Allowah: Aloha, Angel! Wouldn’t it be fun to write this article on Flying Yoga as if we were flying together?
Shakti MAH: It sure would, Allowah, let’s do it! I have some things to share about the benefits of Flying Yoga, would you like to share what you know of the history of Flying Yoga?
Allowah: Yes, thank you! So here we go, ready for lift off?
Allowah: I know! Well, then…Here’s a typical response I get when I bring up the subject of “Flying Yoga” with people: “Oh, I do that with my kids all the time, they love it!” You know, I kind of think that if we want to look for the origin of this form of yoga, we need look no further, for it probably started as just a natural expression of love between parent and child.
MAH: Yes, that’s so interesting, it does feel so light and playful, like being a child again!
Allowah: It does, doesn’t it! My father used to do this with me all the time when I was just a little guy, and he had no clue about yoga!
MAH: Not many did back then!
Allowah: Right! My dad didn’t know, for instance, that the legendary “Father of Modern Yoga,” TVK Krishnamacharya used to do practice this form of yoga with his young students in the ’30s (see here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b1eXiT-m5HY) and no doubt due to Krishnamacharya’s profound influence on modern yoga, it became more widely known and practiced. Krishnamacharya seems to have had a bit of a circus going in the early days of his yoga ministry. As I understand it, the purpose was to catch the attention of those who were skeptical about the practical applications of yoga and attract them to his work.
MAH: Wow, I myself was not even aware of that! It seems like it’s a much more recent phenomenon. So it’s been around a long time then, at least a hundred years?
Allowah: Yes, and it probably goes much further back as there’s nothing new under the sun! Krishnamacharya himself might just have borrowed some of these movements from non-yogic traditions like circus acrobatics, gymnastics, European systems of body building, etc. (For a nice exploration of how this borrowing happened, see “Yoga Body: The Origins of Modern Posture Practice” by Mark Singleton.)
MAH: Hmmm, it could be very ancient then, for all we know…
Allowah: Right! Like all of us, perhaps, it’s been around!
MAH: I know you’ve been doing yoga for almost 20 years…How did you first hear about it, Allowah?
Allowah: My own introduction to this form of yoga came in the late ’90s on the University of Pennsylvania campus when the now internationally-known yoga teacher Simon Park put me up on his feet into a deep backbend.
[Picture of Angel & Allowah doing a Flying Yoga backbend]
About 7 or 8 years later I began to hear about this thing called “Acroyoga,” yet didn’t know much about it or feel called to look into it further. It was only in about 2009-2010 that I seriously began to practice this form of yoga myself, at which point pondering why it took so long to get into it!
MAH: Very interesting! You do look like you’ve been doing it much longer…
Allowah: Well, my solo Hatha Yoga practice certainly prepared me very well for it! So how and when did you start, Angel?
MAH: There’s one thing I don’t understand, Allowah… If this form of yoga has been around for so long, why is it that it just now seems to be becoming so popular?
Allowah: It just had no separate identity of its own. Whenever we put a name and a system to something, it tends to bring more awareness to it. As we have seen, the current trend/craze which is most widely known as “AcroYoga” has its antecedents. Jenny Klein and Jason Nemer, the founders of “Acroyoga,” simply systematized and put a name on an already somewhat identifiable form that goes back at least 80-100 years. Interestingly, before Jenny and Jason, there was at least one other school that was teaching this form of yoga — Jessie Golderg and Eugene Poku’s “Acroyoga Montreal.” That was in 2001, a good 5 years before Jason and Jenny formed “Acroyoga, Inc” in 2006. Once these schools formed and began certifying students to teach Acroyoga, awareness just grew and grew from there — no doubt this was also because it is such a fun and useful way of doing yoga, and provides something which so many of us are wanting more in our lives — human touch and connection!
MAH: Yes! That’s definitely so important! And I want to note that we like to call it “Flying Yoga” instead of “Acroyoga.”
Allowah: That’s right. Neither of us have been certified to teach “Acroyoga,” let alone do an Acroyoga training, and we both first learned it by the name “Flying Yoga.” Also, interestingly enough, I recently learned that one of my favorite teachers, Sri Dharma Mittra in New York City, has taught it for years using the name “Flying Yoga.”
MAH: And it doesn’t have to be so acrobatic, either! Anyone can do it!
Allowah: Right! It can be done therapeutically, too, like a form of massage therapy. Speaking of which, you were going to share with us some of the many benefits of this form of yoga, Angel?
