As a teacher, performer & practitioner of Acro Yoga, it seems that a week can’t go by without someone saying, “Yeah, it’s pretty & fun…but it’s not yoga.”
“Yoga” means, “to yoke,” or “to create union.” At its highest aim, the practice of Yoga brings the yogi into alignment with “the Atma,” or divine consciousness. This is akin to Luke Skywalker becoming One with The Force.
In a traditional Hatha Yoga class, we practice syncing our movements with our breath. Mindfully connect the breath and the body, and you can unlock higher states of consciousness that ultimately move you toward “the oneness.”
In the practice of Acro Yoga, the aim is much the same. Only rather than simply unifying your breath & your movements, you add the unpredictable element of partnership. This raises the stakes.
Suddenly, “the dance of Shiva & Shakti” is a physical reality, no longer bound to the realm of helpful metaphor, or “sh*t yogis say.” All the stuff you can hide in the solitude of your Asana practice come bubbling to the surface, triggered and called forth by the presence of a partner. Union isn’t just a goal, it’s a necessity.
Essentially, Acro Yoga is Yoga, and it’s just as valid as any other adaptation.
With all that in mind, here are 3 key differences between Acro Yoga and your current Yoga practice.
1. Acro Yoga Gives You More Flexibility Than Yoga
Hatha Yoga is known for giving practitioners more flexibility. These benefits are limited, however, to the amount of weight or force you can personally exert on your muscles and connective tissue.
Adding another human’s mass to your own gives you an active loaded stretch, which opens your hips, hamstrings, low back and ankles far more than asana alone. I could never get my heels to the ground in down dog…UNTIL I started hanging 130 lbs of flyer on my feet on a regular basis. Now those puppies sing when they kiss the mat.
2. Acro Yoga Builds More Trust Than Yoga
When you’re on your mat, practicing standing poses and arm balances, you build a lot of trust. You learn that you can trust your sense of where you are in space. You learn that you can trust your strength, and the workings of your inner ear to keep you upright and on your own mat.
Acro Yoga gives you the ability to extend that trust to another person. When perched atop your partner’s feet in flight, you often feel like you’re going to fall. In order to enjoy the experience, you have to give up some control, and that can be pretty scary. However, in surrendering to the strength and balance of your base, you find moments of peace and transcendence that you can’t get anywhere else.
3. Acro Yoga Is Inherently More Playful Than Yoga
Let’s face it…yoga can get SO SERIOUS. It’s understandable. I mean, it’s a mind-quieting path to enlightenment, after all. However, no matter how often or hard I’ve tried, the monastic path of austerity and stoicism has never really been my thing.
Don’t get me wrong…I know it’s not ALL seriousness. I’ve certainly cracked a blissful smile and fallen out laughing the middle of class, but to be fair, it’s a rare occurrence.
However, laughter is a regular part of any Acro Yoga practice. When two people’s energies come together in co-creation, there’s a natural playfulness that’s fun, energizing and livening. Acro Yogis not only lift people, we lift spirits.
I’m all for union with supreme consciousness and the search for enlightenment, and I feel that laughter and play are necessary parts of that journey. After all, what’s enlightenment without a little levity?
Of course, every silver lining has a cloud. It’s important to note that in addition to all the elevated benefits of Acro Yoga, there’s also an elevated risk. When you fall out of your Warrior III, you may get a bruise. When you fall from a Foot-to-Foot, you may get a lot more. That’s why good spotting is a necessary part of any sustainable Acro Yoga practice.
If you’re interested in taking your Yoga game to the next level through the playful practice of Acro Yoga, I highly recommend you check out a class before trying all the cool stuff you find on YouTube. That way you can learn proper spotting, good falling techniques and tools for effective communication, and increase your overall success rate 100-fold.
No matter how you get started, keep in mind that the difference between Acro Yoga and Circus Acrobatics is the same as the difference between Yoga Asana & Swedish Gymnastics. It’s the difference between meditation and simply sitting on your couch doing nothing. If you’re after a fulfilling, transcendent experience, your approach and mindset are key.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a friend to fly.