Acroyoga means fun with partners
Say goodbye to weight machines and try lifting up a person instead. Acroyoga seems simple enough; the yoga flow uses partner balancing, mostly in the legs and hands, to create gravity-defying poses. I’ve seen countless beautiful acro poses on my Instagram feed and I wanted to explore what all the hype was about.
As I walked into GymFit’s beginner acroyoga class I began to have second thoughts. What if I fell? What if I wasn’t strong enough to do the poses? Before I could back out, instructor and GymFit founder Joshua Roberts, or JRob for short, called me over. After a quick warm-up I started flying.
In acroyoga there are a few roles you can explore. People can either “base” by laying flat on their back with their legs and arms extended above them or “fly” in the air by balancing on their partner’s feet or hands. After Roberts based the first pose for me we switched it up so that I could see how basing felt. Many wobbly attempts later, Roberts was sitting securely on my feet and balancing with no hands. Of course, when you’re not basing or flying you can also help your friends by spotting to make sure they are completing the poses in the safest possible way.
You will work up a sweat in this class, but you’ll hardly recognize it because you’ll be so focused on perfecting the poses Roberts calls out. One of my classmates explained it best: “Your core has to be rock solid and then everything else has to be loose.” You have to keep your muscles engaged but you also have to be ready to change everything—your pose, your sense of direction, your body’s orientation—at a moment’s notice. Although it requires strength, the real challenge comes in trusting another person completely while trying out the movements. If you’re worried that you need a six-pack to be able to do this, don’t. The muscles and the trust will develop over time. According to Roberts, the important thing is just to try.
“You’d be surprised who does [acroyoga] and who doesn’t,” he said. Roberts has seen it all in his acroyoga classes. He’s worked with his 75-year-old grandmother, an LSU basketball player and even a person without legs.
Fitness changed Roberts’ life and he’s not shy about sharing his story. He was jobless and homeless several years ago, but a gig teaching children’s gymnastics helped turn his life around. Now, as the founder of his own gym, he swears that anyone is capable of even the most unique fitness regimens that GymFit offers, if they put in the time and effort.
The GymFit facility off Industriplex Boulevard is more of a playground than a gym and the classes there feel more like recess than working out. During the acroyoga class, guys were doing cartwheels and back handsprings on a trampoline track across the room. When the class finished Roberts told the regulars “okay, you can go play” as he walked over to a dance trapeze. GymFit hosts an open gym session every evening of the workweek where students can hone their skills.
Aerial silks line one end of the mat, blocks of various shapes and sizes are stacked against the wall and circus apparatuses like trapeze, lyra (think of a metal hula hoop) and a big metal cube hang from the ceiling. There are also two indoor Ninja Warrior obstacle courses, one for adults and one for kids, and another obstacle course outside.
Roberts explained that he wanted a non-traditional gym when he was envisioning GymFit’s brand and mission. The gym is a “fitness buffet” with tons of options at a reasonable price. In addition to the acroyoga classes, GymFit offers classes in parkour, circus arts, “fire bending” flow arts, dance, pole fitness and a “NinjaFit” hour taught by a former contestant on the American Ninja Warrior TV show. A Physical Education program for homeschooled kids and kids’ holiday fitness camps are popular, too.
The thing I found most impressive about my visit wasn’t the sheer amount of options to try, but the sense of community at GymFit. Throughout the acroyoga class whenever one of us new students landed a pose that we had previously struggled with the group erupted in applause. After the class ended almost everyone remained seated on the mat, just talking.
Roberts recognizes this asset and wants to nurture his young gym’s budding community. He eventually wants GymFit to be a fitness-focused community center and hopes to feature end of the year performances for kids active in the gym’s various programs.
Beginner acroyoga classes are offered every Monday night and intermediate classes are offered on Thursdays. You may find that while you’re doing acro at GymFit you also lift your spirits in the process.
Photos by Ronni Bourgeois