AcroYoga Explained | Benefits, Poses & FAQ

Acroyoga is a creative and playful form of physical activity with roots in yoga, acrobatics, and circus arts. One of the defining characteristics of Acroyoga is that it requires at least two participants, which means you’ll never practice alone!

In this article we will explore:

  • What Acroyoga Is
  • 6 Benefits of Acroyoga
  • 5 Frequently Asked Questions
  • 3 Fun Acroyoga Poses To Try
a man and a smiling woman doing an acroyoga pose in a studio

When Was Acroyoga Founded?

As the name suggests, Acroyoga is a fun fusion of yoga and acrobatics. Although some records indicate that acroyoga was being practiced as far back as 1938, it has only truly started to gain traction at the turn of the millennium.

It’s difficult to say who coined the term “acroyoga”. Some say it was Eugene Poku and Jessie Goldberg, a married couple who harnessed their love for yoga, dance, and related physical arts to open one of the original acroyoga schools in 2003.

In the same year, another acroyoga school emerged in California, co-founded by Jason Nemer and Jenny Sauer-Klei. Bonded by their shared love for movement, they went on to codify the acroyoga practice and create a curriculum to train new teachers.

What Is Acroyoga?

Acroyoga is a primarily physical practice with focus on strength and balance. However, there are varying degrees of difficulty, with poses ranging from beginner-friendly to advanced. 

One of the underlying principles of acroyoga is teamwork. Acroyoga requires at least two people to practice, with more elaborate poses involving three or even four people!

A major part of acroyoga is based on the principle of having a “base” and a “flyer”. The base is the person who maintains contact with the ground and supports the flyer. The flyer is the person performing yoga poses while lifted.

When practiced with more than two people, it is possible to have multiple people performing the base function or multiple flyers, depending on the pose. 

However, not all poses in acroyoga are structured around having a base and a flyer. You can  practice acroyoga in a way that promotes partnership and equal support by performing poses that are structured around counter-balancing or mirroring each other. This subcategory of acroyoga is also known as partner yoga.

Although two is the minimum number of participants required for acroyoga practice, it is always recommended to have an extra person (or people) acting as a spotter.

The role of the spotter is to help participants perform the pose safely, especially when it comes to poses that involve “flying”. As well as directing practitioners into the pose, the spotter can correct their form and help them exit in a safe manner. 

a black and white photo of two people doing an acroyoga pose in front of a lake

6 Benefits of Acro Yoga

#1: Improves balance

One of the fundamental elements of the acroyoga practice is balance. Whether you are practicing poses that involve flying, or simply relying on each other to create a beautiful shape together, both require balance. 

#2: Strengthens core

Whether you are the base holding another person up in the air, or the flyer trying to balance yourself while performing an intricate pose, both would not be possible without core stability. The beauty of acroyoga is that it engages and strengthens the entire core and back in a functional way, as opposed to only building vanity muscles.

#3: Increases flexibility

Many acroyoga poses require active and passive flexibility. In flyers, the target is often hip mobility or backbends, whereas the base can work on their hip flexors and shoulders. 

#4: Stability and coordination

Even regular yoga can be disorienting, especially if it involves being upside down. In addition to manipulating your body into the right position, those who practice acroyoga have to rely on another person (or people) for balance and support.

Although it presents a great challenge, it also results in better spatial awareness, stability, and physical coordination.

two people doing acroyoga in a forest

#5: Improves communication skills

It is extremely important to have a clear line of communication with your acroyoga partner, as well as the spotter if you have one. Communication is what allows you to practice safely and efficiently.

The more you practice, the more you will learn to clearly communicate your needs and boundaries, a skill that can be extremely useful on and off the yoga mat.

#6: Builds trust

Every person involved in acroyoga practice has to work closely with others. In order for the practice to be fruitful and enjoyable, it is important to establish trust between all participants, including the spotter.

