A Balancing Act: Acroyoga community blossoming in Moab

By Emma Renly • The Times-Independent

In a town synonymous with adventure and extreme sports, a delicate practice called acroyoga is quickly finding its own niche community in Moab. Alexandra ‘Alex’ Reynaldo and Michelle Griffith, two professional and passionate instructors, are enthusiastically building up an acroyoga community through their weekly classes. Locals and visitors alike are finding that acroyoga is an enjoyable hobby to learn and practice.

What is acroyoga? Following true to the name, the practice shares similarities with both acrobatics and yoga but always requires a minimum of two parties to participate. One participant will act as the base to lift up and balance the other member of the group, known as the flyer, on him- or herself. In order to achieve a steady pose, both participants require high levels of physical and mental awareness combined with balance, strength and trust. Acroyoga looks like impossible gravity-defying acts, but the poses are possible to learn with proper instruction.

Over a year ago Reynaldo and Griffith began spearheading local acroyoga classes for the Moab community. What started as informal gatherings at Swanny Park has now turned into a weekly class held at the local music and art venture called the Helipad. After a brief summer hiatus, the duo has started instructing acroyoga classes again every Sunday at the Helipad this fall. Acroyoga I begins at 6 p.m. for all ages and abilities and is followed by Acroyoga II at 7 p.m. for intermediate to advanced persons, but all ability levels are welcome. The classes are donation-based with a suggested donation of $5 to $15.

While acroyoga may seem intimidating at first, Griffith emphasized that the class focuses on the inclusion of all participants. “The practice can often be modified to make it more approachable, and any ability level may join and get involved in our community in whatever way they wish,” explained Griffith. “I want to create a community space where different people of all different backgrounds, ages, ability levels, etc., can come together and feel comfortable interacting,” Griffith said. She added that Acroyoga I participants will learn basic fundamentals, such as how to safely spot and learn to become comfortable trusting their partner. Acroyoga II will focus on combining the fundamental building blocks to put together dynamic movements into a sequence.

“Our goal [at acroyoga classes] is to provide students with a fun, safe and exciting experience, in a beautiful space, while at the same time helping to build the community up,” said Reynaldo. “Acro improves your sense of body awareness in space, and your practice will continuously evolve in a beautiful way that truly puts you in touch with yourself, helps you to push past mental barriers, and helps us learn to read other’s movements more intuitively.”

In 2013 Griffith and Reynaldo both discovered a passion for acroyoga. Griffith began taking classes in Boulder while Reynaldo first learned the practice in Breckenridge. The two then met in Denver through the acroyoga community and “really hit it off as partners and as friends.” The rest is history – for years Griffith and Reynaldo have professionally instructed acroyoga together. They have run acro-focused retreats, worked events, yoga festivals and taught internationally in Thailand. Even though the duo has instructed around the world, Reynaldo still prefers to teach close to home. “Our community in Moab is less than two years old and is still blossoming,” she said. “We have many regulars that come back every week and people wanting to learn. I am excited to see what we can create with a bit more time and energy.”

Another instructor at the Helipad is local resident Jacque Garcia. Last September she began practicing acroyoga regularly at Griffith’s and Reynaldo’s classes and has been “kind of hooked” ever since. “Acro can be really cool – you’re balancing humans on top of one another to make interesting shapes,” she explained. “But it’s also really fun and silly. There’s a lot of experimenting and falling down, and trying until you get it.” This year Garcia began to assist Griffith with classes while Reynaldo was out of town. She quickly found an interest in teaching acroyoga and encourages others to try out a class. “You’ll never have a better opportunity to challenge yourself, face your fears, get a workout, and meet a bunch of awesome people,” she said.

Sara Marler, a resident of Salt Lake City, recently participated in her first acroyoga class. “When we arrived [at the Helipad] we were instantly greeted and blown away by how friendly and accepting the community was,” she said. “We were also relieved to see that we didn’t have to bring our own mats as they provided them.” Marler had no previous experience with acroyoga or “even a yoga class for that matter,” and was “surprised at how easy we were able to keep up with the class thanks to the great instructors.”

Said Marler, “It was an extremely welcoming and friendly environment. The acroyoga itself was a blast; we had such a good time forming a bond of trusting each other and working together to create fun poses.” Marler is excited about her new friendships formed from acroyoga and plans to join the classes again the next weekend she finds herself in Moab.