As a child I could usually be found doing cartwheels in the backyard or a somersault on my bedroom floor or even practicing a handstand. This was probably because I was enrolled in gymnastics at an early age. Many of my fondest childhood memories involve me working on my bar routine or perfecting that cartwheel dismount off the beam and sticking my landing. This love of gymnastics eventually led to cheerleading in high school, where naturally the short petite person I am, I became a flyer (the person who goes up in the air in stunts). All this flipping and flying created a fearlessness in me that I no longer possess, such is the case as we grow up. Sadly, now that I’m older I don’t participate in these types of activities anymore. So, when a friend invited me to attend an Acro Yoga class with her, I happily agreed.
Was I going to be able to fly up in the air? I was imagining all these acrobatic poses combined with the yoga I already knew. I walked into the Om Factory that Tuesday night filled with excitement and perhaps a little bit of fear. I started to realize that strangers would be touching my feet (so grateful I had painted my toenails!) and I would also be touching said strangers. Something told me I was about to give up the idea of personal space for the next ninety minutes. Would I be physically strong enough to make it through this class? Did I also have the trust it would take to participate with people I didn’t know? I guess I was about to find out.
Our teacher began with a series of yoga stretches that I knew to warm us up which helped me settle into a feeling of comfort. However, I wouldn’t stay there for long. After the stretches we were asked to find a partner to work with. We all looked at each other awkwardly, reminiscent of those junior high dances where we all stood around hoping someone would pick us. Once I was able to find a partner, we began some work lifting my lower body off the ground while holding on to her legs. I realized this was one of those classes where they sneak the ab work in, I would need to be more vigilant as we continued.
Once I was comfortable with that partner we had to switch again! Instead of reliving my younger days and flying in the air the whole class, we were encouraged to try both roles of lifting and being lifted to have a better understanding of what was expected from each person. This is how I found myself standing back to back with someone and then lifting them off the ground thinking “oh my goodness, I’m holding someone on my back by myself!” That was a bit of a win for me right there.
We were shuffled through partners enough times that eventually the awkwardness began to wear off. Although at one point I was upside down with my face in front of my partner’s face while she held me up with her feet. Oh hello, nothing awkward here, I thought as I smiled at her. Even though I found it easier for me to be the person lifted into a pose rather than doing the lifting, I wasn’t going to shy away from this challenge. My thighs had quite a workout as I practiced lifting someone up with my legs while they balanced on my feet upside down. This seemed quite daunting to me and my mind told me I wasn’t strong enough to do it. I had to stop for a minute to gather myself and decide if I was going to listen to that voice or continue. Our mind can be very powerful with an inner voice that is often very loud. Most of the time it’s telling us negative information to make us think we can’t handle something which is built to protect us from getting hurt. I chose to ignore those thoughts and push through anyway, but I knew I could have done better if I hadn’t listened to that doubt and fear.
I was definitely more comfortable being lifted, but that’s the thing with comfort zones-they don’t exactly challenge us or help us grow as a person. Outside the comfort zone is where the teaching happens as we learn who we really are and what we are capable of. This is probably why we had to experience both roles, so we wouldn’t hang out in a familiar place and not challenge ourselves. Was this class everything I expected it to be? Not exactly, but then again very few things turn out how we imagine them to be. Will I go again? Absolutely! I may even sneak a peek inside the rooms doing Aerial yoga and Circus, now those sound challenging and fun!