How to stay flexible during the winter months

Staying flexible is always a challenge—more so during winter months. One fun method is through AcroYoga, a fusion of acrobatics and yoga. Sometimes called Contact Yoga or Circus Yoga, AcroYoga is a blend of “partner flying” which is really 3-D stretching and Thai massage (fully-clothed massage that involves stretching more than rubbing). Remember when you were a wee toddler and your mom or dad would lie on the ground and balance you atop their feet. We called it “flying baby,” but the principle is the same whether you are 4 or 40.

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Actually, acrobatics and yoga have been mixed for thousands of years; this makes sense as all you need is two people—no props, equipment or expensive studio. Simply find a flat surface where you can lay down, enough room that you don’t crash into furniture or any other hard objects, and, ideally, a third person who can act as a “spotter.” You may have seen photos on Instagram, or people doing neat balances in a local park or on the beach.

The basis for AcroYoga is the philosophy of community. It’s all about developing strength, flexibility and coordination, but also there’s a real focus on connection with other people, and the pure joy of doing something fun. There are some spiritual aspects for those interested in getting in touch with both their body and mind—on one hand there is focus on healing, relaxation and just letting go, while on the other hand there is an emphasis on how to listen to one’s body and communicate with your partner. As one practitioner said, “most sports are solitary (skiing, climbing, tennis, biking) or, if it is a team sport (soccer, basketball or football), it’s all about contact in a competitive manner. AcroYoga is partner-driven, like with traditional dancing–that’s something that our society has really lost.”

So who can do AcroYoga? Just about anyone. The activity starts with simple partner yoga for stretching. Then you learn about the three roles—the base (the safety, balance and support of the flyer), the flyer (the person who is being stretched or lifted), and the spotter, whose primary role is to support the safety of the flyer, and to help with good body alignment of both the flyer and base. Of course, from simple stretching there’s more in-depth activities such as inversions (supported headstands, dynamic moves (flips and jumps), and even exercises for groups. So next time you’re bored and looking for something to do, consider taking a class in your area. Whether you sign up for a single workshop or train to become an instructor, you’ll learn techniques that are fun and that give you tools to stay limber the rest of your life.

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