Fear of Flying? Hello AcroYoga.

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Om Factory Union Square August'12 Om Factory Union Square August’12

One bitterly cold January night, my boyfriend K and I ran shivering into a nondescript Flatiron office building. The lobby’s only hint of personality was a small sign pointing upstairs that said “OM FACTORY FLIGHT SCHOOL – 2nd floor.”

“So, have you ever flown before?” the Om Factory receptionist asked us.

We were not learning to fly planes or drones. We were there to try a beginner’s AcroYoga class, a unique kind of contact exercise that blends acrobatics and yoga, and involves balancing off each other’s limbs mid-air. I liked that AcroYoga was partner-based; it seemed more fun and lively than regular chaturangas and vinyasas, and had a circus-y aspect.

The instructor, her two assistants, and 10 students, all newbies (mostly couples, but also two people who came individually) sat in a circle in a warm, colorful room and introduced ourselves. My first surprise was that we didn’t pair off in twos to do exercises, but grouped off in threes and fours; beginner’s AcroYoga always involves a spotter. In no time at all, K (the “base”) was on the ground, legs extended, and I (the “flier”) put my hips onto his soles, and elbows into his hands, and was hoisted into the air. The spotter (one of the Om Factory assistants, who was awesome) was never more than a few centimeters away.

I was never worried about K being a base, but then we had to switch. I had somehow not given much thought to the mechanics of this when I booked the class. It wasn’t so much about lifting someone larger than me, but the scary psychology of it – being completely responsible for a human body dangling off you! In this way, AcroYoga is the ultimate trust exercise.

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However, once the right pressure points are aligned and the technique is practiced, the second surprise was that AcroYoga was fairly simple (maybe I wouldn’t say this without a spotter!). You’re mostly using your bone structure rather than muscle power, so lifting someone bigger is not so difficult. K, with a less anxious personality, found flying more straightforwardly fun.

“That felt amazing on my back. It reminds me of hanging upside down on an inversion table,” he said.

The class cycled through variations on about six different positions. We had all started with a slightly nervous energy, and by the end were smiling and laughing. It’s hard to take yourself too seriously when practicing AcroYoga; that might also be the best thing about it. Count me a convert!

Visit http://www.omfactorynyc.com to check out their AcroYoga class listings. They have two studios – one in Midtown West, one in Flatiron.

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