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I am often asked about the difference between acro yoga and partner yoga.
This is my reply:
Acro yoga uses partner inversions as the basis of the practice. My style of partner yoga uses inversions as peak postures. In an individual yoga practice, practitioners explore these postures once they have achieved some proficiency and grounding with their practice.
For those of you unfamiliar with either of these modalities, here is a simple introduction: Both are practices that utilize the forms and principles of an individual yoga practice while incorporating the presence of another to deepen the impact of the experience.
The particular style of partner yoga I have developed, named “Principle-Based Partner Yoga” awakens our human potential through the integration of universal principles such as compassion, trust, balance, and creativity. While suitable for intimate partners, this practice allows everyone to explore interpersonal dynamics in ways that nurture and deepen all of our relationships.
Although my experience with acro yoga is limited, I have enjoyed the practice and learned things I now include in my own practice of partner yoga. For me, the most important element, whether the practice is called partner or acro yoga, is the quality of presence the practitioners hold, particularly when practicing postures where there is a heightened possibility of injury.
In my experience, partner inversions are shamanic. By that, I mean, they have the potential to bypass the conscious mind and take us directly into communication with our subconscious. They literally bring us into altered states of consciousness where transformation happens.
When inverted postures are practiced with a high degree of presence and awareness, the potential for release of trauma is vast. When practiced haphazardly, without attention to the emotional body, these same postures can reignite traumatic memories and actually create more trauma in our nervous systems.
The purpose of all yoga is to calm and sooth our bodies and beings, returning us to our innate wholeness, the part of our being that has been untouched by any trauma we may have experienced in our lifetime.
In shamanic traditions, there is a practice called “soul retrieval” where the practitioner travels with the support of a guide to unexplored realms. There, they discover and reclaim lost or fragmented aspects of themselves.
Over years of teaching these practices, I have witnessed this happen many times during inverted partner practices. People consciously place themselves into positions where their entire worldview is literally turned upside down. If the practitioner is willing to remain conscious in this process, and even more importantly, feel all of the feelings that arise, the potential for liberation is great.
I remember one woman’s story in particular. She was 75 years old and had recently lost her husband of 50 years. She had come to a “Savasana” weekend, where we explore our relationship with death in partnership with others. She had come to the weekend literally to decide whether she wanted to live or die. On the final day, I demonstrated “Hanging Inversion” into “Flying Posture” and she cried, saying she “would never be able to do this.”
Well she did do this, both as a base and a flyer, and came out of the pose exclaiming, “I want to live!”
This is the power of consciously placing our body into positions that shake up our known reality. Repressed emotions come rushing to the surface and we get to face our fears, our grief, and our uncertainty and come out the other side more connected to our wholeness and more free to express who we really are.
The irony is that most people look at these practices and, like this woman, believe that are not capable. This is just not true!
With presence, willingness, and clear guidance, all able-bodied people are capable of experiencing these seemingly advanced positions and the liberation they offer us.
Both acro and partner practices have the potential to liberate though the conscious use of connection and support.
My preference remains with Principle-Based Partner Yoga because it is a slower and more inclusive path that invites everyone into new possibilities for themselves. The principles we practice, such as trust, compassion, and grounding, are integrated into our bodies and our lives.