Getting Up in the Air


Acroyoga. Haven’t heard of this new exercise practice yet? Imagine seeing intricate trapeze performers doing delicate sequences of yoga moves. That is the best way to describe this experience that is thrilling to watch and even more mysteriously breathtaking to take part in. Matt Berno and Lauren Tolley practice acroyoga and showed us how it works. If you haven’t witnessed acroyoga in action before, then you have been unknowingly missing a fun addition to your fitness regimen.

Berno, a first-year Ph.D. student at NC State was first introduced to acroyoga by stumbling upon a picture on Instagram. After some curious investigation, he discovered people nearby in Columbus, Ohio practiced it. He connected with the community and started to join local jam sessions, where people get together and practice doing sequences and moves. Like a jam session, with musicians, but instead of using instruments you are using your body and others to do sequences practitioners call washing machines. Since acroyoga requires two or more people, he brought along Tolley, a yoga instructor, as his partner. Berno’s favorite move is the Seaweed, while Tolley’s is the High Ninja Star. Both require extreme trust in your partner and in yourself.
Trust is a common theme behind acroyoga, Berno and Tolley explained. Not only does this practice allow you to learn a lot about yourself and explore what your body can do, it also teaches you a lot about trusting other people as your support system. Tolley explains how you interact through sequences together but also learn to breathe on one accord and become one with the other people around you. Learning trust was not always an easy thing. Tolley talks about how she struggled with letting go of control when learning acroyoga. Berno shares that he struggled most with finding the center of balance and being able to be a physical support base for flyers. Since the beginning of their journey, both have significantly grown to overcome these challenges.

Along with trust, practicing acroyoga increases your interpersonal skills and body flexibility. While doing cycles (sequences) with your partner, you may find yourself doing backbends, leaning on one side, or balancing on one leg in the air. As a supporting base laying on the ground, your leg muscles are put to the test to balance another person in the air while positioning your feet in the right places for the flyer to stay stable while they move around. As a flyer, you are able to learn how to increase your trust in your partner to achieve a bigger goal and also to learn how to communicate with your partner effectively so that everything runs well.
Both Berno and Tolley see no end to acroyoga. Tolley mentions that this is one of the best recreational activities as an adult because you get to “learn how to play.” Both want to become certified acroyoga instructors. Berno mentions how practicing acroyoga has helped him in all areas of his life because it “gives [him] release” from stress. Berno shares how acroyoga helped him become acclimated to the Raleigh area and find friends when he moved from Ohio earlier this year. If you open your mind to exploring alternative ways of fitness, like Matt, and you may fall in love with what you find. Consider exploring acroyoga because of all the soft skills and association with other like-minded people.