What is the Difference Between Acro and Partner Yoga?

I am often asked this question and this is my reply; 

Acro Yoga uses partner inversions as the basis of their practice. My style of Partner Yoga uses inversions as peak postures. As in individual practice, practitioners explore these postures once they have achieved some proficiency and grounding in their practice.

Although my experience with Acro Yoga is limited, I have enjoyed the practice and learned things I include in my own practice. For me the most important element, whether the practice is called ‘partner or acro’ yoga, is the quality of presence the practitioners hold, particularly when practicing postures where there is a heightened possibility of injury. 

In my experience, partner inversions are shamanic. By that I mean, they have the potential to bypass the conscious mind and take us directly into communication with our subconscious. They literally bring us into altered states of consciousness where transformation happens.

When inverted postures are practiced with a high degree of presence and awareness, the potential for release of trauma is vast. When practiced haphazardly, without awareness, these same postures can reignite traumatic memories and actually create more trauma in our nervous systems.

The purpose of all Yoga is to calm and sooth our bodies and beings, returning us to our innate wholeness, the part of our being that has been untouched by any trauma we may have experienced in our lifetime.

In Shamanic traditions, there is a practice called ‘Soul Retrieval’ where the practitioner travels with the support of a guide to unexplored realms. There they discover and reclaim lost or fragmented aspects of themselves. 

Over years of teaching these practices, I have witnessed this happen many times during inverted partner practices. People consciously place themselves into positions where their entire world view is literally turned upside down. If the practitioner is willing to remain conscious in this process, and even more importantly, feel all of the feelings that arise, the potential for liberation is great.

I remember one women’s story in particular. She was 75yrs old and had recently lost her husband of 60yrs. She had come to a ‘Savasana’ weekend literally to  decide whether she wanted to live or die. On the final day, I demonstrated ‘Hanging Inversion’ into ‘Flying Posture’ and she cried saying ‘she would never be able to do this’. 

Well she did do this, both as a base and a flyer and came out of the pose exclaiming ‘I want to live!’ 

This is the power of consciously placing our body into positions that shake up our known reality. Repressed emotion come rushing to the surface and we get to face our fears, our grief, our uncertainty and come out the other side more connected to our wholeness and more free to express who we really are.

The irony is that most people look at these practices and like this women believe that are not capable. This is just not true! 

With presence, willingness and clear guidance, all able-bodied people are capable of experiencing these seemingly advanced positions and the liberation they offer us.

Both Acro and Partner practice have the potential to liberate though the conscious use of connection and support. 

My preference remains with Principle-Based Partner Yoga practice because it is a slower and more inclusive path that invites everyone into new possibilities for themselves.