Acroyoga 101: The Basics of Partner Yoga

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Anyone who has ever heard the term “yoga” knows there are hundreds of different styles—from ashtanga to vinyasa to laughing yoga—and each style has its own lineage, history, benefits and values. One yoga style that is slowly growing in communities across the world is acroyoga, or partner yoga, which blends yoga, acrobatics and therapeutic Thai massage.

Anyone who has ever heard the term “yoga” knows there are hundreds of different styles—from ashtanga to vinyasa to laughing yoga—and each style has its own lineage, history, benefits and values.

One yoga style that is slowly growing in communities across the world is acroyoga, or partner yoga, which blends yoga, acrobatics and therapeutic Thai massage.

The Evolution

That tiny girl flipping the 200-pound man in the air with ease? That’s acroyoga, and it’s been around for decades, according to Arlington, VA-based acroyoga instructor Justin Blazejewski, founder of Vetoga.

And like other types of yoga, there are different schools of acroyoga. From the schools came various followers and practitioners from all backgrounds—dance, yoga, rock climbing, acrobatics, gymnastics and pole dancing, to name a few—who honed their practice and began teaching others.

Weekly “jam sessions” evolved out of the practice, resulting in the gathering of people in cities around the world, who perform acroyoga in open settings for hours.

Mikka Minx, who teaches in San Francisco, compared the weekly jams to social dancing and called it an important community experience.

More formal, daily or weekly classes are now also being held in makeshift studios and open spaces.

The Basics 

Blazejewski says traditionally, each acroyoga pose needs three people: a base, a flyer and a spotter. A base is the person with their backs on the ground and their legs typically up in the air supporting the flyer, who moves slowly through each transition into a different pose while connected to the base’s feet, shins or hands. The spotter supervises the base and the flyer in each pose.

Grant Shipman, owner of Austin, TX-based Yogabatics, says a class typically starts with a 10 or 15-minute yoga flow routine, then the instructors—typically two to three per class, depending on its size—spend one-and-a-half hours demonstrating and helping students execute three to five poses, and finally, students stretch and cool down.

Shipman says there are no requirements for practicing acroyoga—you don’t have to be a certain weight or height, be super flexible or have any experience in yoga, and you don’t need a partner. Shipman says 70 percent of his students typically show up solo.

“We play really well with everybody,” he said.

The Benefits

Blazejewski said there is a safety factor when you’re doing things like putting people in the air, and some injuries may result if you’re not careful or concentrating on the pose.

Minx said you definitely get a workout doing acroyoga, because you’re using muscles in ways you don’t typically use them and working on flexibility and body alignment.

More importantly, she says acroyoga teaches communication, trust and problem solving.

“It’s a really important experience for all humans to have,” she said about the process of trusting a stranger to hoist you into the air.

Above all, Shipman says acroyoga is about connecting with your partner.

“It’s hard not to feel accepted by someone when you’re holding their weight and you’re both laughing,” he said.

Find acroyoga workshops, classes and jams near you:

Acro Addicts 757

  • Chesapeake City Park, 900 City Park Drive, Chesapeake
  • The Fellowship Hall, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, 1489 Laskin Road, Virginia Beach
  • 757 Dance Studio, 176 S. Rosemont Road, Virginia Beach
  • Yoga Nook, 927 N. Battlefield Blvd., Ste. 100, Chesapeake
  • 24th Street Park, Oceanfront Va Beach

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