health

Explainer: What is "AcroYoga"? And why is everyone raving about it?

Image: supplied.

There’s bikram yoga, hangover yoga and even anti-gravity yoga, but there’s one type in particular that’s peaked our interest recently thanks to Girls creator Lena Dunham.

Earlier this year, the 28 year old revealed she’d taken up AcroYoga as a form of exercise to help her mental health. “It has helped with my anxiety in ways I never dreamed possible,” she wrote on Instagram.

So what exactly is it?

“AcroYoga is best described as a blend of acrobatics and yoga with elements of healing arts and Thai massage,” says Nadine Lafleur, yoga instructor and founder of Bali Bliss Retreats.

First established in Canada in 1999 by Jessie Goldberg and Eugene Poku, the classroom, while often set up like any other yoga class, has some significant differences. The biggest? You don’t do it alone. (Post continues after gallery.)

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

AcroYoga relies on teamwork, and you’ll need at least three people to practice safely and effectively,” says Lafleur.

One person acts as a base, keeping in contact with the ground to support the flyer, who is the person lifted into various poses that stretch and strengthen the entire body.

The third person is the spotter, who ensures the workspace is a safe environment for the other two. The three positions are then rotated through.

AcroYoga is all about team work. Image: supplied.

There are also a range of physical and mental health benefits.

Similar to regular yoga practice, AcroYoga works to strengthen the muscles of the arms, legs and core and the spine is lengthened and stretched.

While core strength is obviously important, you certainly don't need to be a weightlifter to practise.

"Like most things you try for the first time, it will lake a level of patience and persistence. That said, all my students take flight in their first lesson - even the basic poses are thrilling when mastering them for the first time," says Lafleur.

And forget about an 'ideal body type', because it's all about the mindset. AcroYoga is truly for everyone, no matter what their age and size.

ADVERTISEMENT

"Generally, the stronger and heavier, the better your capability as a base, the more flexible and smaller, the easier you’ll fly. Spotters are best suited when agile and strong, especially if you are spotting for larger flyers and smaller bases. But beware, when your whole world is upside down, big guys can fly and little women can carry," says Lafleur.

Because serious balance is required, AcroYoga also promises sharpened focus. A 'drishti' or a place to focus the gaze is often used in order to avoid distraction and stay balanced.

It's a great option for people who find their mind can tend to wander during solo yoga sessions - when you've got another person's safety to worry about, you'd be surprised to learn how focused you can become. (Post continues after gallery.)

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Like many forms of acrobatics and dance, the practice requires physical contact with a partner in some pretty unusual positions, which Lafleur says helps foster a sense of community.

While it's recommended you attend classes to learn it first, once you've mastered some moves, you can practice anywhere and everywhere - the only things you'll need are a mat and your team.

"It’s hard to describe the feeling of being cartwheeled by another person without touching the ground. Possibly because it awakens your inner child, maybe because it makes you feel graceful, light and strong at the same time. For me it is the closest feeling to flying without putting myself in danger," says Lafleur. Sounds good to us.

Have you tried AcroYoga before?

FROM OUR NETWORK
00:00 / ???