December 17, 2013

Upside Down, Inside Out, Warp Speed: My Intro to AcroYoga. ~ Lesley-Ann Green

As an upright bipedal life form inhabiting this planet I have a rough idea of who I am and where I fit in.

I’m pretty comfortable in my skin, it’s well worn, I like the ground beneath my feet and the space around me. As someone who practices and teaches Tai Chi I thought I had a reasonable understanding of where I began and ended.

Oops.. this is where I met AcroYoga (a hybrid form of yoga, a blend of yoga and elements of acrobatics).

I’m not the bendy yogi type. Gymnastics as child was a big scary thing, now I’m in the almost middle-aged category and am not an athlete. Nevertheless, I joined a class. Purely for fun, my sense of adventure and my innate nature that is unable to resist a challenge.

I met the inverted world head on.

Take anything and turn it upside down and see what happens… initial confusion, mild panic (in some cases) and then if one stays with it… it gets interesting. Cognitive function has to reconfigure. This is a new way to harness gravity. Instead of it working against one, you engage and play with it. I caught a minute glimpse of the fluidity and mutable nature of something I had considered fixed; My reality.

Kind of like rearranging the contents of your cupboards upside down and then seeing if you can still create a meal. I was hooked.

Add to that, working in close proximity to others.

Very close.

My personal space shrunk and began to merge with other class members. (Before AcroYoga it was quite a vast luxurious thing, never questioned.)

Body parts became functional items of anatomy.

We progressed to joking about heads in crotches.

Childhood revisited.

Playing without boundaries.

I became part of an amorphous mass of playfulness…surrendered to the moment.

This is what AcroYoga was to me.

Intensely challenging, deeply satisfying and absolute fun.

We stacked ourselves on top of each other, stretched ourselves both internally and outwardly. We learned some words in context. Basing, flying and spotting. To elaborate, a base is a person on the ground, a flier is a person suspended and a spotter is a person on hand to step in, support and assist when needed. Each role takes sensitivity and specific skills. Communication is the binding factor.

I cannot resist seeing AcroYoga as a metaphor for life. It’s about trust, support, communication, receptivity, balance and alignment. With a good teacher one is always safe.

Sundays became AcroYoga days and I discovered that upside down was more than just OK. I still haven’t figured out how to do a Tai Chi form upside down, but I can now manage a handstand.

What have I learned so far?

That it is both intense and yet effortless. One cannot be anywhere except 101% in one’s body and connected to those playing together with you. To ‘read’ through my hands and feet (those body parts for standing on). When flying one remains perfectly tight, holding the lines (a-lignment). Basing is (for me) way harder. You are supporting, holding, sensing and constantly adjusting…(subtly).

The art of receptivity requires stillness, so forget about thinking whilst doing any of this. When you touch on the right alignment, it is ‘suspension’… magic. It’s about engaging and utilizing structural lines, which become power lines. Physical strength and big muscles are irrelevant… it’s the ‘not-doing’ of it. (Okay initially, there is a lot of doing to understand how it all fits together).

A good base can fly someone heavier than they are by utilizing basic structural body mechanics. A term used in architecture is ‘tensegrity’. Tensional integrity. Base and flier breathe in harmony.

Note…do not try AcroYoga whilst in the midst of a giggling fit.

The ground is still there.

When laughing, the tightness of the lines slacken, making it tricky to hold. Especially by a leg when you are moving towards the ground quite quickly. Some moments to treasure.

AcroYoga is flow, life at it’s purest.

I have stood on my head, upside down, supported by a base. I have flown. I have managed to base. We all have weak spots, injuries… pasts and in some of the deep backbends, I faced fear. My relationship and understanding of myself in space has changed dramatically… my life has turned upside down and it has been amazingly awesome.

A whole new realm to play in!

Warp speed, outer limits.

The essence of yoga is union. I find myself more open, more alive and very happy to be here, NOW.

As with all learning, one begins with small movements, postures…combinations, which grow as we breathe, relax and play with our learning. We start to flow… become fluent, we fine tune. Refine. And, in so doing redefine who we are.

Our maestro, Thomas Arta has a rare gift… the ability to impart his knowledge with absolute clarity. In the global AcroYoga community he is known for his vibrant energy, this clarity and his uncompromising style of teaching. This young man has been here in Somerset West for the last few months with his partner, Jeanne and their daughter, Solia (the reason they are here and a very recent arrival).

His website describes him as ‘ part of a global community of bipeds who like life inverted and infused with play.’ This was initially what convinced me to invest my Sundays.

Thomas’s definition of a good acrobat is someone who can work with anyone and have a lot of fun at the same time.

In which case, I have played with some really good ‘bats… a selection of yogis, an acrobat, martial artists, dancers and just people, like me, drawn to explore.


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Sub-Editor: Sanja Cloete-Jones Editor: Bryonie Wise

Photo: Author’s Own



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