With the promise of a full body tone up and a confidence boost, Rachel Liddle puts the latest twist on yoga to the test
I admit it: yoga bunny material I am not. The thought of holding my foot behind my head in a five-minute stretch comes pretty low on my list of ‘exercises to burn off that extra slice of cake’. Plus, being as flexible as a twig, it also comes low on my list of things l’m actually able to do.
So when Top Sante asked me to try out the latest class that combines yoga with a little acrobatics and a good dose of Thai massage, I was more than a little apprehensive. Nevertheless, I headed to The Place dance studio in central London to give a two hour acroyoga class a go.
This fusion of disciplines comes from San Fransisco where, eight years ago, two yoga practitioners experimented with play poses, such as supporting the other in a handstand, on his own hand. Et voila: acroyoga was born. Now, there are 120 instructors worldwide.
Calming my nerves, one of the instructors, Jaqui, reassures me I’m not the only beginner in the 16 strong class. We start with a sequence of typical Yoga poses, such as the plank. There are two instructors taking the class, and the second, Jesse, goes around helping people get into the positions. Transitions between the moves is quick and interspersed with push-ups and even the odd handstand by the seasoned attendees, to get your body ready for the next phase.
It soon becomes clear that a key part of acroyoga is working hands-on with your classmates and trusting them. Worryingly, some of them were unlucky enough to have to trust me as I ‘spot’ them to ensure they don’t crash to the floor. It’s difficult – I only manage to hold a pose for a second or two – but each time I feel a little improvement.
Next is the therapeutic part of the class called flying. To demonstrate, Jesse holds Jaqui up in the air using the soles of his feet and her balance. As they try handstands, and a host of other complex poses, my heart sinks – l’m supposed to do that? Thankfully, we are split into two groups: l’m with the beginners, while the rest test out the full sequence themselves. They’re laughing and chatting as they copy the moves. Meanwhile, l’m nervously using just my partner Valentina’s feet for support – who, incidentally, looks even more terrified than me. But with each attempt I feel more confident, and in 15 minutes, l’m also’flying’, balancing in the air on just Valentina’s feet. Yes, it’s scary, but you also get an amazing sense of achievement.
The session winds down with the more experienced students flying the rest of us, leaving me draped over one of the instructor’s legs for my favourite part, the massage.
It’s a friendly ciass and l’m eager to discover just how much more I could do with practice Leaving the studio, I feel like I am walking taller my slumped posture improved no end. I even have a bit of the positive energy l’m told comes with yoga. Perhaps I could become an acroyoga bunny after all.