Amy-Louise Brassington is soaring over Inkyu Jung, spinning around in circles, twisting up and down as if in a washing machine. Her head drops down, nearly crashing into his knees; her feet fly upwards towards the sky. Suddenly, their hands push against each other for stability and she looks down at him, locking eyes, his feet supporting her hips. In acroyoga, this is called the ‘barrel roll.’ It’s both terrifying and enthralling to watch.
Acroyoga, a form of movement combining yoga and acrobatics, has taken off on the Peninsula over the past two years. It was initially introduced to Busan yogis during Yoga Festa in 2013, and, shortly after that, it became a staple class at Kaizen, a yoga and strength-training studio in KSU.
The practice of acroyoga typically features three primary roles: a base, who supports from a position on the ground; a flyer, who’s usually in the air, balancing on the base; and a spotter, who stands closely by to help move the other two into position and catch a falling flyer. Acroyogis, sometimes referred to as ‘birds,’ rotate through the roles during a practice – despite the occasional discrepancy in size among team members.
Mindy Sisco, co-owner of Kaizen, says that expectations about the body shapes and sizes of a typical acro team are being thrown out the window in Busan.
“Fortunately, our community’s really good about moving away from these established roles of big, strong male bases and tiny little female flyers,” Sisco says. “I think those traditional definitions aren’t necessarily applicable. There’s something really empowering about somebody feeling weightless. I mean, we live in a world where people in general are very conscious of their size. [Acroyoga] kind of takes that and makes people reassess that. I think having a 250-pound guy upside down on your feet – he’s definitely revisiting his ideas of self.”
Brassington, who started taking acro classes last year, says, “I think a lot of people’s initial reactions when I tell them to try it is that they could never do that … because they believe they are too big to fly or not strong enough to base. But acroyoga really is for anyone.”
Acro brings together not only all physical forms of people but also those with a variety of backgrounds and nationalities who come to take part – with little talking required. Working with groups and partners can move the focus of a practice from the self and into more of a trusting, team-building form of movement.
Sisco says, “I think it’s really cool with acro how there’s a nonverbal communication that’s happening. There’s a physical response. There’s this interplay that’s happening between two people.”
Simon Kang, Sisco’s business partner at Kaizen, has a background in Brazilian jiujitsu. He says acroyoga is similar to martial arts, but the views he previously held of teamwork and trust have completely changed since starting acro.
“Martial arts is technically, ‘we are friends; we’re the same team,’ but the thing is always and only: try to kill each other. This – acroyoga – it changed my perspective with relationships,” he says.
It seems everyone discovering acroyoga has learned to embrace this unique form of movement.
“It’s so simple,” says Sisco, “but we don’t move, and we’re so scared to dance … we’re so scared of our movements. Acro gives you the space to move. You’re given this freedom to be inside your own skin.”
“You just have to let go,” says Kara Bemis, acro enthusiast and local yoga teacher. “It depends on how much I trust the base, but usually it’s playful and fun.”
For those interested in acroyoga, Bemis says, “I would definitely take a class, not just try it from YouTube tutorials – because it can be dangerous. You don’t want to land on your tooth or something. Learn from someone who knows. And always have a spotter.”
Photos by Kaizen and Nina Staer Nathan
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