Category Yoga

Acro Yoga Vs Flying Yoga 101 | Inspired Bali

What’s the difference between Acro Yoga and Flying Yoga?

Bex: Acroyoga is a yoga practice created by our teachers, Jenny and Jason, who are based in California. Carlos and I are in the final stages of our Acroyoga certification and until we are certified, we call our classes “Flying Yoga”.

What is the certification process like?

Bex: The journey to become an Acroyoga teacher takes time, but its super fun and there is much to learn along the way.

Before you can seek certification, you must first apply for training.

To qualify for the training you need to be a yoga teacher, massage therapist and have had acrobatic training.

You also need to have attended a minimum of two Acroyoga

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Photograph by Suki Zoe

five-day immersions, as well as training with the founders, Jenny and Jason.

Only after you have completed these steps are you eligible to apply for the Acroyoga teacher training.

Currently there are only two trainings a year. In August, I will be attending the training in California and, in October, Carlos will be taking the training in Mexico.

Wow, what a process.

Bex: Students are provided with accessible building blocks to practice skills and confidence. This breaks down the practice so it’s very accessible to all students of different levels of experience.

Do you encounter students who have resistance?

Bex: Occasionally, so we support the student as much as we can and, if they are uncomfortable working in groups, do our best to provide icebreakers and a fun atmosphere.

What is essential in community in your opinion?

Bex: Cooperation, compassion, communication and truth. The yoga of relationships is the real practice and in Flying or Acroyoga class we practice in groups of three, technically the smallest number for a community.

I believe that if we learn to communicate our fears, what feels good, what doesn’t feel good, and we do so with metta (loving kindness), then we can expand that into the wider community.

This can bring about social transformation.

A big percentage of wars and social disruptions, in my opinion, are caused by a lack of understanding and or miscommunication.

In Flying Yoga there is no room for that. It is also about how you can make someone else feel better. As I said, it is really putting the practice of yoga into practice.

How does Flying Yoga connect with your other yoga practices?

Bex: Physically, it helps my other practices – the training that we have to do – a lot of inversions and core work – strengthens my own practice and has helped me understand more about the teaching of inversions in my regular yoga classes.

The yoga of relating, or relationships – it taught me so much. It helps make the other yoga more relevant in my life.

And how has other practice has helped with the Flying Yoga?

Bex: First, through being a teacher—you know how to get people in their bodies and cue them in certain ways and you know how to create a safe space that students feel comfortable to explore the poses and sequences in.

What do you hope for the students to receive?

Bex: To feel joy, share joy, get over their fears and feel better in their bodies. Ther are also the therapeutic benefits of Flying Yoga, the Thai yoga that we often practice at the end of each pose, to each other.

That is what Flying Yoga is, a combination of Acrobatics, Yoga and Thai massage — every class is unique. In therapeutic flying, the flyer just needs to surrender into relaxation and trust.

The base is full metta. We work different techniques by incorporating gravity and tension along the spine. It can feel really good for people of all ages — even if they’re not “flexible”.

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Photograph by Suki Zoe

It is very empowering to support someone bigger than you and it helps cultivate a sense of being grounded, stability, strength and focus. As the base, you can’t daydream. You have to be present during the practice at all times.

Why do you teach it?

Bex: It is a way to allow us to share the practice of yoga and, for me, connection is really the meaning of life. This is not a practice to be done on a separate piece of rubber mat.

It is about opening up to one another and overcoming fears, ultimately bringing joy and connection with one’s own body, allowing the spirit to play and sharing with one another.

One of my dreams is to continue to share this practice with people who don’t necessarily practice yoga.

Before I moved to Bali I used to work with children living in conflict areas, such as the occupied Palestinian territories, Nepal and Kolkata.

I have seen fantastic results from teaching Flying Yoga to trafficked girls and the children of sex workers.

By allowing these children and young people an opportunity to share joy through sharing yoga and by providing a safe space for contact and overcoming fears, Flying Yoga offers the potential to help heal social and emotional traumas.

I really want to travel back to the occupied territories in Palestine, where I used to live.

