Find out where it comes from, what you can expect in a typical class, the different types of Acroyoga and also the things you need to watch out for....
What is Acroyoga?
Deike - Acroyoga is a mix of three traditions:
- Thai massage
It’s a form of partner yoga but a more advanced, deeper dimension of it. It brings in the playful, powerful and technical influences of acrobatics, so there's lots of lifting your partner, and the healing qualities of the massage. The philosophy of yoga embedded in it takes it beyond just a physical practice, it’s more than that, as we know with our regular yoga practice.
It was started in 2003 in the States by Jenny Sauer-Klein and Jason Nemer, a dancer and a yogi. You can find out more about them on the Acroyoga website www.acroyoga.org
So how did you come across it?
Deike - I was practicing yoga in Holland 7 or 8 years ago but felt I was missing the link to be able to integrate the yoga philosophy into my life. I travelled to San Francisco in 2007 and there I met this yoga community - they were really living the yoga lifestyle, not just taking classes.
They were practicing this thing called Acroyoga - well I was already an acrobat, I was practising yoga and a massage therapist so this of course instantly drew me in. The combination was made for me!
Apart from it being this mix of things I already loved, I also really like the philosophy of the practice. You always need a third person with you so you have a little community there already.
It does not replace my individual yoga practice, that’s still really important to me, but adds something else to it.
What can you expect from a typical Acroyoga session?
Deike - A typical session starts with connecting with yourself, and then with other bodies, through partner yoga or group work.
Then you go through the acrobatic techniques - learning to lift each other and be lifted, and the alignment you need to do this safely and more easily. You work in threes (at least) so there is a person who is the base (the lifter), a flyer and a spotter to make sure everything is safe and to help out.
Then there are two types of practice:
- Lunar - this is the softer, therapeutic style bringing in more of the Thai massage and healing practices. There is a receiver and a giver. The base, the giver, supports the weight of the receiver - moving them around (to stretch and twist) and massaging them. The receiver is very passive in this practice. It's their job to hand over control and relax.
Often in the beginning it’s easier to start with the lunar practice.
- Solar - here the focus is more acrobatic and empowering - both people are active - it’s more dynamic and this is where you get to do cool tricks!
I think it appeals to two types of people:
- It’s playful so it’s appealing to those who are new to yoga and are interested in it in a different way. Perhaps if they are put off by the thought of traditional yoga being too serious or something and they like working with a partner.
- It also appeals to long time yogis who are looking for a new dimension or challenge to their practice and enjoy the therapeutics benefits of both the massage and of being upside down.
What should you watch out for?
Deike - Practice with a third person to spot you and make sure you communicate with each other well.
- During therapeutic flying, the feet of the base person are pressing into the groin of the flyer - this means that the blood flow is compressed and so it’s not suitable if you are pregnant.
- People who need to avoid regular inversions like Headstand due to high blood pressure or eye or heart problems will also need to avoid this.
- For the person acting as the base - for many people being a base is therapeutic for the lower back, however if you have too much instability in the sacral joint you need to be careful, check in with a qualified teacher first.
Do you have any tips for people who are curious about trying it out?
Deike - If you’re curious try it! Don’t be held back by fear. Don’t hold back because you are scared, be open. At the same time make it safe - have a third person there to spot to help out.
Once you’ve learnt the techniques it’s very healing to be upside down, it’s very therapeutic.