On one side of Swanny Park on a Friday afternoon, a farmer’s market has been set up and several vendors sell fresh produce while live music plays in the background. On another corner of the park, a group of about 15 people are stretching out their muscles, setting up a slackline and partnering up to begin an acroyoga jam.
Acroyoga is the artful combination of yoga and acrobatics. While this gathering is somewhat spontaneous and fun, it also takes careful instruction and practice to create a safe environment.
Last January, Moab residents Michelle Griffiths, Alex Reynaldo and Sylvan Slacks set out to create such an atmosphere.
“I knew that I wanted to bring [acroyoga] to the community and create a community around movement and play, because some of the most amazing communities I’ve been in have been [acroyoga] communities,” said Griffiths, a certified instructor.
She wanted to create a space “where the values of play and trust and communication and consent and respect are paramount.”
As a result, she started a social media group and began holding “acro jams” at the park, where people could get together and play. Through Facebook and word of mouth, the community grew steadily, and meet-ups are now well attended every week.
Things really took off, though, when Griffiths, Reynaldo and Slack began holding weekly classes at the local art and music venue Helipad, located at 239 West Center Street. The classes offer beginners a chance to learn about acroyoga and get involved in the activity in a safe and well-moderated space.
Before classes began at Helipad, Griffiths offered acroyoga workshops at a local yoga studio, but they were irregularly scheduled and less well attended. The weekly classes offered at Helipad are more accessible because they are entirely donation based.
Griffiths and Reynaldo mow the lawn in exchange for the ability to use the space for classes. “We want to keep it donation based, because it’s really helping the community grow, and if we had to charge, it might prevent some people from being able to come,” Reynaldo said.
The instructors see acroyoga as more than a physical activity. They view it as a way to build the type of city they want to be a part of.
“Some of the themes of acroyoga are supporting each other and connecting with other people, and doing things you didn’t think you could do with the support of a community,” Reynaldo said. “It helps you learn to support each other and trust each other, in a safe and fun place.”
“The reason I’m in Moab and not Indian Creek or some other climbing area is acro,” said resident and acroyoga participant Bibi Diehl.
Diehl also spoke of the values acroyoga teaches to the community, saying, “I think things like consent and communication are the things you get the most out of this, because it forces people to interact very intimately with people they just met. You learn to have those hard conversations with people you don’t really know.”
This winter, Griffiths, Reynaldo and Slacks will travel to Thailand to further engage in their yoga practice. Unable to lead classes during that time, they hope the community will stay engaged until their return.
“That’s been my biggest concern; what’s going to happen to the acro community over the winter?” Griffiths said.
She is not overly concerned though, because she has faith in the community that has already been established. “The teacher is one thing, but the people who come and participate, they are the community,” she said, expressing her hope that people will continue to jam in her absence.
Acroyoga classes will be offered every Thursday in October and November at the Helipad from 7 to 8 p.m., and jams are offered at Swanny Park every Friday from 4 to 7 p.m. Updated information is available on the Facebook page “Moab Acro and Flow Community.”