As parkour athletes we train every aspect of our body. We get sore, we get tight, and we take a heck of a lot of impact. Acroyoga can provide many benefits to the parkour community, including therapeutics, joint stability, and flexibility.
Acroyoga has been around at least since 1999 at which time it was being taught in Montreal, Canada by Jessie Goldberg and Eugene Poku. Their focus was in marrying acrobatics, yoga, and dance. It later popped up in California around 2005 and was taught by the couple Jason Nemer and Jenny Klein with the intentions of combining acrobatics, yoga, and tai massage. It has since developed across the the world and is practiced on every continent. It is interesting to see that modern day acroyoga evolved along a similar timeline as parkour in that it started to gain ground in the United States around 2005.
This short article will cover key definitions, key benefits as they relate to parkour, tips for when you are just getting started, and a few online resources as you continue exploring this awesome discipline in your own time.
Roles in Acroyoga
This is the individual who has the most points of contact with the ground. Often this person is lying on the ground with the entire back torso in full contact. This enables both the arms and legs to be "bone-stacked" for maximum stability and support of the Flyer. Main points of contact with the flyer are the feet (generally placed on the Flyer's hips, groin or lower abdomen) and the hands (which either form handholds or grasp the shoulders).
This is the individual who is elevated off the ground by the Base. The Flyer can move into a series of dynamic positions, and generally lets gravity do the work for them. A Flyer needs balance, confidence, and core strength.
This is the individual who has an objective view of the partners, and whose entire focus is on making sure that the Flyer lands safely in case of any slips. The spotter can also make recommendations to the Base and Flyer to improve their form.
5 Potential Benefits of Acroyoga as they relate to Parkour & Life!
For a movement such as a stride or rail precision a traceuse should have strong stabilizing muscles to assist the ankles knees and hips especially as the movements become larger with progression.
Now unless someone is a serious tricker with great kicks I know many in the parkour community are tight as a drum from the hips down. Simply put Acroyoga is a fun great way to work on flexibility particularly in the hamstrings. Hamstring flexibility is essential if you want to milk the distance out of your broad jump.
At some point in their training many traceurs find themselves in a teaching position. Perhaps it is the occasional question at a jam or maybe you have made it your current profession to teach the discipline of parkour to the world. Understanding, well constructed and patient communication is essential in getting your point across while at the same time encouraging feedback and a two way dialogue.
A little trust goes a long way in any activity whether it is trust in someone else or trust in yourself. In a teaching partnership with a student they have to be able to trust you, let us say in your ability to spot, and you need to be able to trust yourself in the same manner. This includes being able to build trust by being patient, coercive, confidant and kind. Acroyoga, in order to be successful, allows for nothing but the patient build up of trust.
We have all been there. It’s Jam season. Long weekends, 10 - 16 hour training days, pushing your limits or shaking off that winter rust. We’ve all come away with that unmistakable post jam limp where your everything is just sore. Acroyoga has developed alongside the Tai Massage community for the past few years and so there is some beautiful cross over that has happened. While we learn how to work with our acro partners we also learn how to take care of them. Acroyoga can offer back/ neck massage as well as spinal traction for the flyer, and leg and foot massage and traction for the base.
5 Tips to take with you into your first Acroyoga workshop or class
Is the magic word. If anyone is uncomfortable during a movement, the flyer, the base, a spotter, all they need to do is say the word Down.
It is more about proper placement and balance than strength. When a flyers wrists, elbows and shoulders are stacked directly over the bases, the movements become easier. It is very fulfilling to be able to coordinate movements with another human being like this. While it is very important for both to understand stacking it applies a bit more for the base and helps to think “solid support” being like a tree trunk, and for the flyer.
Hold your own weight
This applies more to flyers than anyone else, but one needs to be ridgid (no dead weight) in order for the couple to be able to hold a proper pose. It helps to think “light and tight” making sure that they keep a solid shape and are supporting their own weight
While moving through poses do not forget the yogic principle of breath. Finding a rhythmic breathing through the practice is important to get the most out of it and to make sure your mind is fully there with your partner and your movement.
It Takes 2
While going through movements may seem difficult especially while trying to practice this new discipline with a new partner, if there is a mess up in the movements it is no one person's fault. You are both in it together, and so it is on both of you. I feel this is important to note right in the beginning of a practice particularly because it will help take the blame game out out of it and allows the couple to get right into, what can WE do better this time, promoting constructive conversation.
Helpful Links & Additional Resources
Om Factory NYC →
Where I first learned to base and fly and one of my favorite places to visit when I’m in manhattan. They have a studio in the fashion district and their flight school by journal square.
Jaya Healing Arts →
A great couple of Acroyogis
Article by Eric Rossi
2015 ExtraEdu Teacher