5 Acroyoga Poses for Complete Beginners
Thinking about trying Acroyoga? Teaching beginners? Or maybe you are acro-curious? This series on Acroyoga for Beginners is for you!
In this article
We cover five poses that are a great place to start. Even without experience, these poses are accessible for most people. We give step-by-step instructions for flying, basing, and spotting each pose as well as tips for some of the most common issues we see and progressions for going further. Try the poses, send us pictures or tag us (@trainmoveplay on SoMe), and let us know if you have questions.
We started from scratch - we don't recommend it.
We didn't have teachers in our area when we first discovered acroyoga, but with Martin's background in gymnastics, Sarah's background in yoga, and our combined experience with dance lifts, we figured we could safely manage a few poses. And we were right! We got good advise on where to begin from two lovely folks from Possum Yoga in Lexington, Ky, Elizabeth Carlisle and Ben Eagle. Choosing the right poses to start with can be the difference between a great first flight and a frustrating, disappointing, or even injurious one. So, we want to offer YOU a place to begin, if you, like us, want to try acroyoga but don't have a community readily available. These five poses are good for beginners because
the flyer is well supported - all of these poses can have 4 points of contact between the flyer and the base, and can also have fewer contact points as you get more confident and skilled.
the base doesn't need a ton of flexibility nor strength - if the base can do a basic standing squat and sit with legs outstretched and together with a fairly straight back, you can try basing these poses. *Tips for making basing easier on tight hips and hamstrings are included in the instructions below.
the risk of injury is low and manageable with some preparation and information, although there is *always* some risk in acroyoga, as in all movement modalities, so use precautions and common sense, use a spotter if you have one available, and take care of yourself and your partner.
there is a LOT of information available on instagram and youtube, in addition to the instructions below, to get you started.
A note on "DOWN"
If anyone wants to exit a pose at any time, say the word "DOWN" clearly and confidently enough for all of your partners to hear you. Everyone should then work to come out of the pose quickly and safely. It doesn't have to be pretty - just safe and soft in the landing. We build trust with each other by knowing that we will all work ONLY to our limits and we will respect when our partners have reached theirs.
A note on terminology
If you haven't yet read our article Acroyoga Terms for Beginners, you may want to start there. Many of the terms used in the instructions below are explained in that article. It is a short 5 min read.
5 Poses for Complete Beginners
Good for beginners because:
Leaf is a great place to begin because the flyer will be upside down, which can be scary for many adults, BUT the flyer's feet will still be close to the ground, and the flyer can SEE the ground.
Entering: Base: Lie on the floor on your back in an L-base position (sacrum down on the floor, feet up and aligned over your pelvis *NOT over your belly), with your feet turned slightly outward (heels a bit together and toes away from each other.) Flyer: Stand very near the base's tail bone facing the base, and lean your hip creases into the base's feet. Begin slowly to drape your body forward over the base's legs. Base: you may have to bend your knees to reach flyer's hips. Take hands softly, don't interlace fingers, imagine you are wearing mittens where all of your own fingers must touch each other, then grip your partner's hands. Flyer: continue to lean and drape over the base until most of your weight is in the base's legs and your are facing the base's shins or knees. Flyer and Base: take a breath in together; sync your breath to let each other know that you are ready to move together. Base: On the exhale, push your legs straight UP to the ceiling/sky until you are carrying all of the flyer's weight in your legs. Your hands are only used for balance and connection - try not to grip each other too much. Flyer: keep your legs stretched and your feet very heavy so that you don't tumble forward into the base's belly.
Exiting: Base: begin to slowly bend your knees until you feel your flyer's feet touch the ground. Flyer: let your base set you softly down and then stand up mindful that you may get a head rush if you were upside down a long time.
Spotting: Spotter, stand to the side of the performing couple, keep your hands close to the flyer's hips and use your hands on the flyer's hips to guide him to the ground if they start to fall or someone says, "DOWN." Do not touch the flyer unless you need to catch him and lower him safely to the ground. Stay vigilant and ready to catch from before the flyer leaves the ground until after the flyer touches back down. Stay focused. Refrain from giving comments, corrections and feedback while spotting. Once the flyer is on the ground again, you can offer feedback. But while you are spotting - just spot. Use this same technique and focus to spot all poses.
