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AcroYoga: These yogis can fly


These acrobatic yogis aren't just superheroes—they're practitioners of AcroYoga, a thriving yoga subculture in New York City. Are you ready for takeoff?

Acroyoga

If you were at New York’s Wanderlust in the City or the Solstice in Times Square, you probably noticed a handful of yogis performing seriously acrobatic stunts.

It turns out they’re not just super-yogis—the perfectly-balanced partner inversions that look like flying are elements of AcroYoga, a tight-knit yoga subculture that’s small but thriving in NYC.

Mary Aranas, Acroyoga
Mary Aranas takes flight

AcroYoga, a blend of yoga, acrobatics, and Thai massage, was founded in 2003 by Jason Nemer and Jenny Sauer-Klein in San Francisco. Since then, they’ve held six teacher trainings, and Mary Aranas, one of NYC’s prominent AcroYogis, says there’s a family-like connectedness among their 150 certified teachers around the world. “They’re like the Papa and Mama of AcroYoga teachers,” Aranas says.

An AcroYoga class first takes a typical vinyasa flow into a circle where everyone practices together—then into the air with one-on-one partnering. During the signature partner “flying” a third person acts as a spotter. At the end, partners practice Thai massage on each other. Nice, right?

If Ashtanga is the practice of inner focus, Acro is the yoga of trust and communication. “You break through your personal boundaries when you engage in partner yoga, which is both exciting and scary,” says Aranas. 

Times Square solstice acroyoga
AcroYogis at Solstice in Times Square (Photo: Larkin Clark for Well+Good)

Tell me about it. I was terrified when Aranas lifted me into the air on the soles of her feet, flipping me upside down and then moving me in a rhythmic flow that AcroYogis playfully call “Finding Nemo.” But I allowed her coaching to guide me and ended up feeling more exhilarated than I ever have from a yoga practice. “In the elements of touch and relationship—that’s where a lot of growth happens,” says Aranas.

So is AcroYoga for you? Aranas says it tends to attract “physically adept, adventurous people” from all walks of life. Stick with her, and you’ll be flying in no time. —Lisa Elaine Held

Breakin’ High: An AcroYoga Playshop with Mary Aranas and Friends, Sunday, June 26, 11:00 a.m.—2 p.m., $40, Om Factory, 265 W. 37th Street (at 8th Avenue), 17th floor, www.omfactorynyc.com