AcroYoga as Therapy? How this practice facilitates healing and growth
A personal story by Jess Lane - Acro enthusiast and teacher on the Sunshine Coast
What is AcroYoga? Obviously it combines yoga and acrobatic techniques. There is a flyer and a base, who move through flows or sequences together in various ways (I encourage you to Google or YouTube, you’re bound to be inspired). There are many styles of Acro; the one I have trained in predominantly (Acroyoga International), incorporates a balance of solar and lunar practices - solar referring to the dynamic, acrobatic aspect, and lunar referring to the integration of therapeutics and healing arts (for example Thai Massage and ‘therapeutic flying’).
My name is Jess. I’ve been calling this Sun-shiny Coast home for over 5 years now. Growing up in North Queensland, I moved here to study social work at the university, and I quickly fell in love with this place.
The beaches and nature made me feel content, but I soon became unsettled with my life here. University was busy and stressful, and I started to realise that I didn’t have many close friends here. The friends that I did make would come and go. I finished my first year of uni with good grades, but I started to notice that I felt lonely.
A pivotal time for me was at the end of my second year of university. I had continued to succeed in my grades, and found myself in a loving and fulfilling relationship with my still-partner and best friend. Yet my emotional and mental state was the worst it had ever been. I was starting to experience heightened anxiety, amongst the stress of multiple assignments, working enough to pay off my living expenses, and attempting to maintain a balance between work and leisure time. I began to be very harsh on myself, telling myself that I was very ordinary, that I didn’t have friends, or the friends I had didn’t really like me that much anyway. Above all, I felt like I had nothing to offer. I started to feel very sad, and experienced mild depression. Little problems had huge affects on my mental wellbeing.
Luckily, I had an extraordinary partner and family to support me through this time. I accessed a psychologist for my first time. She explained that what I was feeling was very common, and was the cause of generalised anxiety, which was having a snowball-effect on my emotions and my ability to cope with stress. It was around this time that I began to become very dedicated to my Acro practice. I had been attending occasional classes, which brought me huge joy! I was always envious of my teacher and classmates, telling myself that I would never be that good at anything, let alone Acroyoga!
I got sick of feeling sorry for myself, and I decided to take action and commit to something big! Some Acroyoga International teachers were holding a 5-day immersion on the Sunshine Coast - it was a huge deal for me to invest my savings, plus five days of my time, on to something that was purely for my benefit. I felt selfish! Regardless, I committed and booked.
Wow! What an experience! Not only did my skill and strength evolve enormously, but I also began to feel a sense of connection and shared accomplishment with my fellow classmates. I started to realise that Acro was more than just tricks! It was about connecting with another person, and above all, being vulnerable and trusting in someone else, as well as trusting in myself.
I was hooked. I kept up regular practice, and continued to attend Acro workshops and trainings that were offered all over. I felt focused and confident when I would practice Acro, and formed strong partnerships. I started to value myself, and appreciate doing things for myself - not seeing this as selfish, but essential to grow and expand as a person.
I started to feel like I belonged to the growing Acro community, and that I belonged to this place. Acro was bigger than just the Sunshine Coast; I began to connect to an international Acro community. My journey even saw me attending a 5-day solar immersion in Medellín, Colombia! Weirdly enough, on the other side of the world, I saw some familiar faces from the first immersion I ever did, years before on the Sunshine Coast!
Suddenly I had a lot of people in my life that I considered close friends, a lot of them I met through Acro. I felt confident to put my true, authentic self out there for people to see. I realised that old narratives I had created about myself being ordinary, unworthy or uncreative, were not serving me anymore, and that I was free to create new narratives about myself. Above all, I realised that it was my responsibility to maintain self-practice and self-love, to ensure that I felt fuelled and inspired to offer my unique gifts to the world!
This year I have been growing as a teacher. I incorporate my favourite aspects of Acroyoga in to my classes: self-inquiry, real connection, grace in movement, effective communication, and creative expression of the unique gifts that we all have! Although nervous at first to share my skills to the community, I feel that these skills came innately; validating the fact that I am meant to be sharing this beautiful practice to the world. An extra benefit of teaching is that it forces you to reach a deeper understanding of the skills you practice! It is also a great reflective tool. I ask myself constantly: what kind of space do I want to create for people? How do I want to support people to expand on their own creativity and gifts?