AcroYoga is a combination of acrobatics and yoga that requires strength and body awareness. You know, in a fun way.
I WAS UPSIDE down in a straddle, hanging by my legs from another person’s feet. My base, a partner positioned on the floor, was trying to turn my upper body to face the same direction as my legs.
I had no clue how he was going to make that happen.
I was at OmCulture in Wallingford for an AcroYoga fundamentals class. I teach yoga, so you might think AcroYoga would come naturally to me — it doesn’t. I have strength and good body awareness on my side, but when you’re being twisted upside down in space while balancing on another human’s feet, it’s tough to keep your wits about you.
AcroYoga is partner yoga, with a base and a flyer. While there are similarities to yoga, with yoga poses like shoulder stand, it requires a different set of skills to execute well. I have taken Acro workshops before, but I have never dedicated myself to the art.
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I wanted to know what I could learn from teacher Megan Strawn. After a warm-up and a safety discussion — always use a spotter — we went through the essentials, starting with plank.
If you ever have flown on someone’s feet as a kid playing airplane, then you know plank. Except the humans in this case are larger, heavier adults, so the bases have to work on keeping their feet directly over their hips, while the flyer must use core strength to stay balanced on the base. I have flown in plank before, though when I tried to base, my feet kept tipping off to one side. I’ll need to work on that.
Our next pose was shoulder stand, which seemed like it should be easy and totally wasn’t. From plank, the flyer tips forward into the base’s hands, who moves the flyer’s legs up until the flyer is completely vertical and balanced in the base’s hands. It’s far more terrifying than shoulder stand on the ground.
My partners Dan and Lionel and I struggled with this one. As the flyer, I mostly needed to keep my core tight while the bases worked on getting my legs overhead. Moving someone’s body weight over your own is not easy. After several tries, with both Lionel and me taking turns flying, we finally got it.
Megan and teaching partner AJ ramped it up for the next pose, adding a straddle and a twist that moved the flyer from shoulder stand into a pose they called straddle bat.
Megan and AJ made it look effortless; we knew better.
From shoulder stand, I had to pike my legs, then my base had to rotate me 180 degrees. I piked, then fell. With Lionel flying, Dan managed to get part of the twist in.
We wanted to keep practicing, but suddenly class was over. Wait, what?
The open AcroYoga session was starting, and Dan and I decided to try again. This time, with a spotter’s help, I stayed in the pike in the shoulder stand. Dan placed his feet to support my legs, then used his hands to twist me around. At one point, I could hear the spotter calling directions, but they were directed to Dan. I tried to point my toes to make it easier, but mostly, I hung upside down, waiting.
All of a sudden, Dan figured out his hands, and twisted me all the way around. We made it! I think we cheered.
We attempted a cartwheel exit that didn’t go so well, but we didn’t care. We did the straddle bat! Sweet.
My favorite kinds of activities are ones that require strength and body awareness, but you are having so much fun you don’t even think about how hard it is. That is AcroYoga. I’ll be back.