Yoga + Acrobatics = AcroYoga

Flying High With the Support of a Partner

AcroYoga Outside
Peathegee Inc/Getty Images

AcroYoga is a form of partner​ yoga where two yogis work together for two primary purposes: therapeutic release and acrobatic fun. Founders Jason Nemer and Jenny Sauer-Klein met in San Francisco in 2003 and began practicing together soon after, combining their backgrounds in yoga and circus arts to create supported versions of traditional yoga poses to foster human connections and create community.

How it Works

One partner (called the base) supports the other (the flyer) in a series of aerial postures. The necessary personnel is rounded out by a spotter, who makes sure everyone has good alignment so the flyer doesn't fall. The base most often lies flat on his or her back and supports most of the flyer's weight with his or her extended legs. The legs, when properly aligned with the ankles over the hips, can support a lot of weight, so that a small person is capable of basing a larger flyer. The base can support the flyer's hips with their feet for backbends or their shoulders for inversions, among many other possible combinations.

Therapeutic and Acrobatic

AcroYoga is therapeutic because it supports the flyer's postures in opposition to gravity. For instance, a supported inversion releases the flyer's spine more effectively since she doesn't have to hold herself up completely. This also allows the flyer to come into poses that would be untenable without assistance.

The acrobatic approach allows for a dynamic partnership between flyer and base as they work together to discover creative ways to join their bodies in supported flight. After coming down, the flyer usually thanks the base with some Thai Yoga Massage (passive yoga stretches). While there are a number of established poses that are taught in AcroYoga classes, enthusiasts also get together for extracurricular jams, which encourage freeform acrobatic play.

Why Try AcroYoga?

Yoga can be a very solitary practice. Though many seek out a common experience by attending group classes, it can still feel like you are practicing with a bubble around your yoga mat. Partner yoga bursts that bubble, forcing an interaction.

Unlike traditional yoga, AcroYoga encourages interaction, as well as cooperation, and trust.

Jason Nemer believes that it is this desire for personal connection in the face of an increasingly cyber-based world that has made AcroYoga so popular. "This practice has created a safe way for strangers to play and support each other," he says. "These are steps towards a more fun, peaceful world," he adds.

Acro Yoga Tips:

  • Down is the magic word, meaning the flyer wants to come down.
  • Have clean feet, since they will be touching another person.
  • Wear form-fitting clothing so you won't get tangled up in your shirt or accidentally expose too much when inverting. Avoid slippery fabrics.
  • Pro tip from Jason Nemer: "Sensitivity before strength is a mantra I use a lot."

By Ann Pizer, RYT
Ann Pizer is a writer and registered yoga instructor who teaches vinyasa/flow and prenatal yoga classes.