Over the past few years, I’ve been practicing yoga. Sure, it’s been a thrill seeing my body change and challenging myself into more intricate postures, but never would I imagine pulling off acro-yoga. Aside from the idea of acrobatics meshed with yoga seeming beyond my reach, I was slightly intimidated by the idea of doing a more intimate practice with a group of people I did not know.
I entered AsanaRoots and was immediately greeted by the instructors. The small studio space was brightly lit, and the artwork on the walls was mesmerizing. While my first impression was welcoming, my intimidation only grew as I began to stretch among others who were well more advanced than me and had already known each other well.
Yet, as the class went on, I become more comfortable and excited. I was lifted into the air, accomplishing physical challenges I never knew I was capable of, all the while being supported by a generous team. I left the the yoga class with an endorphin-induced high and a new-found sense of acro-accomplishment.
Afterwards, I sat down with my instructors Eric Sipes and Kelly Marburger to chat about the practice, its benefits, and why we should all step out of our comfort zone.
Yours truly posing atop Kelly Marburger and Eric Sipes. -Rachel Hinch
How did you discover acro-yoga and why did you choose to become an instructor?
Kelly Marburger: I started teaching because I was one of only a small handful of people in Baltimore who knew the practice, so I had to teach. I actually saw a circus performance here in Baltimore, and at the time a teacher who was working at Charm City Movement Arts was performing, and I thought it was so cool and that I had to try it out.
Eric Sipes: I was introduced to it by a guy I was slack-lining with, and he was like, “Hey, you do want to see something?” I was like, “Sure,” and he threw me upside down and I thought, “This is the best thing ever!” From there, I looked around in Baltimore for it, but I couldn’t find it anywhere. I finally found the Charm City Movement Arts, which is no longer in business. I met Kelly and the rest of our crew through Charm City Movement arts, got a yoga teacher certification from Baltimore Yoga Village, and then we all went to Mexico to get our acro-yoga international certifications.
Are there philosophies or principles that acro-yoga is built upon?
KM: Yoga is a little different as it’s very introspective. You can maybe explore relationships in it, but mostly you’re doing an individual practice whereas acro-yoga really expands the practice to make it more community-based, which I sometimes feel like yoga is lacking a little. I love being able to bring that because sometimes in our culture you’re expected to sit in a cubicle all day, not interacting with people, and then you go to a yoga class, and you’re doing something also introspective. It can be great, but this is a great way to bring it all together and be community-oriented.
What do participants want to take away from your class?
ES: Joy. If what you’re doing doesn’t feel good, you should do something else. And if it feels good, then you’re doing it right.
KM: I’d say fun. We want people to come into class and forget about the crazy day they had, have fun, be challenged, and enjoy themselves.
ES: By connecting through physical touch, we release neurotransmitters that make us feel good. And I think a lot of some the issues that people have: depression, anxiety, these things can actually be alleviated through the practice of acro and being in physical contact with people with good intentions.
As a partner-based practice, what would you tell people who are shy or who want to fly solo?
KM: Please come! We try to encourage people as much as we possibly can to come. We mix up the partners, it’s never like you’re going to get stuck in a group that’s not working well.
ES: It does push people out of their comfort zone sometimes. It’s really good to go out and do things that make you a little bit uncomfortable to grow as a person.
Why should someone come to AsanaRoots for acro-yoga?
KM: I’d say it’s just really freakin’ fun, while still challenging yourself.
ES: I think if you come in with an open mind, you will leave with a smile on your face.