On a warm sunny day, you might see our ‘resident’ Acro yogis at Raflo Park, spinning, twisting, bending and flying in pairs. The Flow Blog was lucky enough to sit down with Flow instructor Courtney Silverthorn and fellow Flowgi Chad Ross who are bringing their love for the practice of Acro Yoga into the studio on March 14th from 2:00-4:30pm in Leesburg. Read more about Acro Yoga here, and then check out Acro 101 on the workshops tab!
Flow Blog: Thanks for catching up with us today.
CR: No problem.
CS: Of course.
FB: So, let’s start off with the million dollar question – is Acro Yoga really yoga?
CS: Yes! Michael Gannon has said “Yoga is just a breathing practice”, and the Acro poses are just another way to continue to challenge the breath and body. To me, the Acro practice completely encompasses the idea of union in yoga – in this case, not just uniting body and breath and movement, but also uniting base and flyer into something that neither could produce on their own.
CR: I would definitely consider Acro Yoga, yoga. Acro Yoga connects two individuals’ unique breathing and unites it to produce something beautiful. It facilitates active communication to others and helps remind all practitioners to act with compassion and consideration for another being. No matter what you are doing while you practice Acro Yoga, you have to breathe, move with intention, and maintain a single pointed focus of the moment. Even though it comes in a slightly different wrapper, I consider Acro Yoga to be yoga.
FB: How did you get started with Acro?
CS: It’s something I had been curious about for a long time, and I finally had the opportunity to try it out last year when Briohny and Dice were at Flow last year and will be back in March. I immediately fell in love with the fun and the challenge of the practice, and a little informal group grew out of that workshop!
CR: I got started practicing Acro with Courtney. Skiing kept me away from the first seminar, but Courtney’s exuberance after Briohny and Dice led to the first Acro session in a park by the Ashburn studio. We all had so much fun! Video inspiration on youtube kept us going and we have been progressing ever since.
FB: You recently had the opportunity to study with Katie Capano and Jean-Jacques Gabriel in Philadelphia, what was that like?
CS: It was an amazing two weekends. I love workshops in general because you pretty much instantly build this little community, and it’s so awesome to see complete strangers coming together to share something they love. One of the things I really enjoyed about this training was getting to work with all the different Acro roles, since I’m usually flying when we practice at home. It really was empowering to successfully base people, even people much bigger than me. I also enjoy the ‘puzzle’ of breaking down poses in a vinyasa class, and similarly had a lot of fun finding creative ways to work some of the poses with someone who is not just significantly taller than me, but also very flexible.
CR: The Lunar Immersion in Philadelphia was a fantastic experience. Katie and Jean-Jacques have so much knowledge and skill, it was really awesome to be able to learn from them and absorb some of their love for Acro. Learning to be more receptive and concentrating on the connection between base and flyer was a really big take away for me. Minuscule changes can suddenly take something that just feels Ok, to ‘oh wow now I know what they are talking about.’ Also, to echo Courtney, working with a large group of people who are excited about what they are doing and being able to switch up your roles was a lot of fun. Flying is something that I don’t normally do, so having people taller than me to work with to try poses and flows normally inaccessible was really engaging. I learned a lot from everyone and it has helped foster a desire to keep working and doing more.
FB: What do you love most about the Acro Yoga practice?
CS: To be a flyer, you have to find this perfect balance between being strong and solid, and pretty much letting go. It’s been a great learning experience for me as a fairly type-A person to have someone else in charge of where I’m moving – a lot of the time I’m just along for the ride. At the same time, I love the challenge of figuring out new poses and flows. We finally unlocked the barrel roll after weeks of practice, and we both had giant silly grins on our faces when we got it down.
CR: I enjoy the physical challenge and the mental game of figuring out how to move yourself in conjunction with another person to reach an end goal. Sometimes you just reach a point and say to yourself “well, where the heck is my foot going to go to make this rotation?” Working with the flyer and spotter to come together as a team to solve these problems is a lot of fun for me.
FB: Each role in Acro Yoga is different, yet essential – what qualities do you appreciate most that your partner brings to the practice?
CS: Chad is very strong, but also very smart – he always seems to be able to figure out where basing points need to move and how to stack bones to support me effectively. He’s also really good at communicating all of this, so that I feel secure both physically and mentally while I’m flying.
CR: I appreciate Courtney’s problem solving skills and physical ability. She is able to break down the pose or motion we are working on and seems to innately adjust herself or communicate how I need to change in order to reach the end result. With her strong vinyasa practice, we are able to work a lot of really fun Acro flows and she even bases me. Courtney is a super woman sans cape.
FB: Any future plans or goals?
CS: We are working on the physical prerequisites to be able to attend the Solar Acro Immersion – can hardly wait for a convenient US date! We’ve also started playing with some more dance-like lifts and movements, which will be fun to use as transitions in different flows.
CR: The Solar Immersion is on the to do list and I would like to continue to work with the growing Acro community in Virginia. Fellow AcroYogi Chris and I recently went to a workshop in Charlottesville led by the AcroBear Matt Fields-Johnson. He gave us some really cool techniques to work on foot placement in facilitating continuous movements and inversion moves. I want to work hand-to-hand handstands, base balances, and multi-flyer Acro.
FB: You’re offering an intro workshop in March – what do you want people who might be on the fence about trying Acro Yoga to know?
CS: You don’t need to be a seasoned yogi or a super strong athlete to have fun with Acro! All you need is an open mind, a willingness to connect with other people, and a desire to find that playfulness that is often missing from our lives 🙂
CR: Have some fun and try something new! You do not have to be super strong or shockingly bendy to have a blast with Acro. Over the holidays I convinced my family to try flying and they had a great time. My father and brother-in-law were skeptical at first but really enjoyed themselves. They have no yoga background whatsoever and still had fun playing around with different moves and static poses. Anyone on the fence should get down, they will thank themselves later.
FB: And finally, what’s your favorite Acro pose?
CS: Folded leaf (hinging at the hips and hanging over the base’s legs) is so simple, but it just feels amazing – you get the benefits of an inversion with no compression on the spine or neck. Mmmmm.
CR: To narrow it down and only pick one pose is really tough. To chose, I would say that high flying whale (bases feet are between flyers shoulder blades and base grabs flyers ankles to press up) is my favorite because it is really nice to base and fly. The base gets a lower back release while the flyer gets their upper back and shoulders stretched.
FB: Thanks again for joining us and we can’t wait to attend this workshop.
CR & CS: Thank you and see you there!