10 Reasons Why I Practice AcroYoga, and Why You Should Too

1) Research

In this day and age, if you are curious to find more details on anything/person/subject, all you need to do is look it up on Google. Do a Google search on me and you will find a bounty of my music recording because the majority of my life is as a concert and studio musician. And one thing all musicians have in common is a substantial amount of alone-time in the practice room. We all relate to that necessary aspect of our work in different ways- some people resent that "isolation booth", some do weird and crazy things, some find nirvana, but ultimately when people are required to spend vast amounts of time alone, the social skills become a bit warped.

AcroYoga Instructor Karen Elaine

2) Focused Practice

For those of us musicians who have an enjoyable time with the intense focus, repetition, and willingness & ability to follow instructions from a highly skilled specialist, we often find ourselves applying these same study tools to new interests and hobbies. We don't simply dabble at a mediocre level, we are usually finding ourselves as specialists in various other fields.

2004 Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific DIVE TEAM on the early morning TV broadcast

This particular trait, the "Beginners' Mind" of an eager student, was a matter of course for my activities in life. It was brought to my attention that this is actually a unique trait one day as I sat alongside another pro musician colleague of mine as we motored across the Long Beach Harbor en-route to Catalina Island for a specialized fish count as part of the Scientific Diver Team of the Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific. Mark noted that both of us have Instructor ratings as Recreational Scuba Divers, spent the classroom and homework time with our animal identification training led by Fish and Game, and was now part of a small team of highly skilled divers because, like the good music students we are, we know how to practice.

3) Curiosity

This "Study Bug" got me full force when I took an interest in yoga- as an 'older' newbie to the yoga practice, I had no expectation of being able to become bendie after a lifetime of sports activities that emphasized velocity and powerful bursts of strength, but struggling to keep up with the Sanskrit instructions in a large class of people and of course the unfamiliar poses for me which included any kind of inversion or extended flexibility made me feel more frustrated than relaxed and centered.

For about six months, I took two to three yoga classes a day, from yoga barre to Bikhram-style Hot Yoga to Yin Yoga. I was falling in love with the way my various injuries from running & mountain biking were getting more lasting relief compared to chiropractic jolts. But I wanted to really know and understand the body mechanics behind the micro-muscle adjustments. So I signed up for a Yoga Teacher Training. At the same time, I did a Google search for acroyoga workshops and attended a couple sessions with the extraordinary acroyogi Whakapaingia David Luke.

4) Commit the Time

As timing would have it, Whaka agreed to take me on as a private acroyoga student to develop my performance art piece AY-M (acroyoga and music, in which I play the music of J. S. Bach while flowing with my acroyoga partner) at the same time that I was immersed in my Yoga Teacher Training. The end result was a couple of AY-M with KOHA YOGA performances at the Beverly Hills HOT 8 YOGA STUDIO along with my 200-hour Power Yoga TeacherTraining Certificate and 100-hours of work on the mat with the exquisite Whaka. Below is a snapshot from the exquisite camera lens of Barbra Porter of one of our performances~

5) Share With Others

Karen supports the morning "Pancake Stack"

My favorite local bookstore, the Mystic Journey Bookstore in Venice on Abbot Kinney Boulevard, invited me to be a part of a new offering in their then-new location that included a parkay wood floor patio where lectures and movement classes were to be held. New to the practice of yoga and acroyoga, I accepted the invitation to teach a weekly class there for beginners to the acroyoga practice in the spirit that one truly becomes a master of a field when they have studied with great teachers and then share this information as teachers themselves.

6) Continue to Study

Karen in private Ashtanga Yoga lesson with Sean Gray

Just as one must participate in continuing education in the medical/scuba/music fields, so does one who practices all forms of yoga. When immersed in the practice of yoga, one typically has a home practice as well as takes class and/or private lessons with a mentor. All levels and styles of yoga practitioners can find a person who excels at something that will be of benefit or inspiration.

