Perhaps you’ve seen us, tucked away behind a boulder in ASCEND’s Cardio Corner. Maybe you’ve seen someone lying on their back, juggling another person’s body on their limbs. Or maybe you’ve seen us ‘on belay’ attempting standing acrobatic feats. I won’t lie to you, Acroyoga is a weird, niche hobby. You know, the kind that makes your parents second guess your decision to drop out of college. (But, hey, they probably think that anyway while watching videos of you scaling 20+ foot walls without rope!) And to be honest, I’m not certain how Acroyoga managed to become so intertwined with climbing gyms across the country, but, alas, here we are! If you’ve seen us across the gym, armed with a healthy gaze of skepticism, I’m here to tell you exactly what Acroyoga is (and what it is not).
Let’s start with the basics. Acroyoga is a delicious blend of partner yoga and acrobatics. Sometimes you’ll taste hints of martial arts, cheerleading, Thai massage, circus arts, and dance. Like most beautiful things in this world, Acroyoga practices exist on a spectrum and it’s important to find the flavors that resonate with you. That being said, most of what you will find in beginner Acroyoga classes (including ASCEND’s, taught by yours truly) is called ‘L-basing.’ This typically consists of two people, one base and one flyer. The base will lay on the ground with legs flexed towards the ceiling in the shape of an ‘L.’ Don’t confuse ‘beginner’ with ‘boring.’ L-basing is 90% of what I’ve practiced for the better half of five years and there are endless possibilities.
Acroyoga is a tight-knit, community, but without a strong barrier to entry. There’s no doubt about this one. Something magical happens when you trust another person with your body weight, whether it’s your base, or your spotters to catch you when things go awry! Like any community, people will come and go. However, the beauty of Acroyoga is that all you have to do is show up and the rest will happen on it’s own. One of the great joys for me as a teacher is to watch seasoned practitioners excitedly pull in first-timers to walk them through a pose they’ve done a million times. And I get even more excited when I find out they’re also climbing together or inviting each other to board game parties. Maybe it’s not perfect science, but trust + communication in Acroyoga = trust and communication skills in real life!
Acroyoga is a feeling. You know that feeling when you jump on a trampoline and you can feel yourself float for that split second before letting gravity take over again? That’s the reason I practice Acroyoga. It may make for a good Instagram photo, but nobody would do it if it didn’t feel good in their body, or at least I hope they wouldn’t! If you’ve ever found a movement practice you’ve loved, you know the feeling I’m talking about— this fusion of awareness, strength, and fluidity that is entirely unique to the practice at hand. In climbing, it’s the feeling of just being able to reach that high foot. In yoga, it’s the feeling of getting around to that fourth or fifth sun salutation and I feel like a warmed-up superstar. Those are the kinds of feelings that bring me back to Acroyoga everytime.
Acroyoga is not awkward. I know how it looks. And, yes, you’re bound to have some sort of awkward slip; I sure have had my fair share. The difference here is— we show up with good intentions, inevitably knowing that we’re going to be touching each other be it through hands, feet, shins, back, shoulders, etc. I’d like to think that these ‘awkward moments’ are the kind where you can easily laugh about them over a drink afterwards, not the kind that haunt your memories as you try to fall asleep at night.
Acroyoga is not the restorative class you may be looking for. I’ve had quite a few students show up with zero idea of what Acroyoga is (this was also my personal scenario 5+ years ago…). I’d like to give a heartfelt ‘I’m sorry’ and ‘Thank you’ to those of you who took the dive into the unknown regardless. Our classes are filled with noise of all sorts— laughter, chatter, cheering, clapping, and the occasional screaming. You may not feel ‘restored’ afterwards, but you may feel a sense of ‘reinvigoration.’ However, if you are looking for a form of partner yoga that’s a bit more rejuvenating, check out practices involving Thai massage and Therapeutic Flying as ways to stay a bit more grounded, while receiving some of the same juicy, gravity-induced benefits that Acroyoga has to offer.
I hope this short explanation paints a better picture of what Acroyoga has to offer. If you find you’re still a bit perplexed, the best remedy is to come see for yourself.
Rachel Dobos has worked at ASCEND since July 2017. She works at the front desk and teaches Acroyoga! Check out her spotlight blog.