It’s Friday, everyone! And that means another Primal Blueprint Real Life Story from a Mark’s Daily Apple reader. If you have your own success story and would like to share it with me and the Mark’s Daily Apple community please contact me here. I’ll continue to publish these each Friday as long as they keep coming in. Thank you for reading!
I wanted to share with you and your readers my love of the activity known as AcroYoga, or sometimes Acrobatic Partner Yoga. I think of it as the missing piece that really brought my primal lifestyle full circle and improved my life!
A little bit of background about me: I’m 26 years old and I’ve been following PB for about four years. I first found MDA when my best friend, now partner, Alex shared a recipe from the site. I started reading and couldn’t stop. Before going primal, I’d always been pretty healthy and in shape, but I was plagued by body image issues, and was constantly counting calories and punishing myself for eating too much. Primal life changed that for me. I learned the difference between calories and nutrition, and started to feel good about the food I ate. I went strictly Primal for a while before I found the healthy balance that worked best for my metabolism. I really feel like I’m living my best life now!
When I first tried Acro three years ago, I had already been following a mostly Primal lifestyle for a year or two: getting plenty of sleep, eating my healthy fats, eschewing grains and sugars, and exercising. I had lost fat, gained muscle, my endurance had increased to 11, and I had some nice muscle definition. I had heard about AcroYoga and thought it seemed cool, so when I found out that there were some people at the park who were doing it, I rushed down to try it! I immediately fell in love, and within a year it had taken over as my main form of exercise. I’d never experienced a core work out that was both effective and fun, but this is it! After all those years of training and daily exercise, I never had abs until now. My flexibility, which has always been exceptional, is even better now. I can do handstand push-ups and back-bends, one legged side planks and splits. I’ve never felt stronger, happier, or more balanced.
But the greatest benefit of doing AcroYoga and the reason why I think it might be one of the most “Primal” activities a person could do, is the sense of community love and support I have gained. We’re always talking about that hunter-gatherer lifestyle, in which our primal ancestors lived in nomadic extended family groups, helping and supporting one another, working together, and of course all of that time was spent outdoors. But I think with all our eating well and outdoorsy endurance exercises, we often neglect that familial bonding aspect of Primal life, and don’t realize how crucial a community structure really is to our well-being. AcroYoga is the first form of exercise I’ve tried that really embodies it perfectly, and at the same time gives me a great low-impact, full-body work out. It is body-weight exercise at its most essential. You don’t need any special equipment for Acro, just a friend and a healthy appreciation for the versatility of your own body.
My hometown is Buffalo, NY, beautiful (read: hot and humid) in the summer, and chilly (read: eight feet of snow and sub-zero temps) in winter. There are other cities that are warmer, there are other cities that have oceans and mountains, but there is no city like the City of Good Neighbors. I practice with a community called AcroYoga Buffalo, and like our primal ancestors, we are nomads. By that I mean that in most other cities with an Acro community, that community has one or more definite “home” facilities where they practice regularly and take scheduled classes. AcroYoga Buffalo doesn’t own a space, but rather borrows spaces from whomever is kind enough to open their doors to us. In the summer, we are always outside. We meet in public parks and farmer’s markets and hang out together, sharing food and laughs, enjoying the warm sun, the people, and practicing AcroYoga. Our gatherings, which we call Acro Jams, are free and open to the public. Anyone who walks by our jam is welcome to join us, even if they’ve never tried yoga and can’t even touch their toes. Even though it looks tough, beginner poses are surprisingly achievable, and no one ever walks away without a smile of accomplishment on their face. We celebrate those accomplishments with hugs and high-fives and the knowledge that we’ve made new friends.
In AcroYoga we usually have two partners: a base, who stays connected to the earth, and a flyer who stays connected to the base. It’s amazing the way we seem to draw our energy up from that connection with the earth, through the base for it to come radiating out of the flyer. It feels natural and necessary to interact with other humans and the earth in this way, it feels like something we need.
As the weather gets colder, we retreat indoors to community spaces that allow us to practice there on a donation basis, which means anyone can afford to come. When winter descends upon us, our close community draws even closer, and our bonds are strengthened by something similar to the Danish concept of “hygge-” that cozy feeling of togetherness, that feeling you get from sharing time with family and friends that makes you feel warm inside even if it’s bitterly cold outside. The sense of playfulness is tangible- this practice is really fun! I think you would agree that it’s important for adults to engage our inner child in a little play time, and when winter lasts six month or more, it’s extra important that we generate that happy, goofy energy that keeps us going. It’s an inner light during days when we don’t see much sun.
But even in non-nomadic Acro Communities, those who are lucky enough to have a home space, this feeling of fun, cozy togetherness persists regardless of the season through the innate quality of the Acro practice which involves close personal contact and intimacy. In yoga, there is this concept of loving-kindness, where we strive to listen to our bodies, push ourselves when we need a challenge, and rest when we need a break. We accept the level where we are currently, and celebrate new achievements. In AcroYoga, these principles extend from ourselves out to another person, our partner who practices with us. We listen to our partners’ bodies and share new skills with one another. We bring in a third partner, the spotter, to catch us when we fall while trying challenging new acrobatic moves. They protect us from taking nasty falls and they also offer the comfort of knowing that you have a friend nearby with open arms. Sometimes just that knowledge is all you need to accomplish something new!
AcroYoga has two sides, the acrobatic side, and the therapeutic side; solar and lunar. In lunar therapeutics, we extend this concept of loving-kindness even further through massage and assisted stretching techniques. It’s a unique way to express gratitude to a friend and rewarding to make another person feel good.
Try mixing Acro into your Primal routine! If all the hippy-dippy love-fest talk wasn’t enough for you, maybe the intense core work is! Acro is accessible to all levels regardless of strength or flexibility, but you’ll be amazed at how quickly those areas improve as you practice. Bases earn incredibly flexible hamstrings and can squat for days, while fliers develop an iron core and superhero deltoids. Personally, I now have control over deep-layer muscles in my belly, sides, and back that I never knew I had! Since this practice has so much focus on balance, it’s the unconscious control of the smallest core muscles that make it all possible. Acro is for everyone, and we engage with the very old, the very young, yoga experts and complete beginners alike.
Is Acro Primal? You bet! Sure Grok probably wasn’t doing handstands on his friends, but he was spending time outdoors, using his body weight, getting dirty, and he was doing it while surrounded by a tight familial support group. I encourage everyone to try it if you’re looking to step up your work out, try something different, meet new friends, and impress yourself with what you can do! Before I started doing Acro, I was in great shape, but something was missing from the very core of my humanity. Working out was great, but I think what I really needed to fulfill my Primal needs was to be surrounded by this grateful, loving extended family, who are always there to catch me when I fall.
Photo Credits: Glen Murray, Matthew Grant, and Robert Strukelj