Is “flying yoga” yoga?

dd-flyingyoga24__0500444827San Francisco Chronicle reporter Steve Rubenstein, an amused non-yogi, recently wrote an article about AcroYoga, a trendy partner practice that combines acrobatics and yoga (in what proportions, I don’t know). AcroYoga made headlines several years ago, but since then this trendy offshoot has become a whole “genre” of yoga, with teacher training and a list of AcroYoga specialist teachers worldwide. Reading the bios, you’ll find lots of former gymnasts, youthful energy, and kernels of life philosophy that make Hallmark seem quite measured and profound.

My first question is: Why fly? Is it yoga to do urdhva dhanurasa atop another person’s feet? What does all the acrobatics bring to yoga?

Some think it adds to the challenge and “fear factor” of yoga poses. Indeed, asana practice is a fine way to push one’s limits. When you finally balance in handstand or clasp hands in malasana (or otherwise achieve a pose that seemed impossible), it’s a tangible breakthrough. That sense of possibility can carry over to the rest of your life.

But to link yoga to other challenging activities is a slippery slope. Why not create Skydiving Yoga, doing poses in free fall? Yoga on ice, emulating those lithe little figure skaters? Harsh-weather yoga, posing outdoors in Antarctica or Siberia?

One such nouveau fusion style already exists: nude yoga, whose proponents claim that shedding clothes sheds inhibitions. (See Yoga Dork’s recent post on this wayward offshoot, plus my sincere response.)

My point is that yoga asana by itself is a physical and mental challenge. If you’re doing it right, you can spend a lifetime cultivating tadasana. AcroYoga reminds me of those team-building, ropes-challenge courses that organizations use to improve members’ morale and bonding. All fine and dandy, but not yoga.

At the workshop that Rubenstein attended (at the Yoga Tree studio in SF’s Hayes Valley), participants warmed up with a hand-holding, eyes-closed swaying exercise, followed by neighborly foot rubs and back massages. Did a group hug and eye lock follow? I don’t know, but judging by this accompanying photo, the participants enjoyed it all. At very least, they bought into the program. Hence, my second question: Who the heck are these people?dd-flyingyoga24__0500401269

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4 thoughts on “Is “flying yoga” yoga?

  1. Hi YogaSpy,

    Thanks for your well-written response to Steven Rubenstein’s article. I’d love to continue the conversation with you about AcroYoga. Better yet, it would be great if you could experience the practice yourself.

    One simple way to understand AcroYoga is that yoga means to yoke, unite and connect. AcroYoga is connecting people by cultivating trust, opening pathways for communication and helping people have a little fun along the way.

    Yoga began as a spiritual journey thousands of years ago. It was developed by people who were trying to connect with the divine within. The many styles that have arisen in the last 100 years are simply evolutions providing new path ways to the same source.

    Of course there is much more to say and even more to be experienced. We welcome you to join us in class to feel this connection for yourself. I think you’ll enjoy it. 🙂

    Have a great day!
    Jeremy

  2. I pretty much agree with you, that Acro yoga is not really yoga. It does have a lot to offer in the way of learning to communicate, build trust and have fun, and there is a lot of value in that. For me personally, I have so much to yoga learn and share, that learning to do it balanced on someone’s feet seems sort of silly. The one thing that I notice is that Acroyoga seems to draw those that want to perform, and it is as much a performance art as a practice to cultivate body awareness and spiritual growth. It may be a performance art with a greater spiritual value than many, but it is still a lot of performance.

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