A few years ago I noticed a friend who started posting photos of herself and a partner engaging in what appeared to be yoga and acrobatics simultaneously. Bodies in still motion seemingly flying in the air while the person at the bottom holds them steadily. I thought it to be beautiful and expressive and was drawn to learn more. I find out that it was indeed yoga combined with acrobatics called Acro Yoga. I met up with these women to inquire more about Acro Yoga and how they began this intriguing practice of balance, strength and coordination.
Yoga originated as an ancient Hindu practice of spiritual meditation and relaxation utilizing breathing techniques and asana, or postures. It's traditional purpose is to lead you to a path of enlightenment to become one in mind, body and soul. Evolving in modern world, Yoga's popularity has grown so much in recent years that these days you cannot live in a city or town that does not offer a Yoga class either in a studio, a private home or at a gym. It has become the go-to therapy of anyone who is seeking temporary serenity from the hustle and bustle of the outside world. With consistency, yoga increases overall body strength and flexibility while maintaining stillness and balance. It is respected as an effective form of strength training and fitness exercise, serves to reduce mental stress, and has been adopted in pop culture as an art form as well.
Side Angle, Warrior 2, Reverse Warrior
Acro Yoga is a relatively newer practice of Yoga that takes Yoga to a "higher" level, literally speaking. The main difference between Yoga and Acro Yoga is that it involves partnership and trust. In the case of friends, Kat, Jenn and Shannon, trust has never been an issue. It was natural to them when they first tried Acro Yoga to put their trust in one another. The trust came when on occasion they are partnered up with a stranger. "Acro Yoga gets you out of your own head and you realize through each pose just how much you can do when you turn off your mind and just trust. The trust between us I think has always been there. It's when you are working with a stranger that you just met that puts you to the test. Again, it gets you out of your own head", says Kat.
Jenn adds, "It has made me more aware of what I am capable of doing when I set my mind to something. It also builds trust in others as well as yourself."
Acro Yoga basically involves 3 people, the Base (bottom), the Flyer (top) and the Spotter (the guider of both positions). All three have very significant roles and are co-dependent on the other. The Base is the foundation and holds the flyer in a 90 degree angle, flexing her feet and hands accordingly until the flyer is in her correct form. The Flyer must have flexibility, balance and core strength as she is engaged above the base. The Spotter helps the flyer in her position and also guides her to safety landing. I watch in amazement how the friends worked as a team in perfect unity, discussing, positioning, and balancing as the spotter quickly moves away so that I can capture the pose with my camera.
"You have to be very present. You can't be thinking about what you're going to eat for dinner when you're lifting someone or you're upside down off of the ground. The mind and body need to be connected to what you're doing at each moment", says Shannon.
Both Kat and Jenn were drawn to Acro Yoga because it brought them back to their cheer leading days in high school. It is their adult form of cheer leading, if you will. All three women are experienced in yoga and wanted to enhance that experience with Acro Yoga. They take annual girl trips to the beach so that they can have more fun trying different poses. Jenn claims that it has made girls' night more interesting.
When I asked them what they would say to anyone who is looking to try Acro Yoga:
Kat: "Go for it!!!! You will be amazed at what your body is capable of. Even if you have never done yoga, you shouldn't be reluctant to take a class. It's a lot of fun!"
Shannon: "It's nice to get out of your comfort zone once in a while. And more often it's our minds and not our bodies that hold us back. Give it a try. You'll have a laugh and maybe surprise yourself."
Jenn: "I would tell somebody new to Acro Yoga to just give it a try. I would tell them that you would not know if you liked it or not unless you tried it. I would guarantee they would come out of it with a great experience."
My visit with Acro Yoga was positive, enlightening and memorable. I immensely enjoyed speaking and learning from these three lovely ladies who all embody a welcoming spirit. As a trainer I relish in the coordination and balance of Acro Yoga, and as a photographer, I am in awe of it's simple beauty and art form. While in the beginning I was interested in the physicality and imagery of it all, what I took with me was so much more. I walked away appreciating the value of faith and trust, and attempting something new and different. Acro Yoga puts you in a position to completely have faith in yourself and trust in your partner. Some couples even partake in Acro Yoga as relationship therapy to strengthen their bond and level of trust. And as difficult as something appears, they rely on that trust to get them through.
Kat said it best when she concludes, "We fall, we laugh, we get back up and try it again."
And isn't that what life is simply about....
Kat Boykoff, Shannon Kane, Jenn Kaiser
Be Your Own Fit would like to thank Kat Boykoff, Shannon Kane and Jenn Kaiser for their contribution.
Irma Ilao is a Certified Personal Trainer, a fitness nutritionist, a fitness and health Blogger at Be Your Own Fit, and a professional photographer. All photos are credit to Irma Ilao Photography.