Last weekend, I had the chance to participate in an AcroYoga Playshop with Dallas-based yoga instructor and entrepreneur Kristi Taylor at Free to Be Power Yoga Studio (4609 Magazine Stree, Uptown New Orleans). Kristi is a Baptiste-certified yoga instructor as well as Certified AcroYoga instructor. I’d always been intrigued by photos on Instagram I’d see of yogis who partnered together to create dynamic and impressive poses and joint pretzel twists. I always loved the idea of creating balance and symmetry with another person to achieve a gravity-defying pose, and I’ve also been drawn to the inherent challenges it seemed to present. I was a bit apprehensive as well, having a phobia of heights and a host of trust issues. I tentatively walked into the studio around 7 p.m. that evening, sensing the energy of excitement and slight trepidation from the other yogis in the room. Kristi, with her megawatt smile and fantastically blue and purple-streaked hair, started the class with a question.
“Who is your favorite superhero and why?”
As the icebreaker began, my mind immediately went to Batman. I’m not really sure if I knew why I always liked Batman, but I’d been drawn to him ever since I first saw the Tim Burton films as a kid. When it became my turn to say why, I blurted out, “Because I like how he turns his fear into something positive.”
“What are you afraid of?” Kristi asked me.
“I think flying….and falling.” I admitted.
“Well, today we are going to try to conquer your fears,” Kristi replied, grinning. Eep, I thought to myself.
We started our initiation into Acroyoga by partnering with two other people in the room. We then proceeded to perform a series of trust falls, a practice that I never realized could be so nerve-wracking. Confession: I absolutely hated this part of the class!
But then we began to experiment with poses where one person would lift their partner into the air by pressing their feet into their hips and lifting them skyward. Now, this kind of flying, the kind where I could see what was in front of me, I LOVED! It was amazing how easy it felt to be lifted into the air. We would take turns being the base and the flyer, and it was an interesting exercise to learn how to support another person’s body weight. It felt surprisingly easy and effortless.
The last pose we tried was what yogis call a “heart-opener.” I started with my feet on either side of my partner’s head, and I faced outward. Then I’d lean backwards on to her feet (a little similar to the trust fall exercise), and she lifted me into the air as my head stretched backward down towards the floor. I loved the feeling of looking at the world upside down, and my partner’s feet pressing into my back felt like a Thai massage – a welcomed bonus. The whole pose was so cathartic and therapeutic. After an hour and a half of playing, we reconvened in our yogi circled, sitting cross-legged on the studio floor.
“How do you feel now?” Kristi asked each of us.
“I feel…. really open.” I replied. “And I loved the feeling of working with these two lovely ladies beside me. I feel like we went on a journey together, and that we accomplished something really awesome because we worked together.”
At the end of the session, everyone in the room was absolutely beaming. We floated out onto Magazine, abuzz with the satisfaction of trying something new and (somewhat) conquering our fears. This is one of the aspects of yoga I love the most. The practice is so physical, and you are always confronting, thinking, and accepting what it feels like to be in your body. The beauty though, for me, lies in the fact that in the physicality of that moment, your awareness completely impacts your mental and emotional state. It’s an integration of mind and body that I’ve yet to ever experience in any other activity.
Since that evening, I’ve been scheming ways to bring people together to try out more Acroyoga poses. If you have an inkling, come visit me behind the desk at Free to Be Power Yoga, and we’ll go fly together.