggerd Chaturanga

Human Pyramid or Staggered Chaturanga

Experiencing weightlessness is like every kids’ dream of wearing a cape and playing flying Superman. If that does not excite you, then you might not enjoy this form of Yoga. But, if extending your spine and getting a massage on your quads while floating in the air thanks to the kindness of the ‘yogic base,’ or the ‘partner’ who is supporting you from underneath, makes you giggle, then you should just give it a try and you will more likely feel ‘elated.’

The whole discipline is based on the principle of Anti-Gravitational Spinal Elongation where the ‘flyer’ is receiving the benefits of the pose while being completely relaxed and acting passively to the ‘base’ that sustains and adjusts the aerial practitioner.

Hard at first, but so enjoyable. Much of the gracefulness and release felt while practicing the posture comes from developing trust with the ‘flying partner’ so to realize the outcome of the posture doesn’t only depend on you, but it is highly influenced by the efforts and energy of your partner.

So if no trust-thread is established between the two (or three) individuals, no positive outcome and no balance can ever be reached and a fall is more likely than a journey in air.

To establish trust, the class starts off in ‘the circle of trust’: chanting while holding hands and swaying at the rhythm of the melody gets the practitioners into the partner-yoga groove and allows for any last concerns to be dropped before moving into poses.

Flying Yogi

Flying Yogi

Once the trust is solid and the mind is calm, AcroYoga shifts back to body awareness, bringing about a series of yoga asana, or poses, to warm up the limbs and get the body ready for the ‘flying’ phase. And that’s when the kid inside every practitioner gets to come out and play.

But, don’t be fooled by the ‘flying phase.’ The final phase of Thai massage exchange is equally juicy. Here the warmth of one practitioner’s hands is applied to pressure points on the other practitioner’s body, ultimately releasing any trace of tightness impeding final relaxation and yes, some of us might end up napping. That’s o.k., so long as we return the favor when the times comes, and reciprocate the favor with the same emphasis. Remember, the meaning of AcroYoga is to work together toward that Infinite Bliss so many Yogis talk about.

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