Acroyoga—or Acro, as it’s commonly known today—is a practice that crosses the boundaries of yoga, dance and low-level acrobatics. Throw in a little Thai massage for good measure, and you have a recipe for fun!
Acroyoga as a movement came into being around 1999, when the term was coined by Jessie Goldberg and Eugene Poku of Acroyoga Montreal. In 2003, Jenny Sauer-Kliein and Jason Nemer formed acroyoga.org. The teachers from both schools hailed from strong yoga backgrounds. Since then the movement has gained momentum worldwide, with practitioners on every continent around the world.
Acroyoga promotes communication, trust, and community in an open and playful environment.
Traditional yoga fosters introspective mindfulness through poses and movements, while striving for balance and stillness. Acroyoga takes the individual practice and expands it by connecting and sharing with others. Acro is usually practiced in a group of three or more: a “base” supports and lifts the flier, with strength and stability; a “flier” moves through three-dimensional space, displaying balance and grace; the “spotter” facilitates communication and trust by insuring the safety of both flier and base.
Although some may have a preference and feel more comfortable in one role—either a base or a flier—as a general rule, each person involved is responsible for spotting. The whole practice evolves around building trust and communication. This is where the spotter shines, allowing everyone to push their practice, knowing they can place their trust in their play partners and stay safe.
The terms “solar” and “lunar” are often used in Acroyoga to describe the synergistic forces in this unique practice. The “solar” element refers to the more acrobatic and physical aspect of Acro—the poses and dynamic movements—such as “the washing machine,” in which an aerial tumbling movement is repeated over and over again. There is a flow where one movement connects to the next, combining as many different movements as you can imagine.
The “lunar” side of Acro refers to the therapeutic aspect of the practice, where stretching, twisting, and Thai massage are practiced and shared with your play partners. With lunar Acro, the acrobatic elements of physical lifting and flying are combined with the yoga aspect of balance and stillness.
Who should try it?
Anyone with a little curiosity about Acro, or a desire to explore the possibility of taking their yoga practice “to the next level” should definitely give Acro a shot!
Whether or not you have a regular yoga practice, it’s a guaranteed, fun gateway to gaining strength, flexibility, and balance.
“Do I need a partner?” is the most common question regarding Acro, and the answer is, “Absolutely not!” That’s the great thing about having a community—you can pretty much count on meeting and playing with new and interesting people.
Where to start?
As with any new skill, it’s always a good idea to get some formal training. I do recommend taking classes, especially if you’re brand new to the practice, as they help you build good habits and a proper foundation. Rest assured you’ll be learning in a safe environment, and will incrementally develop the skills you need to progress in your practice. On Oahu, check out the Facebook page for Acroyoga Oahu—it’s a great starting point for all things Acro.
What to expect
In the beginning, many of the poses
are static, learning to balance and support, and building trust and communication. You also learn how to connect in a gentle and supportive manner. But it quickly progresses to dynamic movements balanced on the bases’ feet or hands. The final layer is to move into the three-dimensional dance of grace and flexibility.
The language of Acroyoga
Pops, flips, whips, and “washing machines” are the most common words used in Acro. Acro has developed its own language which can be a little confusing in the beginning, but it’s all part of the fun. And once you get a grasp of it there are communities around the globe ready to converse and play. And remember, “play” is what Acro is all about!
How did Acroyoga come to Oahu?
I picked up the practice in Tucson, Ariz. After being off-island for almost two years and recovering from an illness, I returned to Hawaii wanting to share this amazing form of yoga. I had no partner, and out of frustration I started to teach a few yoga teachers what I had learned. That was four years ago. From those humble beginnings—and with the help of visiting teachers and a few dedicated individuals—Acroyoga Oahu has grown into a thriving community with classes and practices around the island. We are still thriving and expanding, thanks to a small but dedicated group of certified teachers.
The Acroyoga community also has a strong bond with Waikiki Acrobatics, who are always ready to share their wonderful knowledge with the Acroyoga community.
By Douglas (Frank) Komack
Douglas is a founder of Acroyoga Oahu and is a certified Yoga and Acro teacher. He is also a commercial offshore Diver, Carpenter, network engineer and promotes bamboo as an alternative to other wood products.