Without willing to enter deeply into its definition, Acroyoga is known as the practice that combines Acrobatics and Yoga. But the object of this article is to assess the following questions: Does it actually make sense? Can we call it Yoga?
On one side, partner acrobatics is the practice of using the body of two or more people to create static or dynamic figures with the end objective of creating beauty in highlighting balance and strength. Before any contact with Yoga, this sport has seen people lifted by the hips, balancing on feet, or standing upside down from the hands and legs. The practice of this sport requires athletic people featuring strength, flexibility and particularly, a great deal of balance.
On the other hand, the physical practice of Yoga traditionally only aims at preparing the body for meditation, but it’s agreed that it enhances mostly those same qualities that partner acrobatics require. Strength helps maintaining a healthy body, while flexibility and balance come in handy when time comes to sit for hours with an empty mind.
Eventually, a yogic lifestile could be considered in which the asana practice (the practice of yoga poses) is substituted with a well-rounded designed partner acrobatic practice that yields the same consequences and benefits to the practitioner’s body in terms of stretch, muscle work-out, alignment and balance. The development of these new asanas can and should be inspired by the traditional yoga poses, and in some cases can even open new doors to discovery, such as in the case of the inverted dhanurasana or bow, habilitated only by skillful bases and which enables the standard bow to be practiced with the gravity set to work in the opposite direction. This is what can be called Acroyoga.
Sometimes creativity will be necessary to reach out to all body movements that Hatha or Ashtanga poses trigger in the human body, and perhaps even the practice of those asanas separatedly from the acrobatic Yoga practice will be still recommended for beginners in Acroyoga. Also, the practice of Acroyoga should start off with a warm-up asana sequence designed to wake-up and stretch the muscles and ligaments that will be most solicitated during the acrobatic practice.
This new set of acrobatic poses (asanas) could potentially cover everything that the traditional asana sequences feature, and on top of that, they will offer some extra particularities, namely and mainly the fact that a partner is needed for the practice, and the need to develop trust and confidence in the said practice partner. These two aspects are not found anywhere else in the traditional yoga practice, thus it’s the right moment to ask: Are these in line with the rest of the yogic philosophy? and, if so, what do they add to it?
There are four traditional paths of Yoga that one can take to achieve the same end goal. From these four, the path of Raja Yoga, the Yoga of willpower and the unification of mind and body, is the one that has widespreaded in the west. The Raja Yoga has eight limbs that guide the practitioner in its path, and one of these is the practice of the well known Yoga poses. Also, one of the eight limbs of Raja Yoga, the Yamas or “duties”, is mostly related to a socially healthy behaviour with regards to other people and society in general. The Yamas ask us to be non-violent and non-injurious, to be truthful, to be disciplined in love, to not foster jealousy and covetedness, and to stay moral in front of gifts and bribes. These Yamas are sort of a detailed breakdown from the maximum rule of love and compassion. Love for other human beings and compassion for humankind. It is indeed a valuable aspect of Yoga and one that western societies need to work on, in the days of individuality and egocentrism. The article’s author even dares to wonder: Isn’t the highly individual and self-centered practice of Yoga poses what made it become so popular in the west?
By practicing Yoga in partnership, Yogis (people who practice Yoga) are faced with sharing the needs of the practice with other human beings. A practitioner will want to work in his or her physical body, stretching, movilizing, strenthening, ultimately preparing for meditation, but at the same time will need to share the working tempo with the partner who is aiming for the same. They both will have to grow trust in each other’s intentions and capabilities, and widen the range of observation, usually confined within our own body, to inlcude an awareness for the body of the partner, aiming at the ideal state of feeling both bodies as one. In the same way, practitioners will also have to give or dedicate part of their practice selflessly to the partner, while at another time of the practice they will learn to receive the specific benefits of the practice together.
At a higher level, the learning Acroyoga enables the Yogi to share his or her experience with any other partner around the world. As a by-product, a worldwide community is established, within which, regardless of their nationality, religion, or belief system, two persons will be able to immediately establish a bond of trust and love while benefitting from a healthy Yoga asana practice.
Without scientific proof available, it is easy to imagine how this nature of Acroyoga may develop a higher sense of harmony within our societies, enhancing love and compassion not only within our known and comfortable circles, but expanding it towards unexplored circles all around the globe.
Finally, one more aspect worth discussing is the intrinsic fun that Acroyoga provides, which makes it so attractive for many people, and that draws them into the Acrobatics first, the practice Yoga asanas afterwards, and ultimately to the yogic philosophy.
As a conclusion, Acroyoga can legitimately be included within the definition of Yoga, conceiving its figures as a supplement to the practice of Yoga poses and which carry further advantages and the development of further qualities beyond the physical well-being, in-line with the ancient Yoga philosophy. Nevertheless, a well-rounded practice can not be achieved by confining it into one single Yoga school, for which complementary physical practice of other Yoga styles will only add-up to good. Yin Yoga a candidate for perfect combination match with Acroyoga, but the reasons why and a detailed relation of benefits from one another would be a subject of a whole new article in itself.