At its simplest definition, acro yoga combines yoga, acrobatics, and therapeutic / Thai massage. It is also sometimes referred to as partner yoga, partner acrobatics, various variations of the words, or simply “acro.” It’s less intimidating than what most people would think of as acrobatics (flipping and flying through the air) and more inclusive and dynamic than traditional yoga (poses or flows) because of the added skills you can learn, and the involvement of one or more partners.
For people interested in trying acro yoga, it is a great way to exercise, stretch, and have fun like a child again! It can help increase your flexibility and strength, and there is no prior experience required. Also, it’s not necessary to bring a partner; acro yoga is a very social activity that usually involves practicing with several different partners or groups in a single session.
There are many facets and styles of acro yoga as well; L-basing, standing, Icarian/Risley, dance acro, improvisation, etc., so you may find you prefer one or more styles more than others. You can try static poses, or link them together in flows or repeating sequences we call “washing machines” (because they end where they started and can keep going, like a circle).
From a workout perspective, the base creates a strong platform for the flyer to move on, and holding people up is similar to body weight exercises or pressing exercises like bench pressing, overhead pressing, and leg pressing, except with the added challenge of doing it with a human who has a moving center of gravity and therefore is more difficult to control than a lead weight. However, the “bone stacking” technique mentioned helps maximize the weight load on bones rather than muscles, so that the base does not tire too quickly. The flyer balances and presses up from the base, similar to pressing exercises like handstands, planches, L-sits, and planks from different angles.
Besides the physical aspects, acro yoga has a unique way of also building trust, communication (try giving someone directions while they are upside down or spinning…up becomes down… left becomes right.), patience, compassion, empathy, and creativity. Participants are encouraged to try all three roles to experience the perspectives of each, and gain appreciation for what the other roles do and how they work together.
Often we see that, compared to strangers, couples in a relationship can easily fall into arguing and blaming, perhaps because of their comfort with being honest with each other, but also because acro yoga tests their relationship in new ways. Jealousy can become a particular problem, as acro yoga is an inherently intimately physical activity full of touching, endorphins, and spandex, not to mention wardrobe malfunctions and perfectly rational instructions such as “tilt your crotch towards my face” or “put your hand on this part of my inner thigh.”
But as someone whose “acromance” has developed all the way to the point of recently having a acro baby, I can tell you it can also deepen your connection and strengthen the pillars of your relationship in ways I never thought possible. Other than that, one of the best aspects of acro yoga is the supportive, caring, and extensive community. My D.C acro community lifts me up (literally) and has become my world, full of my closest friends (again, literally).
Our practice meetups (called “jams”) take priority on my calendar over pretty much every other social engagement option. And we are connected to many other groups around the world, like a hub in a wheel of spokes. I know that wherever I travel, I can find a group of acro yogis somewhere nearby, who will welcome me to play with them, as well as sleep on their couch! I like to say that acro is like a virus you catch, and then infect others with, while continuing to re-infect yourself! So perhaps the biggest thing to fear is the addiction.
For those brand new to acro, it is strongly recommended to first attend a class or workshop to learn fundamentals and safety. In the D.C. area, we have classes and jams (informal open gym time) multiple times each week, as well as occasional longer workshops and intensives. Information for all of them can be found on our Facebook group page: “DC Acro Yogis.” For offerings in Virginia, check out the “NOVA Acro Yoga” Facebook group and for Maryland, “Montgomery County Acro Jams.” We recommended you wear snug fitting athletic or yoga clothes, no jewelry, and hair secured back. And don’t forget to wash your hands when you’re done (you’ll be touching each other’s feet!)
Lindsey and Robert offer private and group acro yoga lessons as well as performances under the name AcroClimactic.