Throughout all of my years engaging in physical activities and disciplines yoga has never been a practice that stuck with me. Without a doubt yoga has many benefits to offer people ranging from the physiological affects on the body to the mental influence on the mind however, for me regardless of what kind of yoga I tried after a few weeks I became disinterested. It could've been bad teachers, not enough intensity, too much repetition, or simply the wrong class for me. Either way it's been disappointing because I've always wanted to like yoga and enjoy its benefits. I've been a practitioner of Thai yoga massage for years and regularly work with clients utilizing Thai yoga techniques so naturally I've continued my quest to find a yoga class I would enjoy. Finally I have, and ironically is encompasses aspects of traditional yoga (if there's such a thing), Thai yoga massage, acrobatics, strength, and core training.
I'm referring to the practice of acroyoga. In many ways it's exactly as it sounds, a mixture of acrobatics and yoga, but it's less intimidating then what most people would think of as acrobatics (flipping and flying through the air) and more inclusive than the yoga you're used too (poses or flows) because of the added skills you can learn. Additionally thai yoga massage and other therapeutics are also part of the practice. Ultimately everyone has different motivations for seeking out fitness and health endeavors. For me it's been about finding a thoughtful, focused, and fun way to work on flexibility, mobility, and core strength. It happened to workout that acroyoga comes along with many more awesome things like a great community of welcoming people, balance, mindfulness, and a safe way to learn new skills in basic acrobatics.
If you aren't sold from what I mentioned above, here are my top three reasons for getting involved with acroyoga.
1 -- Developing core strength.
In my opinion strengthening your core should come mostly from the understanding that the majority of the time your core is an anti flexor, anti extender, or an anti rotator... So mostly you are stabilizing. Unless you're an athlete and your sport has a lot of rotation or flexion etc etc stabilizing exercises like planks are a great option, and big lifts like weighted squats or deadlift because of trunk stabilization are great options too. Acroyoga is added to my list because whether you are a base or a flyer most of the core activation that is required of you falls in the category of stabilization. In order to hold many acroyoga poses or move through many acroyoga combinations it is necessary to move fluidly from one "tight" stabilized core neutral position to the next. So essentially your spine moves naturally and unloaded through flexion, extension, rotation, and lateral flexion to get to the next stabile position with a neutral spine. Think fluid movements to planks in different position with a partner added in the mix
2 -- Yoga with a strength component.
When you're practicing acroyoga you're with a partner so you're not just focused on your own body weight but theirs as well. You are either the base, creating a strong platform for your partner to move on, or a flyer balancing and pressing up from your base. This translates to holding people up and body weight exercises or calisthenics. Form the base perspective think 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 therefor is more difficult to control than lets say a dumbbell. From the flyer's perspective think pressing exercises like handstands, planches, L-sits, and planks from different angles. No matter how you spin it, the movement and partner aspect of acroyoga has a strength component that can't be ignored.
3 -- Kinesthetic awareness.
One of the most challenging things as a trainer is teaching people to understand where their body is in space. Technique is paramount when it comes to lifting weights. I don't care how much intensity and consistency you bring to the game. If your technique is horrible you are eventually going to hurt yourself and end your training all together. Because you're with a partner who is not concrete and the environment is very dynamic with a lot of movement juxtaposed with a lot of stabilizing, while practicing acroyoga you are forced to examine things like joint alignment and body shape or position. Similarly to lifting weights if you are not in an optimal position to load weight on to your body or your partners, you can't achieve the optimum results. So in a fun safe environment you learn what it feels like when your joints are aligned and ready to bear weight optimally, how to better control your center of gravity, or maybe even more importantly you learn how it feels when something is wrong and the patience to stop and reset so it's better.
Some of the things that I mentioned about acroyoga may sound intimidating or difficult but that shouldn't stop you from trying it. You can work your way from very simple and doable things day one to very advanced moves if you stick with it. Every opportunity to learn something new physically in a thoughtful, safe, and focused environment is worth trying. You can't expect to learn everything all at once, but you can expect the process to be fun when playing acro.