Acro yoga (also called acrobatic yoga) is a form of yoga fusion that combines traditional yoga with acrobatics and dance. Through teamwork, communication, and trust, students work to achieve inversions and balances they may never attempt in a conventional yoga class.
It Takes Three to Make Acro Yoga Go Right
Acro yoga has been around for over a decade but has recently enjoyed a surge in popularity and attention. Its influences are broad, taking inspiration from tumbling, acrobatics, dance, meditation, and traditional healing. Whereas more traditional yoga practices tend to focus more on individual practice, acro yoga poses unite the experience of three people with each participant bringing a unique expression.
The Base, The Flyer, & The Spotter
The base participant acts as the physical foundation on which poses are built. The flyer participant is then connected to the base at support points along their hands, feet, back, or hips. The spotter participant keeps a close eye to ensure nothing goes amiss. A major focus in acro yoga is cultivating a sense of community, as cooperation is essential to the practice of this unique form.
Where to Start: Poses for Acro Yoga Success
Acro yoga students begin their practice in an elementary state from which they explore various facets of self‐exploration. Initial lessons focus on teaching safety skills and cultivating synchronicity between partners.
Seated Partner Breathing
Seated partner breathing is one way for partners to establish a connection. In this exercise, both partners sit in Sukhasana with their backs together, establishing a connection through their spines and their breath. The pose can also become a partner assisted spinal twist by extending the arms and rotating laterally from the hips. Poses are typically held for a length of 3‐5 breaths.
Double Down Dog
A popular pose for building confidence in acro yoga is the Double Down Dog. To enter this pose, both the flyer and the base position themselves in a traditional downward dog pose. The flyer walks her feet up the lateral aspects of the base’s back, coming to rest on their partner’s hips. This provides the base with an opportunity to partially support the flyer’s weight while the flyer becomes used to gentle inversion and surrendering control.
Front Bird Yoga Pose
Students typically progress into supported poses by learning the Front Bird asana which is a foundation posture with many advanced variations. The base lies supine on the ground with her feet in contact with the flyers hips. When ready, the base extends her legs perpendicular to the ground and supports the flyer’s weight fully through the feet and hands. Advanced students can experiment by letting go of the hands and maintaining contact only through the base’s feet. They can then choose to work their arms behind them into a gentle backbend (Free Bird), or into a full supported Bow pose.
Folded Leaf Yoga Pose
The Folded Leaf pose is an example of a therapeutic asana. With feet to hips, the flyer folds in half so that her torso is parallel to the base’s legs and perpendicular to the ground. This posture brings space and extension into the spine and intervertebral spaces, providing benefits similar to those of solo inverted postures. The base is able to provide gentle hands‐on adjustments, assisted twists, or stretch through the shoulder girdle. Many acro yoga poses draw on principles from healing touch and thai massage to create what is referred to as ‘therapeutic flight’. The result is a unique meditative state, as well as heightened mindfulness and tension relief.
As students’ confidence, balance, and core strength develop, they can progress into increasingly complex tumbling flows. The most advanced of the sequences bring the flyer into a ‘washing machine’ series where they tumble in and out of various asanas.
Even beginners can enjoy the benefits of mindfulness, confidence, and connectivity by pushing their boundaries and having the courage to leave ground. It can be difficult to not be intimidated by the ease in which experienced practitioners model in these difficult routines, however, while beautiful to watch, it is important to remember that this is not necessarily the goal of acro yoga. The true goal is to strengthen the mind and body through the combination of various skills and art.
Intrigued? Come visit the Feel Good Yoga & Pilates studio and check it out for yourself!
Author: Danika Milne