The product of this continual refresh of ideas/technique/skills/boy awareness is that one becomes a more efficient teacher for many kinds of learners. The most heart-warming feedback I get from my students is that when they participate at other acroyoga workshops and jams, they have confidence in the fundamentals of counterbalance and trust, the two key elements of partner yoga and the building block of more complicated and acrobatic expressions of this practice. Having confidence in these fundamentals is required to being in a receptive state to learn new poses and structures that require increased levels of trust/strength/flexibility.

 7) Challenge Yourself

Karen Elaine supports fellow Acroyoga Instructor Karen Castle and student June Caldwell at one of the Catalina Island Retreats

THE ACRO YOGA RETREAT ON CATALINA ISLAND presents this opportunity- for the participants to work on their team building skills of trust in each other as increasingly more challenging poses are introduced by the Retreat instructors Karen Castle and yours truly Karen Elaine. Participants have consecutive days with substantial daily practice to deepen their skills as strength/flexibility/tempo speed/and increased height away from the floor are the defining characteristics of the poses explored.

8) Travel

Karen Elaine & Courtney Pratt at the American Acrobats gymnasium

Part of my personal continuing education is in attendance at the monthly sessions led by the phenomenal athlete Karen Castle in Redlands, California at her gymnasium AMERICAN ACROBATS PERFORMING ARTS AND FITNESS. An emphasis in these sessions is on circus acrobatics and poise. The participants are professional in that they know to show up 30-minutes early to do their own personal deep stretch and warm up sequence before the workshop begins as well as have a regular participation in some expression of gymnastics. The participants gathered include aerialists and gymnasts from the Inland Empire.

Joey Stafford-Abbott & Karen Elaine during the 2017 AcroYoga Montréal Teacher Training, photo by Eugene Poku

The highlight of 2017 for me was my road trip from Los Angeles, California to Montréal, Canada to participate in a 200-hour intensive AcroYoga Teacher Training with the founders of this style of partner movement, the phenomenal directors of ACROYOGA MONTRÉAL~ Jessica Goldberg and Eugene Poku. Look up this dynamic duo acroyoga.com or on YouTube to be inspired by their gravity-defying choreography and the defining characteristics of the "Lady Base".

9) Be Empowered

The main difference between west-coast "acroyoga" and the "Montréal-style AcroYoga" is that typical to cheerleading choreography, the west coast acroyoga practice places a much smaller woman as partner with a man and he essentially does all of the lifting. In the Montrèal-style AcroYoga, there is no assigned rôle of flyer and base as both partners share and one sees duos of matching size and weight with interchangeable rôles. A beautiful example of this is the breathtakingly beautiful duo called "Body2Body" from the CIRQUE DU SOLEIL show "Zumanity". As a mentor/choreographer to acrobats in the Cirque du Soleil troupe, Eugene Poku brings his creative wizardry to Teacher Training sessions he co-teaches with his wife Jessica. We participants are SO LUCKY!!!!

10) Touch Others

Obviously, we are in a contact sport when participating in AcroYoga. The phenomenal aspect of this is that either intentionally or unintentionally, that contact happens on the mental/physical/spiritual levels. While it may seem more obvious that a deep connection is made in a slow-motion therapeutic Thai Yoga partner stretch (which is part of all this activity), one also has the sensation of an expanded life experience when successfully getting into/holding/and gracefully exiting a human pyramid shape that challenges one's physical and mental proprioception. And inversely, one will be amazed at the skill/strength/focus required in fine-tuning the details of a restorative partner yoga pose.

Karen Castle supports fellow Acroyoga Instructor Karen Elaine and student June Caldwell at one of the Catalina Island Retreats

To make that leap of faith (Finally Allowing It To Happen)

Join me and Karen Castle for the next

ACRO YOGA RETREAT ON CATALINA ISLAND 

December 24-30, 2017

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