Acroyoga: Tried and True Method of Gaining Trust in Another Person

Acroyoga is a newer form of yoga that has taken shape over the last 20 years, and is now popular around the world. It is a form of partner yoga, which involves one person who is a base to support another person, known as the flyer. Together, they make acrobatic shapes, hence the name acroyoga.

Key takeaways:
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    Acroyoga is a new Westernized style of partner yoga.
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    It consists of a base, flyer, and spotter as the important components.
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    Acroyoga helps build trust in other people through touch and contact.

You certainly need to be comfortable with close contact with another person to perform acroyoga. For many, it may be outside their comfort zone at first, but with practice, it is a tried and true method of gaining trust in another person, maybe even a stranger if you show up to a class by yourself!

Along with the base and the flyer, there is a third person involved, called a spotter. A spotter stands to the side to make sure the flyer doesn’t fall. This is very important, because accidents can happen. There is an element of danger with acroyoga, as one person is literally in the air supported by the other person on the ground. At times, the flyer may even be upside-down.

Even though it may look very acrobatic, it is still important to breathe while performing acroyoga exercises.

There is also the element of Thai massage that can be added in to create a relaxing experience, in which one person relaxes on the base and the base will massage and stretch the flyer. This can be an entire experience or done at the end of a session to prevent sore muscles.

The origins of acroyoga

Performing acrobatics and yoga postures are thousands of years old, in addition to Thai massage. However, the roots of acroyoga are Western, originating in Montreal, Canada and the United States, in combination with circus culture.

Classes and schools have spread throughout the globe, and it is even popular in India, the homeland of yoga.

Acroyoga classes may not follow a traditional yoga class format, although there may be a brief warm up for everyone at the beginning. The majority of exercises will then be done with their partner to build trust before moving onto learning the acroyoga poses.

Drills such as counterbalancing or doing a partner plank or tabletop are easy exercises to start with before moving onto more complex poses and sequences.

The base

The base is the key ingredient for stability during an acroyoga session. Usually, they lie on their back with their arms and legs extended in the air. It requires a great deal of core and arm strength, hamstring flexibility and coordination to be a base, as well as trust from the flyer.

The base must learn proper alignment of bone stacking. This concept means the ankles in the air must be stacked over the hips when they are lying on their back.

The base’s job is to manipulate the flyer into different shapes and positions safely and slowly. The most common position to start with is known as “the bird” in which the flyer balances their hips on the base’s feet. From there, they can move into many different positions in a variety of ways.

The flyer

The flyer also must learn to carry their own body weight. The flyer will make interesting yogic shapes such as bow pose or seated throne while balancing on the base’s hands and feet. This also requires them to have proper body awareness and core strength.

There is a feeling of instability when balancing one’s body weight on another. The flyer must use their sensory awareness to adjust for stability while balancing on another person’s hands and feet, sometimes while being upside-down.

This adds complications, as sometimes it is difficult to understand where one is going while inverted, so trust must be established that the base will guide them appropriately to the next position.

Once an acroyoga couple becomes experienced, they can flow through a variety of moves in sequence and it even takes on a performance aspect. The circus cousin of acroyoga is called “hand-to-hand” in which most of the moves are performed on the hands only from a standing position.

The spotter

The spotter is the third wheel when new practitioners are learning, or when experienced acroyoga enthusiasts are learning something new. The spotter will use a slight squat position to provide buoyancy in their body and use their hands to protect the heads of the base and flyer if a fall does occur. It is a very important role.

At the end of a session, a flyer may go through a series of relaxing postures, such as folding over at the hip creases on the base’s feet while the base gently massages and stretches them in different positions similar to Thai massage. This is a great way for the flyer to relax after a session, and the flyer may also offer their base a massage after their hard work.

Many proficient acroyoga partners often learn both roles, but it can also depend on body proportions and weight. If this is the case, the flyer-turned-base may need to change partners to somewhere in their size range.

Learning to communicate through touch and sensation is key when performing acroyoga. However, in the beginning it may be essential to talk about the poses out loud to each other. Over time, a trust and bond is built between partners where they communicate in a kinesthetic sense through their body’s movement.

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