It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s acro yoga! ... Crash course at Charleston Community Yoga this weekend
If you’ve been to Marion Square during the Charleston Farmers Market on Saturdays this year, you likely have seen some young adults, among them an environmental attorney and classical guitarist, acting like children.
Amid hundreds of passers-by, they were doing “Superman” moves, one person lying down and balancing another on the soles of his feet as the one being hoisted puts his arms out like he is flying and making some other, more elaborate, moves.
Though it seems very playful, they were practicing “acro yoga,” an emerging hybrid of yoga that blends elements of acrobatics and Thai massage. And it is actually far from new.
Because of the acrobatic nature of the style, acro yoga involves three people serving different roles: One person serves as the “base,” usually lying on the ground and using the feet and hands as points of contact; another is the “flier,” who is elevated off the ground; the third is the “spotter,” who provides safety and guidance.
Acro yoga practitioners says it not only involves the strength, flexibility and balance disciplines of yoga, but also deeper focus, personal interaction and trust.
The practice is starting to catch on across the country, first in urban centers with strong yoga populations such as New York and Atlanta, but also smaller, more progressive towns with youthful populations, such as Charleston’s mountain sister city four hours up Interstate 26, Asheville.
Attorney Sally Bette Newman and guitarist Greg Guay started Acro Yoga Charleston and have been holding sporadic acro yoga classes at Charleston Community Yoga and Holy Cow Yoga, as well as more casual demonstration “jams” at local parks, for the past year.
This weekend, they have called on a certified acro yoga instructor, Todd Delaune of Atlanta, to teach four workshops at Charleston Community Yoga, 815 Savannah Highway, Suite 102, in the Avondale commercial district.
Delaune, who also will teach a partner yoga class Friday, says the modern incarnation of acro yoga emerged in two areas, Montreal, Canada, and Berkeley, Calif., and he described it as an “evolving practice.”
Much like traditional yoga, it is interactive, much more so than yoga classes where instructors do little to no “adjusting” of student poses.
He said it also involves the concept of shelves, or points on the body that can be used to support while suspended in air. Besides the torso, some other shelves include the shoulders, biceps and shins.
Whether you are into yoga or not, the practice has become firmly rooted in Charleston, which offers a growing spectrum of disciplines and branches. Some are smaller and include aerial and acro yoga, which also are considered among the “circus arts.”
Don’t be shy
Newman says about 100 people, not including the random drop-ins at the park, have been doing acro yoga in Charleston. Of those, about a dozen get together regularly.
“Charleston is a great place for acro yoga because the weather is so good and because it’s so fun to do it outside,” she says.
But on the flip side, the conservative nature of many Americans, especially in the Southeast, also may be holding it back. “Americans are uncomfortable getting touched,” says Newman.
She adds that some people confuse acro yoga with couples yoga, though some couples take acro yoga.
“As a teacher, I prefer not to have couples take acro yoga together because they tend to work only together and not as a community,” says Newman.
Guay, who first tried acro yoga at the Lake Eden Arts Festival in Black Mountain, N.C., in 2007, describes acro yoga as a practice in “platonic intimacy.” And while it has a playful quality, it also has a serious edge.
“You often need to remind people to stay present, in the moment, and not get caught up laughing and goofing off.”
Reach David Quick at 937-5516 or dquick@postand courier.com.