MAH: Oh, yes… Well, first of all, Flying Yoga offers the many benefits of Hatha Yoga which include improving the health of the internal organs, nerves, glands, muscle tone, flexibility & inner calm. Like Hatha Yoga, it also boosts the immune system, reduces stress, eliminates depression and anxiety, and just makes you feel better overall! Yet Flying Yoga includes the additional benefits of touch, team work, good communication (both verbal & nonverbal), and usually a deeper stretch than you could ever achieve on your own.
Allowah: Definitely! In the hands of a skilled Base, a Flyer will sometimes find themselves doing things they never thought they could do otherwise — especially when a Spotter is assisting!
MAH: Yes! And I feel we need to explain what is meant by Base, Flyer, and Spotter for those who are new to this…
Allowah: Of course, please…
MAH: There are three primary roles in an Acro-yoga practice: Base, Flyer, and Spotter.
Base – This is the yogi who has the most points of contact with the ground. Often this person is lying on the ground with the entire back torso in full contact with the mat or earth. This enables both the arms and legs to be “bone-stacked” for maximum stability and support of the Flyer. Main points of contact with the flyer are the feet (generally placed on the Flyer’s hips or stomach) and the hands (which either form handholds or grasp the shoulders).
Flyer – This is the yogi who is elevated off the ground by the Base. The Flyer can move into a series of dynamic positions, and generally lets gravity do the work for them. A Flyer needs balance, confidence, and core strength.
Spotter – Thisis the yogi who has an objective view of the partners, and whose entire focus is on making sure that the Flyer lands safely in case of any slips. The spotter can also make recommendations to the Base and Flyer to improve their form.
Allowah: Good stuff. So does the Base get a workout, too, or does the Flyer just have all the fun?
MAH: Funny you should ask me that, because you are always flying me! So what do you say, Sri Base-anandaji?
Allowah: [Sporting Indian Accent]. Oh yes, ma’am, it is very good practice for strengthening, focusing, listening, and will power! And sometimes learning to be soft like pillow for hard landing!
[Much Hysterical Laughter]
Allowah: So Angel, what do you especially love about being a Flyer?
MAH: Well, I notice that when you press your feet into my sacrum(which is sacred because that is where the kundalini energy is stored, symbolized as a coiled snake), it creates a gentle heat. That helps to kindle up the kundalini energy to spiral up the spine to illuminate the higher centers of consciousness.
When the Shakti energy from the base of the spine spirals up to the crown chakra at the top of the head it unites with the Siva energy which causes the Amrita or Divine nectar to be released. This can be experienced as an endorphin shower of bliss. (Hence I also refer to Flying Yoga as “The Yoga of Bliss.”)
This bliss, of course, can also be experienced in solo yoga through diligent & consistent Yoga & Meditation practices combined with ethical living including a compassionate vegan diet.
I have found that flying Yoga simply expedites & amplifies the process. Perhaps this has something to do with the Biblical statement, “When two are more are gathered in His name.”
Bliss is our very own true nature. What works to access it may vary from person to person.
Allowah: Wow, that’s deep, it clearly has had a wonderful affect on your life…
MAH: It really has! I love it so much and would do it every day if I only could (hint hint ).
Allowah: I get the hint! But what about those who are new to this practice? What you recommend for them to get started?
MAH: Yes, here are some good tips for beginners…
~ First set your intention to make safety your first priority (ahimsa).
~ Begin by doing solo Yoga to get in touch with your own mind, body spirit.
~ Then begin Partner Yoga gently & safely with a Partner & Spotter.
~ Before beginning your Flying Yoga practice, make eye contact with your Parner & behold the immortal self or Atman in this person. That means to look beyond their physical appearance, personality, cultural conditioning etc & look right into the pure Spirit that abides in that Body.
~ Then synchronize your breathing by taking at least 3 deep breaths together.
~ Then the Base can place his or her feet on the abdomen of the flyer & gently raise her/him up to the first pose which is called the bird or falcon.
~ After this, the Base can bring their feet into the Flyer’s hip creases for “Folded Leaf” and a little massage, which feels so yummy!
~ Finally, the Base can set the Flyer down for a soft landing, after which the Flyer can offer the Base a bit of Thai Massage, especially for the legs.
This is a good start!
Allowah: Yes, and there are so many classes and “playshops” available these days, probably near you, dear reader!
MAH: That’s right, Allowah! So, Allowah, enough of this small talk, don’t you think it’s about that time…?
Allowah: For what? We’re done, aren’t we? I thought we were just going to do this…
MAH: Shut up and fly me.
Allowah: Yes, ma’am! And we’ll see you all later somewhere (where? — up in the air!) In the meantime, please enjoy
this video that Angel and I put together for your viewing pleasure…