Chennai-based acroyoga instructor Shakti Shilpa brings to the city a workshop on the technique that strengthens the mind and the body and builds trust in a relationship

The name acroyoga is a give-away. It is exactly what it sounds like — acrobatics plus yoga. But looking at photographs of poses by Shakti Shilpa freaked me out. One of the four certified acroyoga experts in the country, the 32-year old Chennai-based instructor, who contorts her body like a folded leaf, a double boat or a flying bird, says it is as much fun to do as breathtaking it is to look at.

Shilpa will be in Madurai this weekend for a two-day workshop. She has conducted several workshops in Dubai, Bangkok, Kochi, Pune, Bengaluru and Uttarakhand. She says anybody can join the workshop. “It is all in your head, what you can do and can’t. Just let go and believe in yourself, trust the trainer and the partner you are paired up with for the sessions,” she says. According to her, acroyoga is not only about strength, flexibility, physical and mental balance, but also about trust, humility and better understanding of human emotions.

Yoga inspiration: Shakti Shilpa does amazing feats with her students and runs Studio Yoga Space in Chennai

Yoga inspiration: Shakti Shilpa does amazing feats with her students and runs Studio Yoga Space in Chennai
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

Excerpts from a phone conversation:

What is acroyoga?

It combines the wisdom of yoga, the dynamics of acrobatics and the kindness of a Thai massage. Acroyoga is more than just stretching and relaxation. It is less scarier than what people imagine acrobatics to be and is more inclusive than the yoga poses people do. Since you work with a partner, it helps develop compassion and better communication. You shed inhibitions and allow yourself to be supported while supporting others. Basically, you take control of your mind, body and ego by letting go.

How is it done?

There are three primary roles in this practice. The base is the person on the mat whose role is to provide a stable foundation with steady and supportive limbs. The flyer moves progressively through a variety of poses and stretches while being elevated. They work together to create postures and transitions derived from traditional asanas. Since both interchange positions, each partner has the chance to build strength and core muscles, improve balance and increase flexibility. The spotter keeps an eye out for tipping and falling, gives that extra push or that little lift to the participants to help them complete the routine.

The postures look complex. How can one with no experience in yoga or not-so-fit do it?

Yes, the positions look tricky and elevated. But they are accessible with guidance if one is willing to follow the instructions and believe in the partner. Acroyoga is a fresh alternative to traditional yoga and helps to explore your strengths and limitations. A practitioner should have the intention to change and grow.

Yoga inspiration: Shakti Shilpa does amazing feats with her students and runs Studio Yoga Space in Chennai

Yoga inspiration: Shakti Shilpa does amazing feats with her students and runs Studio Yoga Space in Chennai
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

What will be the format of the workshop?

It will start with group activities where we jam different asanas and understand our body cues. The participants will partner for yoga poses, counterbalance techniques and experience therapeutic flying of different levels. There are different modules as some people find it difficult to overcome their fear, some are not able to loosen up and some enjoy from the word go.

People are bound to have different levels of motivation and fitness. How do you deal with this?

During a group activity, I observe each participant and their comfort levels. Then, according to their height and weight, I pair them so that they find it easy to lift and support each other. It is only towards the end of the session that people begin to feel safe and confident of doing the techniques. I modify according to their ease and they can just be happy with a simple posture.

What does a two-day workshop help achieve?

Once people are engaged, they realise how they can push their limits without fear. I give them content or technique based on each one’s progress and they can refine those on their own once they go back.

How did you take to acroyoga from jewellery designing?

I had a full-time job as a jewellery designer and merchandiser and was a regular at the gym a decade ago. The monotony of the gym made me turn to yoga. Yoga calmed me down.

Seven years ago when, I was at an instructor’s course at the International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre in Madurai, I met an American instructor who gave acroyoga demos and I was drawn to it. She put me in touch with instructors from abroad in Goa and Bengaluru. I also did advanced courses that incorporate Thai yoga massage.

How popular is acroyoga in India?

The community is in its nascent stage in the country. I became a certified teacher in 2016 and besides me, there are three more accredited Indian Instructors from Acroyoga International, one each in Mumbai, Bengaluru and Rishikesh. Delhi has the most active group of 50 acroyogis. I have few regular students in Chennai for my weekend acroyoga classes and I also collaborate with different groups for workshops in various cities and am a regular at yoga festivals and the Covelong Surfing and Music Festival in Chennai.

(The workshop is on from March 16 to 17, 10 am to 1 pm, and 4 pm to 7 pm, at Urban Spice Gallery K K Nagar. The fee ₹1,200 per person. For details, call 9443069697.)

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