I would love to share the practice with the kids in refugee camps, giving them an outlet for their energy and bringing in some joy.

It is a powerful practice on many levels and one that I have a lot of faith in for community regeneration and building a global kula, based on the shared values of Ahimsa and metta.

Thanks Bex!

Carlos, what attracts you to Flying Yoga?

Carlos: It is a joyful vibration and it is always natural. It is a different way of practicing yoga. Most of the time, we practice in a very individual way.

Through Flying Yoga, we have the opportunity to share our inner connection with others and to get into a place where we can leave the boundaries and all the tension that brings us away from home — our center.

By finding mutual support with people, people that you don’t even know -boom – you become friendly with them in this beautiful journey, sharing joy, love and happiness.

What does this practice mean to you?

Carlos: This is a practice that can draw us into ourselves — both alone and in the presence of other people.

Freedom comes from one’s self, definitely, but we have the opportunity to support one other in our journey to become happy, to become free from pain and suffering — we all have this beautiful gift of healing by our touch, by our smile, by our

attitude in life and this practice stimulates you to go in that way.

It allows you to take that step forward and touch someone to make them feel happy — to use our hands to support each other. Through this practice, we also find joy within ourselves.

When you see someone smiling in front of you or see someone who is fulfilled by being in a challenging pose, then you also feel happy; especially if you are in that role of basing or spotting that person.

What’s your favorite—flying (on top) or basing (being the supporter)?

Carlos: I like both. With flying, I can be super high off the ground in someone’s feet and hands.

I can empower my practice also – there are many different levels of enjoyment physically, as a flyer, you empower yourself through all the acrobatics and inversions.

We have so many mental boundaries as human beings — and when you have someone that is below you and supporting you, then you can have that confidence to say, “Ok, I’m going up, I’m getting really high and someone is supporting me so that I may reach a state that maybe, I couldn’t get to on my own.” With basing, I can be there for other people.

What do you receive from this practice?

Carlos: Spiritually, it is super beautiful, getting into a state of Shiva: Strength, support, and willpower, as a base; and, as a flyer, the presence of the Shakti shines through. It is beautiful.

Energetically it is very strong, because we can feel where we are in the moment and we can see our own limitations – accepting what it is in the now, you have the opportunity to communicate with the other person where you’re at – “I have so much fear and I’m sharing with you my fear.”

After that, you are understood and you can hold the space for each other to go to the next level of trust and connection.

When was the moment that you got hooked?

Carlos: I was in a park in Venezuela one day and I saw a group of friends in amazing positions, supporting one another and doing incredible acrobatics.

I saw their transitions, soaring high, with really good vibrations, whilst also going to the opposite side of mellow and therapeutic, a gentle and loving touch with each other — relaxing their bodies.

When I saw both these aspects of the practice and that yoga was created “in between” two of them — THAT hooked me.

Definitely my path of yoga is the path of integration – acrobatics, healing arts and yoga. That moment was an amazing confirmation that this is the path I want to lead and to share with others wherever I go.

What is the relationship between your flying practice and your other practices?

Carlos: My Flying Yoga practice improves my Asana practice by committing to acrobatic principles, giving me greater strength and flexibility.

My spiritual practice is a practice committed to chanting and listening to Vedanta.

These two practices have helped me to keep the yoga in between. How can we go back to the center and not take any moment for granted?

Part of my practice is bodywork, healing and Thai massage. Thai massage is a way that I can explore how I can be of service to others.

The fact that it is part of this yoga practice is perfect for me. The most powerful element is gravity. With gravity we can open the spine and create more space. There is so much benefit derived from being upside down.

What are five things you love about Flying Yoga?

Carlos: 5 things I love about Flying Yoga:

1. It is empowering

2. It develops community, Sangha

3. It is joyful practice

4. It brings worldwide connection

5. It is a practice of bringing peace all over the world.

What is your vision for Flying Yoga?

Carlos: I want to bring the practice into other places that may need the extra support, such as working with poorer communities.

