A Beginner’s Guide To Flying High With Acro Yoga

Fit young couple doing acro yoga at spa retreat on sea beach. Active woman balancing on partner feet, stretching at acroyoga pose. Healthy lifestyle. People outdoor sport activity on family vacation.

Have you ever wanted to know what it feels like to fly, but without being 35,000 feet above sea level? If so, acro yoga, also known as acro yoga, might just be the perfect option for you!

After your partner lifts you in the air — yes, this activity requires at least two people — you’ll have the flying sensation with the added benefit of knowing you will plant your feet on solid ground much faster than if you had taken that airplane flight.

Whether you’re a full-fledged yoga enthusiast or simply want to try something new, you’ve probably heard of acro yoga: a more extreme and challenging spin on traditional partner yoga. Since the early 2000s, acro yoga has snagged the spotlight in the fitness industry with its allure and impressive athleticism.

If you’re searching for an activity that will motivate you to conquer some Insta-worthy challenges, look no further. While there’s no denying that acro yoga moves can be slightly terrifying — especially if you’re nowhere near the likes of an adrenaline junkie or highly-trained gymnast — they are also surprisingly fun and achievable!

After learning the ropes and finding a trustworthy partner, acro yoga poses will have you shaking, sweating, and feeling fabulously empowered.

What is Acro Yoga?

The official acro yoga website describes the activity as a “movement practice that combines the balance of yoga, the fitness of acrobatics, and the healing potential of human connection.”

This exhilarating form of partner yoga has three main components: yoga, acrobatics, and Thai massage. At the end of your acro yoga class, anticipate a cool-down stage where partners are invited to collectively enhance each other’s mobility and flexibility by activating the power of touch.

For anyone seeking to form a deeper connection with a friend or special someone, acro yoga has you covered. Not only will these sessions stimulate your self-awareness, but they also require a considerable amount of teamwork. You and your companion(s) will rely on each other for stability, strength, and success while moving through each acro yoga pose.

Acro Yoga: Solar + Lunar

Acro yoga has two forms that are consecutively practiced in class: solar and lunar.

The solar phase, which takes up the majority of a beginner acro yoga class, emphasizes the powerful and playful bond of partner acrobatics.

The lunar phase highlights the therapeutic elements of Thai massage and helps your muscles recover at the end of a physically demanding session.

A couple performs acro yoga in a bright space

How Many Members Are in an Acro Yoga Team?

Before getting started, you must always prioritize safety. With that in mind, it’s recommended that you assemble a three-member team for your beginner acro yoga session. Each member will have a designated position on the team.

The names of these positions aren’t quite as familiar as quarterback, running back, and wide receiver. However, just like in any athletic team, each position is important. The three team positions are the base, the flyer, and the spotter.

The Base

Starting from the bottom, the base serves as the crucial foundation of an acro yoga pose and is responsible for holding up and stabilizing the flyer. Usually, the base is laying down with their arms and/or legs extended — depending on the nature of the position -– to support the flyer’s body weight.

The Flyer

For the cheerleaders and gymnasts out there, think of the acro yoga flyer as the “top girl” in a stunt. Similar to the mechanisms in cheer, the flyer is suspended in the air by the base, either bending or elongating their body to achieve a mesmerizing medley of poses.

As a flyer, you get to be the “star of the show,” performing a series of intricate movements. As you work to remain elevated above the base, you must keep focused on using proper technique, maintaining balance, and creating productive tension to help the base do their job: to keep you safe during the exercise.

The Spotter

Standing mere inches away from their active partners, the spotter is the final piece of the puzzle and acts as a heroic safety net. The spotter’s primary goal is to ensure the base and the flyer feel confident and secure in their environment.

After that’s achieved, the spotter’s secondary objective is to guide their team in pursuing impeccable form, practicing correct alignment, and transitioning from one beginner acro yoga pose to the next with ease and fluidity. Because you’re always better safe than sorry, the spotter often visibly creates a protective barrier with their arms to prevent anyone from getting seriously hurt in case the flyer should fall.

If you tend to be more independent (and there’s no harm in that!), your spotter will typically grant you more freedom after you’ve had enough repetitions to know what you’re doing. However, you’ll want to get very comfortable with a particular pose or beginner flow sequence before removing your “training wheels.”

The spotter role should be reserved for seasoned acro yoga instructors to promote the safest atmosphere possible.

A women balances on a man while they perform acro yoga in a field

A Brief History of Acro Yoga

While you probably wouldn’t expect there to be “yoga drama,” there is some controversy concerning the origin of the phenomenon known as acro yoga.

Here’s the tea: Globally renowned Acro Yoga International was founded in 2003 by Jason Nemer and Jenny Sauer-Klein, but the following similar athletic activities emerged on the scene before then:

1938: Tirumalai Krishnamacharya (try saying that one three times fast), who is regarded as “the Father of Modern Yoga,” performs some insanely cool-looking backbend adaptations with a younger student.

