Acroyoga, acrobalance, and adagio are all slightly different ways to incorporate acrobatics into more strength and control type of moves and movements. Typically in these three types of specialized acrobatics there are two or more people involved in creating the various positions and poses, although in each there are also individual elements. To be good at acrobalance, adagio and acroyoga one has to develop strong core muscles, which are the large body muscles of the thighs, buttocks, torso, generally considered the muscles associated with balance and control.
People of all ages, sizes and strength levels can participate in various types of acrobalance, acroyoga and adagio. There is no requirement for a lot of special equipment making this a good choice for those interested in training but not necessarily interested in weight training or high levels of cardio training. Combining any of these activities with cardio and some light weight training can have amazing health and weight loss results, which is always something to consider.
As a hobby these art forms allow individuals to learn some basic poses or movements, then move to more complex and multi-person poses when their comfort level increases. Although relatively new as a competitive form there are events held throughout the country both at local, state and national levels of competitions if you really want to get involved in the sport. Many individuals that love the style of gymnastics but don`t want the really high physical fitness requirements find adagio, acrobalance and acroyoga a wonderful alternative that is much less competitive and more cooperative in nature.
Lessons and Practice
There are many schools that specialize in Acroyoga. However, if you don`t want to go through a full training you can also take a class or work on your own with a small group to develop the skills. There are also a variety of videos online explaining how to train for a variety of positions used through all three types of activities.
Yoga classes, Tia Chi or similar types of martial arts exercise classes can be very helpful in both learning different ways to control the body as well as basic positions that are considered to be effective in training the muscle groups. In yoga classes these positions are known as the asana. Generally people think of the lotus position when they think of yoga, but this is not the only position. The lotus position involves sitting with the knees bent and crossed, arms resting on the insides of the knees with the back straight and the head up.
Other yoga asana positions that are beneficial for acrobalance, adagio and acroyoga include the sarvangasana, which involves the practitioner keeping the neck, head and shoulders on the mat but the body from the back of the shoulders to the tips of the toes is perpendicular to the floor. The elbows are bent and used to support the lower back and keep the body straight. Other positions include a high lunge, similar to a runners stretch, as well as a bridge type position that produces a deep stretch through the entire core.
Other common positions you can learn at a yoga class or in an exercise class include the upward bow, which is like the bridge position only bent backward and the headstand, great for reducing tension but also for strengthening the length of the body.
There are several one person positions in acrobalance that can be learned and perfected even if you don`t yet have a partner or small group. The planche, which is basically a handstand with the body in a parallel to the ground position is a key element that works to strengthen the arms and core muscles. The horse stance, basically a pose like a jockey on a horse with bent knees and slightly forward upper body is essential in almost all partner moves but can be practiced on your own.
The L-base position, which is also known as the Risley position, is key for most partner moves. It involves the individual relaxing on their back with the legs straight up in the air from the hips. While an easy position to get into it does require considerable abdominal strength and core muscles to sustain the position without wobbling or trembling. This is a key skill for those that will be the base position for a variety of poses. Concentration as well as leg and back strength are essential to develop when others are balancing on your legs above you with no contact with the ground.
Once you go beyond working on individual positions it is absolutely essential to have a spotter in any type of lift or position. This is because neither the base or the flyer can adjust their position fast enough to provide protection for each other in the event of a wobble, slip or a lost grip between the partners. The spotter needs to know the positions as well as be strong enough to bear the weight of the flyer to assist the base if some slip or unexpected movement occurs. For multiple flyers and individuals having at least one spotter per flyer will be important until the technique for getting into and maintaining the position is fully understood and mastered by everyone on the squad. Safety does need to be a concern although with the right number of spotters and a bit of padding there are rarely any injuries you wouldn`t expect in any other type of athletic event or practice.
Working with a partner is the next step and requires you both to understand what positions you are working on and how to safely manage to obtain those positions. Most people that practice adagio, acrobalance and acroyoga recommend starting with very simple positions and learning how to balance using each other`s bodies as well as how to respond to movements by the other individual. Almost all the individual movements will be incorporated into the tandem styles and poses.
