Call it what you will, acro yoga, acrobatic yoga or couples yoga on steroids! This hybrid of yoga, partner dance, gymnastics, ballet—and of course, acrobatics—is one of the hottest new trends in yoga.
Peruse social media videos and you’ll undoubtedly come across scores of videos showing couples—a “base” and a “flyer”—flowing through seemingly effortless sequences as the base (the one on the floor) uses hands and feet to maneuver the flyer through acrobatic yoga poses. One go at it, as a base or a flyer, will have you convinced that while acrobatic yoga looks seamless and flowing, it is incredibly physically challenging work that demands strength, agility, flexibility and most importantly, trust.
Yoga Basics recently caught up with Lex Peters, an emerging acrobatic yoga teacher and coach on the East Coast. Acrobatic sessions with Peters, who coaches just outside Philadelphia, are physically tough and will challenge one’s stamina, strength and flexibility. You can count on him to lead you on an equally rigorous inward journey.
Yoga Basics: Anyone who has ever worked with you knows how much you love this practice. What drew you to acrobatic yoga—and why do you love it so much?
Lex Peters: Initially it was a way for me to really embrace this capacity of movement that I have. It was the next thing that I could spend a lot of time doing that allowed me to grow and fulfill my capacity for movement. It’s really creative. I’ve been able to utilize all the other experiences and places that I draw references from and inspiration to create a lot of movement and motion design.
YB: How is acrobatic yoga “yogic” for you?
LP: The practice itself [is yogic], and the environment that grows around [the practice] is inclusive and supportive. It requires very little effort to integrate yourself because of the openness of the environment and the participants. You can orchestrate the path you want, and [there’s] nothing rigid about the way that these things have to occur.
YB: Yoga can be such a personal experience, how do we “go there” with someone else?
LP: The impact of a positive individual practice does not belong to yourself. It’s something you share with others. It might be something that manifests itself later, maybe in an hour or later that day. [During acrobatic yoga], within the collaborative experience between two individuals, the immediacy of trying to accommodate and care for the other person is right there. There is no delay.
YB? How does one get started with acrobatic yoga?
LP: Once an individual has made the decision to show up, that moment of vulnerability, of insecurity, of fear, of not knowing what will occur has fallen away. Just showing up indicates you’ve already gone through the process of [beginning to] resolve those fears.
YB: Acrobatic yoga can be intensely intimidating for anyone who has never been upside-down or who doesn’t necessarily enjoy being upside-down—much less balancing on someone else’s hands! Can you work through that in acrobatic yoga?
LP: Fear in the practice is real [but] you can achieve the ability to overcome those fears. The extent [of overcoming] stems from the individual being able to recognize their fears in life. [Acrobatic yoga] creates this synergy that bleeds beyond practice [into] life where fear becomes something that is no longer debilitating. Being able to become comfortable and accept that you [can] achieve what you once thought was far out of your league or too scary is really important and embedded in this practice.
YB: What do you typically find gets in the way of someone trying acrobatic yoga?
LP: Culturally in America we encourage men to be very confident to a point where they may not know what they are doing, have this exuberance and confidence that they are going to do this really well. So often you have to ratchet back the miseducation [to] allow them to create an accurate self-assessment of what they can do at that moment and not bruise their ego. You catch yourself over and over again and have to become savvy on keeping them motivated.
YB: And women?
LP: The opposite. A lot of them have this amazing capacity to do this but because of the larger forces that shape the female experience in America, they tend to doubt their capacity and capabilities. They demonstrate all the wonderful proficiencies to do this really well, yet they don’t have the confidence to go and execute it… . We can create opportunities for women to understand their capacity and demonstrate that and grow with that capacity, and see that they are more capable than they [think they] are and get rid of fear that holds them back.
YB: Does yoga philosophy factor into acrobatic yoga?
LP: Absolutely. I’m not versed in Sanskrit but … [yoga] has allowed me to gain a deeper understanding of the psychology of the individual. I figured out that [acrobatic yoga] is in tandem with yoga and the yogic approach of creating a transformative practice—a practice allows for individuals to connect to themselves and be in the present.
YB: You often refer to the “living truth” when you are teaching acrobatic yoga. Explain what you mean by that.
LP: I find it really interesting when an individual chooses to make strong assertions about something. Their assertions seem static at times. Knowledge is alive, what we consider to be ‘truth’ is alive… . What you think you hold so dear, as in “this is how it is, [this] how it’s done,” will continue to evolve because more minds will look at it and refine it, or an individual with exceptional capacity and intellect will approach it and redefine it. That means truth is alive. If you make a strong dogma toward one thing, recognize that what you know right now will inevitably change. It’s guaranteed.
Peters has shared hundreds of videos through his website Acrobatic Yoga Motion Design.
Have you tried acrobatic yoga yet? If not, do you plan to?