Meet the extreme sport of the yoga world

The acrobatic poses associated with AcroYoga are often what draw people to the practice. Photo by Amy Goalen Photography

After 10 years of running after the proverbial cheese in the corporate maze of New York City, Daniel Scott had created what he calls a “comfortably uncomfortable” life.

He says his daily routine involved anything that would help him forget how stressed and unhappy he actually was. So when the love of his life left him, he decided to step back and reexamine his life, turning to a calming practice so many frazzled New Yorkers had tried before him: yoga.

These days, Scott may be grounded, but it’s not easy to get him to come back down to the ground. The 34-year-old is a certified AcroYoga teacher, at the forefront of an increasingly buzzed-about form of high-flying yoga that could practically double as a circus act.

While more traditional forms of yoga are practiced alone on a mat, Scott calls Acro the “Yoga of Trust” because it involves holding strength and balancing poses using another person as your point of contact. In other words, you’re putting a whole lot of trust in someone else to avoid a serious knee-to-face moment (it’s also worth mentioning here that there’s typically a spotter involved in flying poses to avoid those types of accidents).

Trusting your AcroYoga partner is one of the main components of the practice. Photo by Amy Goalen Photography

AcroYoga is broken up into two parts: the Lunar side, which involves therapeutic flying poses and Thai massage, and the Solar side, which is all of those acrobatic moves that cause burning cores and draw in eager spectators and athletes ready for a new challenge.

“If the only tool you have is a hammer, everything begins to look like a nail,” Scott says. “AcroYoga challenges one to experience their existing strengths in different ways while developing a completely new set of skills. It’s not just about becoming a master acrobat.”

Still, the gravity-defying poses are what draw most people to try AcroYoga, and Scott says the first step is finding a partner you can really trust and communicate with, not just the person with the strongest arms or the smallest frame.

“Some skills are easier with an equally proportioned counterpart. Others are more accessible when your partner is half your size. Which requires more skill, effortlessly lifting a talented mouse, or gracefully dancing with an overly-enthusiastic lion?” he laughs. “Strength is part of good technique, not apart from it.”

Finding a partner is as easy as signing up for a class, which Scott usually teaches out of Los Angeles when he’s not traveling the world on tour (he heads to New Zealand and Australia early next year).

Daniel Scott
Daniel Scott began AcroYoga as a way to reflect on a stressed-out life. Photo courtesy of Scott

“There are creepers everywhere who exploit vulnerability whether they mean to or not … that’s why they’re creepers,” Scott says. “If you’re not vibing with someone for any reasons during class, you don’t have to work with them.”

So, OK, AcroYoga looks tough, but it’s not impossible, insists Scott. With the right training and the right partner, anyone can pull off the poses Scott and his partners perform. But whether or not your next-level yoga practice comes naturally or not, Scott says “many [people] come to AcroYoga because of the flash and end up staying for the substance.”

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