AcroYoga, Partner Acrobatics and more
A simple definition for the world acrobatics is ‘the performance of extraordinary human feats of balance, agility, and motor coordination’. This broad term allows us to easily classify all our practices under the term acrobatics: yoga, slacklining, conditioning, handstand, and of course acroyoga.
In a sense, what differentiates each practice is the method and the goal of the practice itself.
In the following pages we explore what is AcroYoga, the goals, practice styles, elements and how to learn acro.
If you have been exploring our page or experienced our teaching, you may be familiar with our beginnings centered around the yoga practice. Yoga, is our founding principle. It is the reason we call ourselves YogaSlackers. We enjoy finding the practice of yoga in everything we do. The way we see it, in terms of our physical practice, yoga on the mat allows us to connect with ourselves and our center on a very stable surface.
Slackline Yoga allows us to test our yogic skills with ourselves as we move our practice to an unstable surface. Slacklining allows us to further explore our reactions, how we speak to ourselves, how we react to success, failures, happy moments, and stressful situations.
AcroYoga brings an additional challenge to our practice: another person. The addition of another individual provides us with the opportunity to test our yogic principles as we relate to others. Above all, acro provides us the opportunity to practice our verbal and non-verbal communication skills.
While we may refer to our practice as simply ‘acro’, we often do refer to our practice as AcroYoga, because our intention through this practice is to foster union, connection and further understanding of our human potential.
Goals of the Practice
Before we can start defining the elements of the practice, let’s explore the people involved in the practice and how we they relate to each other.
The base is the person connected to the ground, that serves as a platform for one or more people.
The flyer is the person being elevated off the ground by the base.
The spotter has the very important role of mitigating potential injury. Their primary goal is keeping the flyer safe. Secondary roles include keeping the base safe and providing alignment, balance and strength assistance.
There are many different styles of acro. When differentiating between them, we can start by identifying their main form: restorative or dynamic.
Restorative acro, often referred to as ‘therapeutic’ or ‘lunar’, incorporates elements of massage, stretching and deep relaxation. During this practice the flyer relaxes the body while is guided by the base between different poses.
Dynamic acro, often referred to as ‘acrobatic’ or ‘solar’, involves both the base and the flyer actively contributing to the strength, balance and movement.
Our practice is a form of dynamic acrobatics. And the rest of this section – while some of the information can be applied to restorative acro too – it is mainly written with dynamic acro in mind.
During belly basing, the base is lying prone, with their belly on the floor.
Refers to the base standing position.
Multi Base and/or Flyer
Multi base and/or flyer refers to poses that require the contact, shared weight and balance of more than one base or flyer. There is no limit to possible combinations.
Elements of the Practice
The basic component of acro are static poses. A static pose can be defined as a pose held for a determined amount of time. It includes an entrance and exit to the pose usually originating and ending on the ground.
Transitions are ways to connect static poses without the need to exit or return to the ground.
A determined set of transitions connecting static poses without the need to exit or return to the ground.
A flow that starts and ends in the same pose. Often practiced repeatedly with the goal of generating smooth movements and speed.
Pops are explosive transitions in which the flyer and base disconnect all or some contact points at once. It involves a throw and a soft catch.
Whips are dynamic transitions where the flyer slides, often quickly, around the bases main point of contact.
A counterbalance is a static pose, attained by balancing the opposing weights of the base and the flyer. Counterbalances are possible in all basing positions.
It is hard to define specific styles of acro – as more often than not – styles have many shared elements. Nowadays it seems almost impossible to create a clear separation between practice styles or systems. Often the difference between them is the intention and goals of the practice.
Here are a few of the most commonly use terms.
aka sports acro or just 'acro'.
Traditionally performed to music in a gym floor. It involves gymnasts working together in partnerships to perform dynamic, balance, and/or combined routines. It includes tumbling, and choreography.
While acrobatic gymnastics started mainly as a standing acrobatics practice, nowadays the term ‘acro’ is loosely used to defined a partner practice where one person lifts another.
AcroYoga refers to the combination of yoga and partner acrobatics. It includes both restorative and dynamic aspects in a wide range of basing styles.
Adagio is a music term that refers to music played at a slow tempo. In terms of acrobatics, adagio often refers to standing partner acrobatics performed to music in fluid motions usually associated with dance.
Cheerleading or Cheer goes way beyond a group of people cheering for their sports team. Cheerleading is a team sport on it’s own, that in involves stunting, pyramids, baskets, tumbling, jumps and dance. It if often characterized by strong size difference between bases and flyers.
Icarian is can be described as a L-base partner acrobatics with full disconnect pops. A full disconnect pop or an Icarian pop is characterized by the flyer being thrown leaving no points of contact.
Also known as human foot juggling. Risley is a form of L-base partner acrobatics derived in the circus by Richard Risley Carlisle. It is characterized by the base’s use of their feet to quickly and continuously spin the flyer.
aka: Duo Balance
Slackro is a relatively new form of dynamic partner acrobatics. It can be practiced in different basing styles. The practice empowers both the flyer and base to actively participate in the act of balance.
It developed around 2010 when we – the YogaSlackers – started practicing traditional slackline poses and moves on another person. It can be practiced both in L-base and standing acrobatics.
Slackro is characterized by empowering both the base AND the flyer with an active role in their balance. This is unique and differs from traditional partner acrobatics where the flyer stays very still, doesn’t move, and the base is in control of the balancing. The combination of acro and slacklining creates another level of body awareness that teaches greater balance and connection.
Training and Practice
There are many ways to learn and practice acroyoga. We recommend learning from a certified teacher in a formal class setting. Here are the most common ways to practice and what to expect when joining these spaces.
Individual and community safety can be compromised when practitioners misunderstand and therefore misuse classes, jams and open training spaces. Before joining an event check with the teachers, organizers or people that frequent the space to clarify the intention and expectations.
Clarifying your intentions ahead of time and fostering an atmosphere of accountability for all individuals involved can alleviate safety concerns.
On the next session we address in more detail how to increase safety in the acro practice.