Currently, I have this project to bring these teachings into Africa—it’s called the Africa Yoga Project. You can read more about it at: http://www.africayogaproject.org/

Swapping Mirrors for Mantras

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A few months ago, I came across an article in The New York Times about a yoga competition. Yoga competition? Isn’t that an oxymoron? I thought.

So I sent the article to my best friend in the States, who also practices (daily), teaches (sometimes) and writes (weekly) about yoga.

She didn’t seem shocked in the slightest at this news of a yoga competition.

This made me wonder just how out of touch I have become with my culture of origin, living overseas as I do. She lives in Washington, D.C., where competition is a way of life.

My friend has also visited India, where yoga and competition are widely considered compatible.

Indeed, yoga competitions are commonplace in the sub-continent, and yoga is widely practiced there as sport. In yoga competitions, a panel of judges do just that—judge.

One competitor’s asana is better than another’s—stronger, more poised, better aligned.  The whittling  down of yogi egos continues until someone comes out on top—the Best Yogi!—who is crowned the winner.

But is the competitor who wins first place really the Best Yogi? A blog written by one such competitor points out helpfully that these are yoga asana competitions.

She enjoys the opportunity to challenge herself and to display the results of her hard work and commitment to yoga.

Yoga is much more than practicing a series of asanas, though, isn’t it? The expert display of even the broadest range of asanas does not necessarily represent the heart of the deepest yoga practice.

The practice of yoga is motivated by different priorities for different  people.  

Most of us practice for some blend of physical fitness, physical-spiritual integration, stress relief, personal discipline, and preparation for meditation.

Yoga competitions focus on the physical fitness aspect of yoga first and foremost, an aspect of yoga practice that features more or less prominently in the motivations of most yogis.

Rajashree Choudhury is the founder of USA Yoga and wife of Bikram Choudhury, who copyrighted the Bikram sequence of yoga asana.

Her aim is to elevate (or denigrate) yoga to the status of an Olympic sport.

The yoga asana competitions she supports have gained momentum in the USA over the past decade but enjoy a long tradition over many generations in India.

Yoga competitions now take place in about 15 countries around the world.

Learning more about yoga competitions has me reflecting on the idea of competition as it meets my own yoga practice.

As one who came to yoga from dance— and ballet, in particular—rather than sport, I was initially accustomed to comparing my body hypercritically to others’ in wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling mirrors.

While not focused on jumping higher, throwing farther or reaching the finish line first, my mindset was competitive, as it was filled with judgment.

Am I stretching deeper or holding my balance longer than the yogi next to me? How do I compare with that girl on the other side of the room?

Under the guise of reviewing my proper alignment, I took more than a few opportunities for both smug celebration and harsh self-criticism while checking out the legions of bodies in the mirrors.

Now I practice in a room without mirrors, grateful for the billowing breeze and rice paddy views replacing staid walls with glowering mirrors.

More and more, I practice with my eyes closed.

That’s because I’m more interested in connecting my body with my mood, my thoughts with my emotions, my movements with the energy that’s flowing both within and without.

Life in Bali, it seems to me, is more process-oriented and less goal-oriented than plenty of other cultures.

Our yoga culture around here follows this general feeling as well. Physical fitness increases in the process, but it isn’t the primary goal of most yogis here, I would wager.

Most yogis practicing in Bali seem to be motivated by aspirations to deeper self-knowledge, personal integration and inner peace as much as physical fitness.

There is more than enough madness surrounding us, and we want to cultivate our cores (spiritual/ physical) to be as whole and centered as possible!

“This present moment is enough,” our yoga teacher repeated today throughout class, suggesting that we repeat it to ourselves as a mantra.

I want to believe this even more than I want to balance my crow or equalize my triangle.

Today in yoga class I felt tired, but I tried my best to greet this with an attitude of acceptance rather than frustration and judgement.

Some days I feel energized and strong, when my chaturanga feels almost weightless.

Other days are different, and I need at least eight limbs to get me to the floor without a loud thump.

I’m grateful for a yoga practice that has taken me through some twists and turns, even if few of them would impress the judges.