This can be a great exercise for those who find it difficult to rely on other people, as it will encourage them to open up and become more trusting.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is acroyoga dangerous?

Every type of physical activity comes with its own risks. Acroyoga is no exception. In addition to the risk of muscle strain or joint injury, you have to account for the very obvious possibility that you may lose balance and fall to the ground.

Because of working closely with another person, there is also a risk that you may inadvertently injure your partner (or partners). Extra caution should be exercised to avoid putting yourself in danger.

two people doing an acroyoga pose on a yoga mat against a white background

Is the spotter necessary to practice acroyoga?

It is possible to practice acroyoga without a spotter. However, having an extra person to act as a spotter makes the practice significantly easier, not to mention safer. To practice without a spotter, the participants should take extra precautions and avoid poses that may put them at risk of injury.

When you practice as a group of three (or more) people, the responsibility of the spotter is typically a floating role. This way, everyone gets to have a go at executing poses, and the person performing the spotter duties can have a rest from the physical practice.

Who can practice together?

The great thing about acroyoga is that virtually any two (or more) people can practice together. Acroyoga with your significant other can be a great way to spend quality time together and bond on a physical level.

Acroyoga is a great activity to do with your friends, siblings, children, even your parents! If you don’t have a willing partner, you can attend an acroyoga class and practice with like-minded strangers. The latter is actually a great way to make new friends!

two people doing acroyoga in a forest

Is acroyoga suitable for people residing in larger bodies?

The short answer is yes, as long as it doesn’t cause you any pain. If you’re worried about being a flyer, you should know that in acroyoga, lifting someone is less about strength and more about technique and communication.

Although circumstances are different for every person, acroyoga is a versatile discipline, with plenty of poses that accommodate larger bodies. 

Who gets to be the base/flyer?

The roles of the base and the flyers are not set in stone. Deciding what role to take on can depend on your skill, your size, and your preference.

For example, the base is often the larger (taller, more muscular) person. Another thing to consider are the strengths and weaknesses of participating parties. The flyer is usually the more flexible person with better balance.

However, acroyoga is a very technical discipline, which means you don’t have to stick with these predispositions. You can also try yourself in different roles and swap with your partner throughout the session.  

3 Fun Acroyoga Poses to Try

#1: Front Bird

two people doing an acroyoga pose in the park

Front Bird is a classic acroyoga pose that involves one base and one flyer. The base is in a reclined position, with their legs raised at 90-degree angle. The flyer’s hips are balanced on top of the base’s feet. In order to stay balanced and float parallel to the floor, the flyer has to engage their muscles and stiffen their body in a straight line. 

This pose is one of the safest acroyoga poses, which means the spotter is not necessary. However, if you have an extra person acting as a spotter, they can help the participants achieve their best form and safely exit the pose.

#2: Bow Pose

two women doing an acroyoga pose against a brick wall in a studio

This pose is an extension of Front Bird. Once you and your partner master your balance in Front Bird, the flyer can challenge their flexibility by reaching back and making contact with their feet or ankles.

In essence, the flyer is performing a classic yoga backbend, Dhanurasana. However, the act of getting into position while floating in the air makes it significantly more difficult!

Since the flyer’s visibility is limited, it can be difficult for them to grasp their feet without losing balance. If you have a spotter, they may help the flyer enter the backbend, and advise the base on how to compensate for the change in the center of gravity.

#3: Flag

two people doing an acroyoga flag pose in a park

This acroyoga pose requires the base and the flyer to lean in opposing directions to counterbalance each other. The base must stand with their feet firmly on the ground and their knees bent. The flyer rests one of their feet on the base’s knees, while the other foot is hooked around the base’s neck. It’s common to hold onto each other while getting into position.

Once some balance is achieved, the participants lean away from each other and spread their wings, as it were. 

The spotter’s job is to direct the participants into the pose, and be ready to catch the flyer in case the balance is lost.

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