Three years ago I attended my first AcroYoga workshop and got a taste of what it would be like to be atop someone and do yoga. I didn’t try it again until about two months ago, when some friends of ours invited us to AcroYoga in the park. It was scary at first, because being off the ground and relying on your partner is such a vulnerable thing. I enjoyed it enough to want to do it again, but could never align my schedule with the AcroYoga meet ups here in Basel, because I teach on the days that they meet.
Over the weekend however, I attended a FUNdamental AcroYoga Workshop (emphasis on FUN), held in Loosloo by Ilka Schroeder and Valerie Imbach. The workshop was divided into two days: A Lunar practice, where poses and sequences were slow and relaxing, and a Solar practice, where things were more dynamic and lively.
At the beginning of the session, my fellow students and I formed a circle, introduced ourselves shared how we were feeling. Some were excited, some were nervous, some were scared. Some of even felt all three feelings combined. My nervousness and fear came from a place of insecurity, because I didn’t feel strong enough to carry anyone. During my first AcroYoga experience, I was the “base” (the person at the bottom who holds the “flyer”—the one on top) and due to a heavy partner and inexperience, I overextended my left knee. For months thereafter I nursed a knee injury. So last Saturday when time came for me to be the base, I was stiff and overly careful and not trusting. I was fortunate however, to team up with two sweet ladies who were very reassuring and said I didn’t have to try if I didn’t want to, but if I was willing, then they would gladly let me base them.
And so the process of self-trust began. On my back, I learned to to bring my legs to a 90-degree angle which according to Ilka, was the fool-proof way to feel balanced and strong enough for my flyer to successfully take flight. A few tries in, I felt insecure and clumsy, but several tries later I felt the “sweet spot” and my flyer miraculously felt weightless. She felt it too; I saw the twinkle in her eyes when she stopped flailing around and held her pose still. That was a turning point for me. I came home from the workshop that afternoon, rolled out my yoga mat and told my husband that I base him. He was surprised I even asked, because only a few weeks ago I tried to do it and failed miserably. This time however, I got him off the ground!
The following day Ilka and Valerie gave us more poses and sequences to work with. More importantly, they asked us to switch partners and work with people we had never flown with or based before. So just when we were getting comfortable with our group mates, it was time to say hello to new ones. My comfort zone was definitely expanding! At one point we formed a circle of bases, surrounded by a circle of flyers. Each base had to carry a flyer, after which the flyer would move on to the next, and in would come a new flyer. I was thrilled because I managed to base people much bigger than I was, and each time I felt more and more confident.
As a flyer I felt more at ease, because I was the smallest in the group and people had no problem lifting me. It was easy to trust in their strength. In AcroYoga it seems the bulk of responsibility lies in the base and the spotter—the third person who makes sure that the flyer doesn’t fall. Learning to spot was also challenging for me, because I had to pay attention to my flyer 100%. Your flyer has to trust that you’re there to keep her/him from crashing. To be given that responsibility was at first a bit daunting, but over time I learned to read the body signals of my flyer and guide her/him down to safety.
At the end of the 2-day Workshop, I learned to base, to fly, and to spot in AcroYoga. I learned different poses and techniques that were a mix of strength and grace. I learned to trust the people who based and spotted me. But most importantly I learned to trust myself—that I can take on responsibility, that I can care for someone’s safety, and that I can spread my wings and FLY!