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The Student Voice of UNC Asheville

The Blue Banner

The Student Voice of UNC Asheville

The Blue Banner

Students discover acrobatic community with acroyoga

By Allana Ansbro, contributing writer
Nov. 11, 2015
The White Stripes song, “We’re Going to Be Friends” plays in room 351 of the Sherrill Center. Laughter rings out from the room as students and instructors perform yoga.
Upon entering the dance studio, it becomes obvious this yoga class has a twist. Partners work together and form acrobatic yoga poses.
“Acroyoga is partner yoga involving a lot of partner acrobatics,” said Sydney McGary, acroyoga fitness instructor.
McGary said acroyoga consists of two types of acrobatics: solar and lunar. People interested in more challenging acro can try solar, while people interested for more therapeutic reasons can try lunar. McGary said she incorporates both types into her class to include both beginners and advanced students.
“The reason it’s also called acroyoga is because you basically are doing a lot of yoga poses, but you’re just sort of modifying them, you’re making them look different,” McGary said.
Although relatively new, acroyoga’s popularity grew rapidly in the past couple of years, McGary said.  
Elisabeth Maillard, a biology student from Chapel Hill, said she tells people she’s an acrobat when asked about some of her favorite activities.
Maillard said she took a contemporary dance class in high school and learned aerial dance, which eventually led her to discovering acrobatics.
“This lovely woman came in and taught us aerial dance and it was terrifying because we were upside down and we had to let go and that was the scariest thing I had ever done. And then I let go and I didn’t want to climb out. I wanted to stay there forever,” Maillard said.
Soon enough, the Maillard said she discovered a nearby circus school, The Flowjo, and started partner acro. Maillard continues to practice acro on campus in McGary’s class.    
“Because I don’t like sports, I kind of discovered circus arts as a way of physical activity that I enjoy,” Maillard said. “It’s exciting. It’s fun. It releases endorphins in my brain.”
Anna Emslie, a political science student, rooms with Maillard. The roommates share a great deal in common. Both know French and live in the Chapel Hill area.
Although Emslie doesn’t attend acroyoga, she knows Maillard truly loves it.
“Whenever I hear about it, Elisabeth just seems excited,” Emslie said.
McGary said some of the names of acro poses include bird, high-flying whale, straddle bat, star and throne.
The bird pose involves one partner lying on their back, acting as a base. The other partner, the flyer, kneels at the feet of the base. The base then places the palms of their feet on the flyer’s hips.  
The base grabs the flyer’s wrists and lifts them into the air by straightening their legs. The flyer balances from their hips on the base’s feet.
“In my teaching this class, it’s really primarily to empower people and to encourage people to expand outside of who they think they are or who they’ve been told that they are and really to just allow that identity to happen really naturally,” McGary said.
The class emits a strong sense of community and trust, something McGary said she works hard to achieve.   
“It’s an open class. Sometimes we do stuff that’s complicated, but it’s like, hey if you can’t do this, try just that one,” Maillard said. “It’s all levels. It’s interesting, it’s fun, it’s new, it’s different.”
In addition to teaching acroyoga on campus McGary, a UNCA graduate, said she works at a wellness and retreat center in Marshall. She stays active in the community by teaching slacklining and other fitness classes. Like Maillard, she shares a love of circus arts.
“You end up using all of these muscles that you don’t normally use when you just lift weights in the gym because the body is moving in space and so it’s all these different stabilization muscles and your core just becomes so much stronger,” McGary said.
Although McGary taught some acroyoga classes on campus last semester, this semester, is her first time offering a weekly acroyoga class in the Sherrill Center. The class stays consistent in size with numerous students coming regularly.
“A lot of people are like, ‘I didn’t want to come because I didn’t have a partner.’ You don’t have to have a partner at all. People just show up,” Maillard said.

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