Turns out, a thing has been invented that combines my love of handstands with my love of Dirty Dancing, the film, the musical, the lifestyle choice.
Yoga is boring – if you think it’s calming and therapeutic then you have a quieter mind than mine. I just get all cross that they call it exercise but I haven’t broken a sweat. Then, come the final ten minutes when they turn the lights down and expect you to lie there breathing and being calm and virtuous, my mind is screaming: I COULD BE ACHIEVING SOMETHING RIGHT NOW! I’M BORED! WHAT’S FOR DINNER? MEDITATION SUCKS!
On the few occasions I’ve been dragged to a yoga class, I’ve left more stressed than I started, disappointed that I could have gone running instead.
But acro-yoga… now this is a different beast altogether.
Look at me. Look at me in this picture. I am doing some pretty cool moves with a body that did not know it had any acrobatic skills at all until just now.
I found out about acro-yoga at a party this summer. Some friends were monkeying around on the grass, flying and stuff, like you do.
As is my want when I see people show off, I wanted in on the action.
‘What are you doing?’ I asked. ‘I want to fly too.’
And so it was that I was invited into the world of acro-yoga. Acro is short for acrobatics – that’s the fun bit. It was developed in sunny California and is making its way to England NOW. It’s the new Zumba. Which in itself was the new, er, hacky sac. Do keep up.
Acro yoga is a combination of yoga, acrobatics, performance and the healing arts of Thai massage. Wanting to get awesome at it quickly so that I can join in the next time my friends at parties take to the garden to monkey about, I met with Anna, 27, who has been teaching acro yoga for six years, for a one-on-one session.
To perform, you need a base and a flier. The base holds the flier up while the flier gets to relax – upside down or suspended in the air like Baby in Dirty Dancing. Lest we forget, only a few weeks ago I was watching Dirty Dancing the Musical at the West End and thinking about how I’d wasted my life because Baby and all the other dirty dancers could do such wonderful things with their bodies and I mostly just sat around playing Articulate and eating Thai green curry.
But look at me now. I’m an acrobat.
We started our class by learning to fly. As the flier, I first had to let go of any fear that Anna would drop me. Then I had to believe I could fly. And I could! Never in my wildest dreams did I think it would be possible for me to attempt that move in my first ever class, but I did and it was easy peasy.
Acro yoga depends on trust. I had to believe that Anna was capable of holding my body weight without sending me hurtling for the floor. It’s a strange feeling at first, but then it’s exhilarating.
‘From their first class, beginners will leave with a sense of satisfaction,’ Anna says. ‘It’s not the kind of work-out that you have to practice for months before you get any good, like tennis. A complete beginner can accomplish moves that will make you say ‘wow!’ and leaving the class proud of what your body can achieve is so good for self confidence.’
It certainly tapped into my desire to get good at things quickly before I start wondering what’s for dinner and reverting back to spending my life playing Articulate.
In past attempts to practice calming my mind through yoga, I have failed miserably. But with acro yoga, I didn’t have the headspace to start thinking about that phone call I need to make or that dinner I need to buy on the way home. There is no room for my mind to wander. I have to be present and mindful, or I’ll topple over.
I left the class buzzing with excitement. (And adrenalin. My legs were shaking for hours afterwards. Don’t think they knew quite what hit them.)
I was proud of my body and the things it had achieved and my mind felt refreshed and focused. Take that, normal, standard yoga!
Is it for me?
Anyone can do acro-yoga. Experience is not necessary.
It’s suitable for all levels of fitness, although it’s not suitable for pregnant women.
Prices start at £14 for one hour group classes.
Lucky Londoners: Anna teaches at L!FE in Shoreditch. Timetable here.