1985-87: Benjamin Marantz invents Acrosage, an internationally recognized style of yoga that applies inversion therapy to heal the mind, body, and soul. This yoga method includes a majority of the flying transitions executed in acro yoga.

1999: Based in Montreal, Canada, Eugen Poku and Jessie Golderg coin the term “acro yoga.” They merge dance, acrobatics, and yoga to create an “acro yoga fusion.”

2003: Operating out of California, Jason Nemer and Jenny Sauer-Klein create Acro Yoga International and codify acro yoga rules and terminology. They also establish a worldwide training program to produce certified yoga instructors.

An outsider might think Jason and Jenny were late to the acro yoga party. Another way of looking at the activity’s “genealogy” is to consider that each new group piggybacked off the ideas of the group that came before.

Regardless of who gets the credit for “being first,” one thing all sides can agree on is that each person involved — Krishnamacharya, Marantz, Poku and Goldberg, and Newer and Sauer-Klein — made valuable contributions to creating the acro yoga many people know and love in the 2020s.

How Can I Benefit from Doing Acro Yoga?

Even if your first impression of acro yoga was marked by apprehension, this adrenaline-pumping activity offers so many benefits:

  • Encourages you to face your fears

  • Actively builds muscle and improves your core strength

  • Can help you lose weight

  • Can boost your mental health and overall mood

  • Enhances your coordination and mental concentration

  • Increases your cardiovascular strength and stamina

  • Provides you with a temporary escape from the daily pressures of life

  • Can help resolve conflict and tension in your relationships

  • Allows you to connect with a new social circle/community of yoga practitioners

  • Can provide relief from chronic pain and reduce stress

  • Relaxes your fascia (the connective tissue that causes stiff, sore muscles when it becomes tight)

  • Motivates you to let loose and have fun — so give it a go!

If those reasons aren’t enough incentive to enroll in an acro yoga program, perhaps this one will be: You get to relish in the gratification that stems from conquering something you thought you couldn’t do.

And that feels great.

Two women interlock hands and perform an acro yoga pose on a mat

Can Beginners Do Acro Yoga?

Even if you are a newcomer to yoga, you can throw your fears or insecurities about acro yoga out the window. Regardless of your age, size, gender, body shape, flexibility, and experience (or lack thereof), it is possible to have a total blast doing acro yoga.

What Types of Beginner Acro Yoga Poses Will I Do?

Now that you know acro yoga is, or can be, in your wheelhouse, here are a few beginner’s poses you can expect at your first workshop:

Stacked Planks

During this introductory pose, the base will be set up in the plank position with stellar alignment from wrists to shoulders. Aiming to spread out their feet approximately shoulder-width apart, the base will act as the flyer’s platform.

Next, the flyer will firmly grab each of the base’s ankles and slowly step onto their shoulders, one foot at a time, balancing their feet in that sweet spot between the base’s shoulder blades. Both partners are encouraged to squeeze the heck out of their abs during this one!

Plank Press/Airplane

For this position, the base lies flat on their back with their knees bent and feet planted hip-width apart. While the flyer stands facing the base, the base presses their feet into the flyer’s hips and grab their hands.

Next, the base brings their knees to their chest, while the flyer simultaneously leans forward. The base executes a scooping motion to lift the flyer off the ground.

At this point, the base is folded in a 90-degree position and the flyer’s body is lengthened to form a straight line hovering over the base. For an added challenge, the flyer can release the base’s hands and open their arms to create what is known as a “T motion” in cheerleading!

Flyers, make sure you point your toes during this pose!

A couple perform an acro yoga pose

Fish On a Rock

Amidst this restorative partner pose, the base will begin by moving into the child’s pose, eliminating any tension in their hips. Then, the flyer will carefully lie down on the base’s backside, arching their back, lengthening their legs, and extending their arms overhead for a deeply satisfying stretch.

Partner Forward Folds

To prepare for takeoff, the base and flyer stand back-to-back, each spreading their feet extra wide — past the hips this time. To lift the flyer off the ground, the base will link elbows with the flyer and lean forward to achieve a flat-back hold. Once the flyer reaches their destination, they can either hug their knees to their chest or extend them in a straddle to complete this pose.

If you’re seeking a stretch that gets your back and hamstrings almost too good, then you’ll want to give this one a go!

Jedi Plank

Star Wars fans out there are gonna love this one. Who doesn’t wanna try a pose named after a wildly cool movie?

To start, the base lies down with their back pressed against the floor. After the flyer grabs the base’s ankles, the base grabs both of the flyer’s ankles -– again, one at a time -– and supports the flyer as they push upward into a parallel plank.

