Fly Like A Bird

Take Your Workout Outside with Acroyoga

By Candice Wagener | Illustration by Stacey Anderson

I have done my fair share of yoga, but I’ve never experienced acroyoga so I’m not sure what to expect when I walk into a workshop at The Studio. My first impressions include noticeably more men in attendance, music that is an upbeat mix of tracks from Steve Miller Band, Prince and Kendrick Lamar, and instructors (Tiffany Jo Wirth and Stephen Balsley) who are slightly more ampedup (because they need to be to pull this off).

The warmup is traditional, but the scene quickly departs from what I’m used to when it comes time to practice poses. Participants are divided into fours, many grouped with complete strangers. However, in acroyoga, strangers don’t last.

Good communication and eye contact are key, say Wirth and Balsley, and so connections are created organically. Since workshop participants are fairly new to the practice, they rotate positions so they can try each out. The base lies on their back on the mat for most poses and supports the flyer with their feet and, as poses become more complicated, their hands. The flyer flows through different poses with the steady aid of the base. The remaining two are designated spotters, who stand nearby to catch the flyer when they lose balance and begin tumbling off the base, keeping the falls contained and safe.

Balsley and Wirth say people often gravitate naturally into either the base or the flyer pose. While it can be helpful for some positions if partners are similar in size there is no limitation on pairings, according to Wirth. Taking on the base pose, Balsley, at 5 feet 9 inches, towers over Wirth’s petite, 5-foot-1-inch stature when the two are standing, a perfect example of different sized individuals working seamlessly together.

Participants begin with a basic pose: Bird. Finding a comfortable position for the base’s feet, usually near the hips, the flyer should have a tight butt and core, and will end up fully supported by the base’s feet. Their position is similar to Cobra, upper back arching upward, but with hands reaching back toward their feet. Participants work at this for a while, then eventually work into more complicated poses like One Leg Bird, Throne and Shoulder Stand. There is steady encouragement and great joy among participants as poses are achieved, but nothing comes easily. It often takes several attempts to figure out communication and balance between pairs.

Having sustained an elbow injury a few weeks prior, I could only participate as a quiet observer during the poses, but luckily there are multiple opportunities for acroyoga when I am fully healed because it looks like the kind of fun balance challenge I’d be up for.

The Studio plans to host more formal workshops again in the fall, but this spring workshop was a lead-in to more informal meetups on the Capitol lawn (across from Graze) from 10-11 a.m. during Farmers’ Market Saturdays. Acroyoga lends itself naturally to outdoor play, and Balsley and Wirth hope to increase the number of outdoor meetups, once the weather is nicer, using the hash tag #acroyoga608. “We want to continue to build communities,” says Wirth. “All you need is a park.”