Tip: Base: if your hamstrings are stretched to the max and knees are still bent, you can place a folded yoga mat, couch pillow, or other thin cushion under your tail bone. This will lift your pelvis off of the ground and help you straighten your legs and get stacked without putting more stretch into the hamstrings. You can use this trick for any L-basing pose.
Progressions: When both flyer and base feel confident that you can safely hold the pose, take away your hand connection. Slowly disengage your hand grip. Flyer: release your hands to the ground and relax them completely - DO NOT touch the ground nor try to hold yourself up - this will only make things much harder for the base. Base: you can keep your hands up and ready to catch the flyer's shoulders if he comes forward or guide the flyer to the ground if you start to go sideways.
Good for beginners because:
Bird is a great beginner pose because it is familiar - maybe you did this as a child with your parents or siblings and called it "airplane?"
Entering: Base: Lie on the floor on your back again, this time with your feet turned slightly inward, with the outer edges of your feet parallel to each other. Flyer: Stand very near the base's tail bone facing the base, and place the base's feet on your hips so that the balls of base's feet are on the pointy part of your hip and the base's heels are on the top of your thigh bone. Now lean your hips into base's feet keeping a proud chest and slightly arched back. Keep slowly leaning in until you have given all of your weight to the base and you are no longer standing on your own. Stretch your arms straight out in front of you and as the base takes your weight, your hands will come close to the base's hands - when you can grasp without bending at the hips, you can take hands. Base: Bend your knees to your chest and squat the flyer in until you can reach flyer's hands easily without lifting your head and shoulders from the ground, then take hands. Flyer and Base: make eye contact and take a breath in together before you move any further. Base: on the exhale, scoop the flyer up by pressing your heels to the sky, bringing your feet back over your pelvis, and pushing your arms straight so that hands are aligned over your shoulders. Flyer: on the exhale, keep your bod shape and let the base scoop you up in one piece. Push into your straight arms and try to feel the floor under the base's shoulders as if you are doing a plank on the ground. Do not pull on the base. Keep your back slightly arched, but belly strong (no saggy back), eyes forward, arms strong and legs straight. You are now in Front Plank pose!
Exiting: Base: slowly bend your knees to your chest again, squatting the flyer into you. You may need to bend your elbows. Then tilt the flyer back until you feel flyer's feet hit the ground softly. Now push flyer back up to standing, releasing your hand grip when it makes sense. Don't take your feet off of the flyer until flyer is standing alone again. Flyer: wait, wait, wait until the base sets you down gently. Once your feet touch down and the base has tilted you backward to stand you up, take your own weight again. Resist the urge to jump down or bail - let the base do the work to set you down with control.
Spotting: Spotter: just as in Leaf pose above, stand to the side of the performing couple, keep your hands close to the flyer's hips and use your hands on the flyer's hips to guide her to the ground if needed.
Tips: Base: This may stretch your hamstrings, but should feel relatively easy in your abs and arms. If it feels difficult, try taking your feet away from your head and aligning them over your pelvis (NOT over your belly). Your sacrum should touch the ground or your pad and you should be able to breathe easily.
Progressions: Once you are comfortable with Front Plank pose, try releasing the hand grip. Flyer: place your hands along the sides of you body very close to you. Arch your back and lift your chest and legs even higher. Base: you can keep arms up as an extra spot, or place them on the ground by your sides for extra stability. This is now Bird pose.
Foot to Shin
Good for beginners because:
It is very low to the ground and easy to come down.
Entering: Base: come to your back again, this time with legs bent and knees curled to chest in a little ball, with arms straight out like a zombie. Flyer: stand with one foot on either side of the base's hips and take base's hands, keeping your arms as straight as possible also. Place one foot on base's shin so that your toes are close to the base's knee and your foot is aligned along the strong shin bone. Base and Flyer: make eye contact and take a breath together. Flyer: on the exhale, pour weight into your straight arms and into the foot that is already in place, then gently step the other foot into place on the base's other shin. Slightly squeeze your legs together and use your toes to grip the base's legs. Base: on the exhale, keep arms strong and stacked over your shoulders. Don't pull the flyer up, rather let the flyer climb up.
