AcroYoga has gained popularity in India over the last few years. It strengthens you physically and mentally by putting you through a series of acrobatic asanas. With International Yoga Day just round the corner, let’s explore this new form of healing and fitness.
AcroYoga was first practiced in 2003 by Jason Nemer and Jenny Sauer-Klein who decided to combine acrobatic moves with yoga. After meeting Carolyn Cohen who practices Thai massage, they conceptualised AcroYoga as a combination of acrobatics, yoga and healing arts. In 2006, they codified the practice and created an educational path to certify teachers, and also authored a book titled Elements of AcroYoga.
We spoke to Priyanka Devi Gupta, a personal yoga instructor in New Delhi, to demystify this new form of yoga for us. “AcroYoga is a fun yet challenging sport that lets one explore the boundaries of their body and abilities. You also get to meet and develop a relationship of trust with new people.”
Describing her own experience as fantastic, Priyanka shares, “I tried it out since I was exploring different forms of yoga. I teach the traditional way of one-on-one (private) yoga to women who belong to the international expat community. They tend to have very eclectic backgrounds in yoga, so it was necessary for me to be well-versed with Ashtanga, Jivamukti and Yin Yoga, and the natural progression was towards AcroYoga.”
What is AcroYoga?
AcroYoga refers to a unique combination of acrobatics, yoga, thai massage and healing arts (therapeutic flying). Less intense than acrobatics but more social that yoga, it is an athletic as well as artistic form of exercise.
The idea is to use gravity along with your body weight to enhance core strength just as Thai massage manipulates your body into stretches, by shifting the bones to equalize the weight of your body.
Most of the sequences in AcroYoga make use of therapeutic flying, a bodywork that includes a weightless, inverted and restorative treatment to extend the spine naturally, removing physical blockages and reducing stress.
What does an AcroYoga session entail?
A simple AcroYoga exercise includes 3 functions: the base (person at the bottom), the flyer (person on the top) and the spotter (to prevent falls). The base lies on his/her back on the mat, functioning as the foundation, on whose legs and feet the flyer is lifted and supported. The spotter functions as a guide who ensures proper posture and safety.
You begin by doing some strength building exercises along with your partner to function as a unit, in a coordinated manner. Further, try headstands and handstands with support from/supporting your partner to build trust and understanding. Finally move on with beginners’ sequences like the Front Bird and the Folded Leaf pose.
Benefits of AcroYoga
AcroYoga helps one embrace vulnerability and curiosity, while building a relationship of deep faith and trust in another person to support your body.
When functioning as a base, AcroYoga strengthens your limbs and core, helping you form a strong and stable foundation. When functioning as a flyer in AcroYoga, balance and confidence become an integral part of your physiological being.
AcroYoga helps release tension in the flyer’s back naturally. Certain poses can also help you build muscle. Thai massage helps in increasing sensitivity and focus, leading to a greater awareness of one’s body and a deep, comforting connection with one’s inner self.
A word of caution
Priyanka advises that one must always consult with a doctor before diving into AcroYoga or yoga so as to avoid injuries and health issues. “AcroYoga is something I would only recommend to people who have a certain level of fitness. It requires a lot of core strength, arm strength and a heightened awareness of one’s body and its limitations,” she says.
“It’s important that one practices with experienced people and always has spotters. Always practice under a certified trainer. There are too many people ‘teaching’ yoga who have half knowledge, which is more harmful in the long run.”
Image Credit: Priyanka Devi Gupta