Blending yoga and gymnastics into a fun workout
Four years ago, Mike Davies walked into a climbing gym in New York City to see a group of people doing something interesting that appeared to be a hybrid of yoga and gymnastics.
The sport is called acroyoga — a combination of partner yoga and acrobatics.
Two people work together supporting or lifting each other into yoga-like positions.
“When I first saw people doing acroyoga, one of them noticed me watching and asked, ‘Do you want to play?’ I was a little taken aback and didn’t really know what to say other than, ‘Sure?’” Davies said.
“It looked like so much fun with a lot of laughter. It made sense when I learned it’s literally called ‘play’ when you practice acroyoga,” Davies said.
Davies, a civil engineer who works on pipe joint repair projects with the infrastructure and engineering group at Denver Water, has been doing acroyoga for four years.
Acroyoga blends the strength and relaxation of yoga with contemplative elements of Thai massage and more active gymnastics or acrobatic components.
Acroyoga beginners start with “L” poses, where one person lays down to act as the base while the other person (the flyer) balances on their legs.
“If that reminds you of seeing an adult lying down and holding a kid up on their feet like they’re flying, that’s also one of the fundamental beginner ‘L’ poses in acroyoga,” Davies said. “We just call it ‘bird.’”
The more advanced “I” poses are formed when one person is standing up instead of lying down and holding the flyer up with his or her arms.
Once basic poses are developed where the flyer and base maintain balance together, then they can link different poses together to create sequences.
Davies often does acroyoga with his girlfriend, Tiffany.
“It’s been really fun to have a sport and hobby to do together,” Davies said.
When the couple moved to Colorado, they found a large acroyoga community in Denver to continue their sport.
“There are a lot of high-level circus performers in Denver and Boulder who do acroyoga, and they’re super active people who are very friendly,” Davies said.
“We got to learn acroyoga from really experienced people.”
“A lot of people think you have to be really big and strong to do acroyoga, but it’s more about stacking your joints properly and coordinating with your partner to understand each other’s balance,” Davies said.
“Doing yoga, stretching and practicing gymnastics moves like handstands, can improve how you do acroyoga. It’s about balance and coordination of movement between two people.”
The couple usually goes to a gym or a park where there is more room for acroyoga. But, when gyms closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, they practiced acroyoga at home.
“Fortunately, our apartment has high ceilings,” Davies said with a laugh.
When their apartment complex held a contest for the best pandemic hobby, the couple submitted a video of an acroyoga routine and won the contest.
Davies said the best way to get started with acroyoga is to get some experience in yoga and then look online to find out where people are holding a “jam” in a park or a gym, or to enroll in classes for beginners.
“They’re really friendly and welcoming, especially if you join a class,” Davies said.
He encourages newcomers to the sport not to take things too seriously and be open to learning new things.
“If you see someone doing acroyoga in a park and want to join in, just ask them if you can play,” Davies said. “They’ll absolutely understand and will more than likely welcome you in.”