While the base rises to a right-angle position the flyer elevates their hips until their body forms an upside-down L shape. During this gradual movement, the base’s arms shift above their head, firmly holding the flyer’s ankles as they work to mutually establish the shape of a box.

A pair of women perform an acro yoga posed while dressed in black

What Does a Beginner Acro Yoga Flow Sequence Look Like?

Instead of starting and stopping to execute each position, acro yoga flow sequences seamlessly combine a predetermined variety of poses into a consecutive routine.

You and your partner can advance to this stage after you’ve repeatedly accomplished several beginner acro yoga poses and feel comfortable moving on.

How To Prepare for a Beginner Acro Yoga Class

If you have absolutely no idea about what to wear or what to bring to an acro yoga session -– not to mention what you’ll even be doing in such a strenuous class -– you are definitely not alone.

Don’t let this intimidate you. At one time, everyone in the class was a beginner. Even the best acro yoga performer/instructor to ever grace this earth was once a novice, just like you. Now just look at them!

As long as you remain determined and committed, you’ll get to where you want to be -– one acro yoga class at a time.

How to Prepare Your Mind:

To get the most out of your acro yoga experience, you should first try traditional yoga and partner yoga classes. If you haven’t taken one or both of these, doing so will help you to become more familiar with essential yoga terminology, poses, and breathing techniques.

If you’ve already “been there, done that, got the yoga pants,” then you’re ready to move on.

Since the mind directs the body, it’s important that you also get a clear picture in your head of what two-person acro yoga poses and extended sequences look like. Good online resources are high-quality images and videos of trained professionals safely and smoothly executing beginner acro yoga positions together.

After reviewing these videos, rehearse what you saw so you feel more comfortable and qualified to try the moves in class.

What Happens During a Beginner Acro Yoga Class?

When you get to the acro yoga class, you won’t jump right into “circus mode.” There’s a general model that should look like this:

  1. 15 minutes: Acroyoga-bats are welcomed and warmed up! This stage helps break the ice between partners, helping them to get acquainted with the concept of breathing and moving in sync.

  2. 60 minutes: The instructor takes students through acro yoga fundamentals, where everyone practices technique, poses, flows, and flow sequences. Also, for more experienced partner groups, you’ll have an opportunity later in the session to get creative and more advanced with your acro yoga moves or work on getting better at simpler ones.

  3. 15 minutes: Class participants are led in a cool down, where both the flyer and base therapeutically massage each other and focus on deeper partner stretches.

A couple balances in an acro yoga pose on a mat

How To Prepare Your Body:

In addition to routinely taking regular yoga classes, you could also benefit greatly from strengthening your flexibility and following these safety tips:

Practice Cleanliness

Since acro yoga is a partner activity, you will be intimately touching your teammate. There is a fair amount of “footsie” action in these poses. Because of this, you should be considerate of your partner and your session neighbors by showering before class, brushing your teeth or popping a mint in your mouth, putting your long hair in a bun or ponytail, and manicuring your fingernails and toenails.

Other suggestions:

  • Avoid applying lotions or oils to your skin before your acro yoga sesh to prevent slipping.

  • If you happen to be a heavy perspirer, be sure to bring a sweat towel to your session.

Wear Proper Workout Clothes

You have a lot of options in this category. Just make sure your attire is snug and comfortable, has no pockets, and is made of non-slippery material.

Refrain from wearing jewelry. These items can accidentally poke, prod, or cut your partner, or your partner could inadvertently break something you value!

Be Aware of Your Limits & Weaknesses

It is of the utmost importance that you listen to your body! If you or your partner feels “off,” if there’s pain where there shouldn’t be, or if you don’t feel comfortable attempting a pose, then your body is telling you to rest or stop. You’ll need to learn how to recognize the difference between “what feels strong and what feels strained.”

Get a Reliable Yoga Partner

Let this be someone you respect, trust, and feel at home with. Since the two of you will be tackling very demanding acro yoga poses, it’s imperative that you and your yoga-mate can honestly communicate with each other.

To take things a smidge further, make sure your partner cares about you. That component of the partnership will make all the difference in the world.

Final Thoughts on Acro Yoga

Acro yoga is an extraordinary art form that triggers courage, compassion, and connection in its participants.

Acro yoga founder Jason Nemer said the activity requires you to “believe in human potential — not only your own, but others.”

If you decide to give this activity a try, research indicates it could expand your comfort zone, demand your willingness to trust others, and reward you with intense gratification for your achievements.

Now that you know the potential benefits this activity can offer, your first acro yoga “lift” will be to pick up the phone and call your local yoga studio to begin your path to improved physical, mental -– and some say even spiritual -– well-being through this sensational form of yoga.

Get ready for the best healthy addiction of your life!

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