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Flying high with acroyoga

Posted on Friday, February 10, 2017 at 10:52 am

New acroyoga class now offered at Manchester Recreation Complex,

no experience required

By Leila Beem Núñez, News Editor

Looking for a way to add some fun and flexibility to your workout routine?

A new option has opened up for working it out at the Manchester Recreation Center: acroyoga. As the name suggests, the practice combines elements of traditional yoga with acrobatics, and is practiced by partners working together to achieve different poses – a flyer posing in the air, and a base, lifting his or her partner into different positions. A spotter is also on hand for each group.

Flyer Amanda Gilliam gets into a front bird pose with class instructor Kristin Luna as her base. Yoga beginners or avid ‘yogis’ are all encouraged to come to the new acroyoga class being offered each week at the rec center. (Staff photo by Leila Beem Núñez)

The classes, or “jams,” are held on either Friday or Saturday, alternating week to week, in the fitness room of the recreation center. Jams are free for members and $6 per day for non-members. The next two sessions will be held at 10 a.m. on Feb. 11 and Feb. 18. Those interested in participating should request to join the AcroYoga Coffee County Facebook group to keep up to date, said Kristin Luna, who hosts the classes.

Luna, a travel journalist and blogger by trade, has been doing other forms of yoga since the early 2000s and has been an athlete her whole life. Luna’s first attempt at acroyoga was at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival two years ago, and she hasn’t looked back. Though not a certified instructor, she now has practiced acroyoga for years, and hosts the classes along with instructor Suzanna Vik, who has completed a 200-hour teacher training and is now going for her 500-hour training.

“I fell in love with acro the first time I tried it, and I figured others would, too,” Luna said. “Acro jams are meant to be informal gatherings of fitness enthusiasts who want to play around and better their acro skills. Since there aren’t many locally who have ever practiced this form of yoga before, the first few jams have been a little more instruction-heavy, but that will change as we have more and more return ‘yogis.’”

For Luna, acroyoga instantly became a way to mix up her workout routine, which regularly includes forms of group exercise.

“In my thirties, I became addicted to group fitness. But I get bored easily, so I try to change up my routine between running, Zumba, yoga, HIIT classes and whatever [instructor] Cindy Weber has on the lineup at the rec center,” Luna said. “Once I discovered acro, I quickly phased it into my weekly routine.”

The benefits of acroyoga are extensive, Luna said, ranging from general personal fitness to betterments in communication with one’s partner, who may be a life partner, friend or total stranger.

“Aside from strength-building — it’s an excellent core and leg workout, among other health benefits — acro is great for improving one’s communication skills. We break off into groups of three or four, so oftentimes you’ll be basing someone you just met for the first time that day, and well, let’s just say some acro poses are more awkward than others,” Luna said. “You quickly learn how to communicate verbally, how to both give and take instructions and how to work together as a team. It’s a great confidence builder, too — I’ve seen some of the shyest people come out of their shells after just a few acro classes.”

Those with no prior yoga experience need not worry; though yoga fundamentals help in understanding and carrying out poses, they are not necessary, Luna said, adding that she has had many newcomers.

“What I love the most about acro is that while it may look difficult to an outsider, you can be a complete newbie and fly your first pose with no problem— it’s a little bit of trust and a whole lot of counterbalance,” Luna said. “You’d be surprised how many people came to our first couple jams having never done anything acrobatic in their lives and nail poses like ‘bird’ and ‘throne’ on the first try.”

18 people participated in the last acroyoga session held Saturday, Jan. 28. (Staff photo by Leila Beem Núñez)

Luna said one’s size doesn’t matter as much as one might think, as lifting someone into poses has less to do with muscle strength and more to do with positioning and technique.

“I’ve seen a tiny 5-foot-tall, 90-pound woman base a powerful man more than double her weight with no problem at all.”

Amanda Willis, who attended an acroyoga class at the recreation center for the first time on Saturday, Jan. 28, said she wasn’t sure what to expect but was pleased with her time at the jam.

“I thought I would be falling all over the place, but I was pleasantly surprised at what I was capable of. I Googled images of acroyoga before the class to get an idea of what I was getting into, but I didn’t think I’d be doing any of the poses I saw there because they looked way too complex. I’m pretty sure we did every pose I saw, though.”

Willis added that the instruction provided at the class was very helpful.

“Kristin’s guidance really helped that because she explained how to get into each pose and made sure we were safe the whole time,” Willis said. “One of the first poses I did, I think it was called ‘front bird’, made me feel like I was flying.”

If the jams continue to grow in attendance – 18 people went to the last class – Luna looks to bring in acroyoga instructors from Nashville and other visiting instructors for weekend workshops at the recreation center in Manchester.

Luna said an acroyoga workout can provide some low-maintenance, stress-relieving diversion.

“It’s a very playful form of yoga, and what adult doesn’t need more fun in their lives, particularly with everything going on in the world?” Luna said, adding that those flying solo are encouraged to attend as well. “You don’t need a partner to come out and play. At jams, we mix the groups up every time so all participants get used to basing and flying and with people of all height and build. You don’t need any equipment other than yourself. It’s a fun form of fitness to adopt because you can literally do it anytime, anywhere.”

To find out more about acroyoga classes at the recreation center, visit the AcroYoga Coffee County Facebook page and request to join.