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Partners in Play

Learn to support and be supported with this innovative form of partner yoga.

By Andrea Ferretti with Jason Nemer and Jenny Sauer-Klein


It's inspiring to watch AcroYoga founders Jason Nemer and Jenny Sauer-Klein do their thing—one acting as the base, the other flying through the air from pose to pose. With their combined backgrounds in acrobatics, circus arts, theater, and yoga, the two bring a refreshingly playful approach to an ancient tradition. But AcroYoga—which blends yoga postures and philosophy, Thai Yoga Massage, and acrobatics—is more than just monkeying around. It's a progressive system that includes two forms of flying: acrobatic and therapeutic. Acrobatic flying is dynamic and involves an active base and flier. Therapeutic flying is accessible to almost everyone and uses gravity to gently release the flier's spine.

This therapeutic sequence gives the benefits of inverting without the effort. It's also empowering for someone who may be fearful about supporting another person. "You learn to stack the bones, and then you can support the weight," says Sauer-Klein.

Learning to trust, communicate clearly, and give and receive are some of the main emotional benefits of AcroYoga. "It's not a substitute for solo practice but an expansion," says Sauer-Klein. "When you are able to give and receive completely, it brings up what yoga is all about—union." Adds Nemer, "You become joyfully connected to each other, which spreads into the community and spreads peace."

Before You Begin

Test Your Bast: Have the base lie back and lift the legs, keeping them straight and at a 90-degree angle to the torso. If tightness in the lower back or hamstrings makes this challenging, place a blanket underneath the base's pelvis.

Find a Spotter: If you have any reservations, ask a third person to "spot" and stand nearby during the sequence.

Speak Up: Talk to your partner if something doesn't feel right. If the flier or the base needs to come out quickly, say the magic word, "Down."

1. Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog) Mount

Base: Place your feet turned out on the soft part of the flier's upper thighs, right at the hip crease and not touching the hipbones. Place your hands on the inside of the flier's shoulders near the chest.
Flier: Fold forward into Downward Dog, with your feet next to the base's hips, and your hands on the floor near the base's shoulders.

2. Transition

Base: Straighten your arms and legs simultaneously. Stack your bones and your joints, keeping your wrists over your shoulders and your ankles over your hips. Feel your shoulders supported by the ground.
Flier: Allow your body to be lifted. Stay passive, with your legs heavy and arms relaxed.

3. Lifted Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose)

Base: Continue to refine your bone-stacking principles, finding a 90-degree angle between your legs and torso. (This angle is usually farther away from your head than you think.) You'll know that you have found it when holding the flier feels easy and stable.
Flier: Baddhakonize your legs by bending your knees and pressing the soles of your feet together. Slowly lift your arms behind your back as if you were moving through water. Bend your elbows and clasp the opposite wrists or elbows.

4. Hippy Twist

Base: Bend your right leg as the flier exhales into a twist. Straighten your right leg as you both inhale, then repeat the twist on the left side.
Flier: With your body passive, keep the feet together. Take deep breaths, exhaling to twist as you turn your head, inhaling back to center.

5. Transition to Folded Leaf

Base: Bend both arms and guide the flier's chest toward your legs while keeping your legs straight and your feet over your hips.
Flier: Release your legs to a wide straddle; keep the upper body relaxed as it releases forward and down.

6. Folded Leaf

Base: Allow the flier to hang passively, moving your hands onto the flier's back for support. Keep looking for the spot that feels balanced and easy, where you are at 90 degrees, and the weight drops through the leg bones.
Flier: Keep your legs wide and your feet heavy. Completely relax your torso and arms, with palms facing up and resting on the floor next to the base's hips.

7. Folded Leaf with Massage

Base: Draw your thumbs down either side of the flier's spine from lower to upper back, then squeeze down the flier's arms from shoulders to hands.
Flier: Let your body be passive and take long, deep breaths. Practice receiving and letting go.

8. Transition to Dismount

Base: Hold the flier's hands as they are presented to you, while keeping your legs straight and at 90 degrees.
Flier: Keeping your torso heavy, lift your arms and present your hands to the base.

9. Transition to Standing

Base: Exhaling, straighten your arms while bending your knees to bring the flier to their feet.
Flier: On an exhalation straighten your arms to lift your chest, while lowering your legs and bringing your feet to the ground.

10. Sacral Traction

Base: Release the flier's hands as they ground their feet into the earth. Relax and let yourself change roles from giver to receiver.
Flier: Hold on to the base's heels and lean back, providing gentle sacral traction. Add any other leg and foot massage techniques, closing with three brushes from the hips up to the toes. Offer a bow to your partner in gratitude.

After You Finish

Connect: After both partners have been the base and the flier, share your experience of what it was like to base and to fly, to give and receive, and to communicate. This exchange completes the journey of learning to fly!

June 2008

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Reader Comments

Partner Yoga

Lori Wilson

I really, really appreciate the Jason Crandell podcasts. He always shows me new variations on common postures, allowing me to keep my practice fresh. Easy to follow and no ego.

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