The Art of Touch ~ an interview on AcroYoga w/ Sukhavati
Just did this interview with the fine folks at Yoga Sukhavati…offers some of my perspectives on AcroYoga and how I came across the practice of flying. enjoy ~
When did you start practicing yoga?
I started practicing yoga in 1995 after a snowboarding injury that fractured my back. It was a last resort to try and avoid having surgery.
How did you find yoga?
I was walking my dog and bumped into one of my old ballet teachers who asked “how are you doing?” and I was quite honest in my reply and said “not so well, my back is really messed up.”She suggested a yoga class that she taught at a local gym where we laid out towels on the carpeted floor as yoga mats. I definitely had my guard up attending the class and I rolled my eyes at all the “om-ing” and “namaste-ing” but at the end of that class was one of the first times I remembered my back not hurting…the rest was history.
What style did you start with?
At that point there really wasn’t such a big “style movement,” everything was pretty slow hatha and the majority of people in the class I went to were over 50-years-old. There was no jumping around or fancy sequencing just mindful stretching and breathing. I then found some Iyengar teachers and started working with props like chairs & blocks and that really helped my back a lot even though it was extremely slow and dare I say boring (to a 17 year old everything is pretty boring I guess). In 2001 I was introduced to vinyasa yoga from one of my dance teachers in College and I was instantly drawn to the sequencing and “choreography” of alignment. The practice helped me a lot with managing the stress of a double major and writing my thesis which had me hunched over a computer all the time. The vinyasa practice then drew me towards a local studio that had Ashtanga yoga and I studied that as well, taking several classes a week.
When and how did you decide that you wanted to focus on AcroYoga?
I guess it’s still hard for me to focus on just one style of yoga but AcroYoga came into my life again as a therapeutic remedy after I threw my back out on a red eye flight to the West Coast. I loved the community aspect of AcroYoga and learning to trust people to hold you up in the air is empowering for everyone involved. And it’s a lot of fun which I think is essential to anything you do in life…make sure you are having fun, always.
What are the benefits of AcroYoga?
AcroYoga helps a lot of students to get into inversions and allow gravity to help realign and stretch the body. Physically, there is a lot of traction in the body through the practice of Acro or “flying” as well as the Thai Massage component of mindful touch which typically accompanies most AcroYoga offerings. Acro helps to take pressure off the low back and legs which are the areas typically responsible for holding us up so it feels really good when these large muscle groups can go upside down and move in new ways. But I think one of the most beneficial “real life” side effects of Acro is that it teaches us communication, trust and support and these characteristics help to change lives on the big picture when we are dealing with our jobs, relationships and interactions with others.
Are there misconceptions about AcroYoga?
Some people think you need to be an acrobat or really advanced in yoga to do it and it’s far from true. When you are first learning, Acro has very little to do with you flexibility or strength but more so about learning proper alignment & spotting techniques so that everyone feels safe & supported. With proper spotting and a good foundation, students quickly develop the strength and flexibility for more advanced poses and flying sequences. The fact that it is fun and feels good in your body means that you are more likely to practice it which also helps.
What do you get most excited about when teaching new student’s Acro?
I love seeing people get psyched on flipping their perspective physically and mentally. When someone has that “ah-ha” moment in a handstand or learning how to balance someone on their feet, it opens up so much potential in the mind and creates a childlike wonder of “what else can I do?” This becomes a catalyst for progression on so many levels and I love seeing students live out their passions at any age and finding the fearlessness to try something that maybe they thought they couldn’t do. Acro has a wonderful ability to help bring down barriers that typically result from fear. And when we move further away from fear we start to find love in some shape or form.
How do you and Leigh (Sukhavati founder) know each other?
Leigh and I met through Greenhouse Yoga where I used to teach when I was living in Brooklyn and Rockaway Beach. I always enjoyed taking her classes as they brought me back to my roots of alignment and an Iyengar philosophy offered in a Vinyasa style format which keeps it fun.
What are you looking forward to about teaching as part of Leigh’s Yoga Sukhavati: Art of Touch module?
I love working with students who are in a teacher training program and have a clear passion for the practice. Similarly students that drop in to workshops that are outside of the realm of a weekly 90 min yoga class also have a curiosity of “what else?” and that desire to take your practice deeper. I’m excited to share things that have helped me a lot in healing my own body as well as working with students of all ages & backgrounds. It can be intimidating to touch people and I think that it’s actually a lack of experience that makes touch scary. As we grow more accustomed to sending text messages and emails rather than meeting in person with a hug and a handshake, very basic elements of touch are slowly slipping away from our daily lives and I believe it leaves us feeling distant. Yoga teachers have the power to help change this and communicate through touch in a way that restores hope for many students. A good adjustment in class can change your whole day and then if you can pass that positive energy on, well then, that’s the sorta stuff that changes the world. I love being part of that process and inspiring the change makers who want to find happiness in their lives as they are the ones who ultimately change the lives of others.
When you’re not practicing yoga, what can you be found doing?
Oh wow, that’s a difficult question! I guess it depends on where I am as I am fortunate now to live in two really great areas for half the year. When I’m in Puerto Rico for winter the focus is definitely surfing and hanging out in the ocean. I’ve always been attracted to water, so when I’m around it I try to be in it as much as possible. For spring, summer and fall I’m excited to be moving back to the Hudson Valley, NY region where I can be outdoors and climb at the Shawangunks cliff range. Rock climbing would be another great passion of mine as I love feeling the movement on the rock and working past so many physical and mental obstacles on a challenging climb. When I take a rest day I’m usually slacklining with a focus on longlining and a new found passion for highlining which takes all of these practices of balance and trust to a mentally challenging place trying to walk a line so far above the ground. Oh and I love gardening and working with plants, especially flowers and medicinal plants and herbs.
Please add anything else!
I’m a sucker for cute animal videos posted on facebook…these videos have contributed to countless hours of procrastination in my life.
Check out the video of Adi here: https://vimeo.com/94719455
photos courtesy of: tamar melen, ryan martin, nik sliwerski & kadri kurgun