Exiting: Flyer: slowly and gently shift your weight into one foot and both hands and lower the other foot to the ground. Don't jump off of the base. Base: wait, wait, wait, staying steady and strong in the legs and arms until the flyer is completely down.
Spotting: Spotter: stand as before to the side and slightly behind the flyer and be ready to catch the flyer in any direction.
Tips: Communicate! Base: if you need the flyer to squeeze legs together more or less, ask for that. If you need the flyer to shift more to the heels or the toes, ask for it. Flyer: if you need the base to lift or lower ankles to make a more flat platform, ask for it!
Progressions: Once you both feel very confident on the entrance and exit, you can try releasing the hands again. Base: you can first take one hand, then the other to the flyer's ankles and gently hold them in place. *If the flyer starts to fall, LET GO OF THE ANKLES so that the flyer can step down rather than face-planting. Eventually, you can let go with your hands completely. Flyer: once your hands are free, you can stand up and look forward. You are now in Foot to Shin pose. Re-grip hands before you step softly down.
Good for beginners because:
This backbend can be very scary to fly. It is a blind entrance and feels very exposed, but you can see from the photo that your feet are actually very close to the ground.
Entrance: Base: assume your familiar L-basing position with legs up and straight. Flyer: you are entering from the base's head this time! Stand with feet on either side of the base's ears very close to base's shoulders and facing away from the base. Base: take hands around flyer's ankles and reach your feet over your head until they meet or come close to the flyer's upper back. Flyer: There is a bit of a trust lean, slowly and gently back into the base's feet. Try to place base's feet on your shoulder blades. Flyer and Base: take a breath in together. Base: on the exhale, move your feet back over your pelvis bringing the flyer with you. At the same time, use the strength in your arms to lift and push flyer's ankles up and over your head. Pull your legs and arms slightly apart like you are trying to stretch the flyer in both directions. Flyer: on the exhale, lean even more into the base's legs and stretch your own legs trying to make them light and tight and strong. Arch your back, lifting your belly to the sky and reach your arms down along the sides of your body. Squeeze everything - arms, legs, shoulder blades and abs - into the midline of your body. Look back and let your neck go soft. You are in Whale pose!
Exiting: Flyer: tuck your chin to your chest and look forward to prepare for landing. Base: slowly, slowly bend your elbows and set your flyer's feet on the ground near your head. Lift your legs back over your head, keeping them strong and straight until the flyer can stand alone. Once the flyer starts to stand, LET GO OF THE FLYER'S FEET. Flyer: once your feet touch down, shift your weight forward and stand yourself up.
Spotting: Spotter: follow the flyer's hips from the side as above and be closer to flyer's head than feet. Be ready to catch flyer's head if the pose falls to the side or backward. Follow the flyer all the way out, until flyer is standing safely alone.
Tips: Base: at first you may not feel strong enough to lift flyer's legs. It is not about strength, though. Once you find the right rhythm, breath, and pull, you can lift someone much bigger than yourself.
Progressions: once you both feel very comfortable on the entrance and exit, try slowly and predictably moving into different arm variations, take one of the base's feet away, or one of the base's arms away.
Good for beginners because:
This counterbalance is a great lesson in sensitivity.
Entering: Stand very close to each other facing the same direction. Flyer will be the person in front. Flyer: stand on the base's feet. Base will be the person in back. Base: place your hands on the front of the flyer's hips. Flyer and Base: take a breath in together and as you exhale lean slowly and gently away from each other. Flyer: begin to arch your back and lift your arms up and back. Base: lean your hips back until arms are completely extended and look down, creating a flat back.
Exiting: Flyer and Base: take another breath in together and as you exhale pull back together.
Spotting: Spotters can be useful in the front and the back of this pose. Spotters should follow the hips of base and flyer and slow their descent to the ground if it falls apart.
Tips: go SLOW and feel each other's weight as you move apart and together.
Progressions: We don't actually know any progressions from this pose! So, if you do, please share them with us! How have you taken it further?