For example, from the L-base position another person, the flyer, can assume a variety of poses to great different complex positions. Front flying, also known as the Airplane or bird, starts with the base in the L position, flyer standing facing the base with their feet about two feet from the base`s buttock. The flyer gradually leans forward and the base positions the flat of their feet on the flyer`s hips. The weight is transferred from the flyer`s feet to the base`s feet and the flyer is raised in the air. They have to hold their body completely stiff, like a plank, to obtain the appearance of flying. The hands do not make contact until there is a transition into another position.
A very complex two person position is the tandem planche. One person, the base, assumes the planche position then a second person assumes the planche position using the base`s body, not actually touching the ground. The contact point between the two individuals is the base`s back, which results in the appearance of a teeter totter that is perfectly level. Not only does this require incredible strength and balance but it also requires intense concentration by both individuals.
Many of the cheerleader types of positions such as pyramids, chair stands, angle and star positions are actually acrobalance, adagio and acroyoga. The angle is similar to the front flyer position for the flyer, but the base is standing, holding the flyer above their heads with straight arms. The star is also a similar balance however the base is using only one arm fully extended above the head to hold the flyer on the lower hip. The flyers lower arm is on the base`s shoulder and the two legs and the top arm fully extended to create the star like shape.
Three, four and multiple person positions are also possible in all disciplines. Working with a larger group in more complex positions requires a lot of practice and strength but it is a great workout as well as a team building activity.
Generally the equipment required for acrobalance, acroyoga and adagio is very minimal and very low cost. Tumbling mats or yoga mats are a good idea, especially for two party or multiple party types of lifts and work. These mats can be spread over any type of floor surface to provide a bit of padding and comfort, particularly for the base. They will also be helpful in preventing any injuries if there is a misstep or a slip during any of the positions. For multiple flyer and base poses and positions heavier tumbling mats may be important until the group is used to working together and has learned how to mount and control all the lifts and positions within the specific pose.
Clothing can be anything that is comfortable and not too loose to cause problems with catching or pulling. Sweats, shorts, leggings or running gear is great for both men and women. Many people wear general street clothing including jeans and shorts to complete this type of activity. In competitions more gymnastic style clothing is typically worn, however even this depends on the individual group and the theme of the performance. Generally most people, at least for practice, don`t wear shoes and socks to provide additional grip and control. With any type of step up positions onto the base such as the candlestick or chair types of positions or any lifts, shoes are likely to cause a lot of discomfort for the base. Gymnastics shoes or acrobatic shoes with slip proof soles are often used in competitions as they closely mimic the experience of having bare feet. Hard soled running shoes or other types of shoes are almost never worn because they can cause injuries and a lack of ability to feel subtle muscle movements by the others in the pose.
Video equipment such as a TV, VCR or DVD player and camcorder can be very helpful both in showing training videos as well as viewing your own technique and poses. This will be particularly true if you are interested in competition at any level. Having someone to work with you as a coach or a trainer is more essential at advanced levels but can also be a good idea when you are getting started as well.
Training and practice can occur in any suitable type of room. If you are doing lifts from a standing position the ceiling will need to be higher than the standard in a home but a garage or gymnastics room is an excellent option. In the summer and in nice weather training can even happen outside, with the soft ground a perfect floor for any type of training or position.
Although not a common hobby or sport, the disciplines of acrobalance, acroyoga and adagio offer a lot of health benefits to anyone interested in getting started. Not only will you develop a greater awareness of your body and body positioning but you will also have much stronger core, better muscle control and a greater sense of self-confidence in everything that you do.
Unlike yoga which can be a singular experience, acrobalance and acroyoga along with the more physically involved adagio provide a wonderful opportunity to work with another person or a small group. This sense of teamwork and building on each other`s skills is one of the many benefits of these unique types of hobbies and exercise forms.