A Balance of Powers

AcroYoga co-creator Jason Nemer lifts more than just spirits

February 12, 2013

AcroYoga creators Jason Nemer and Jenny Sauer-Klein pose.

Some people dream of shaking hands with the president, or maybe sharing a beer with him. Jason Nemer’s dream is a little different: “I want to fly Mr. Barack Obama.”

Nemer is the co-creator of AcroYoga, a practice that melds the spectacle of circus arts with the healing power of massage and the breathwork of yoga. And when he talks of “flying,” he doesn’t mean in an airplane — he does enough of that while teaching his techniques around the globe. Rather, Nemer imagines lifting Obama off the ground, so the POTUS can feel the freedom of posing in midair.

“I’d teach him that he doesn’t need to carry everything,” says Nemer, who’ll get closer in proximity to his dream this month when he comes to Logan’s Flow Yoga Center to lead an immersion course.

This will be his first time teaching in Washington, although AcroYoga has already established a presence in the area through workshops at various yoga studios, as well as practice sessions in Meridian Hill Park.

AcroYogis “jamming” in public spaces is what’s built up the program so quickly, Nemer says. He and co-founder Jenny Sauer-Klein met in December 2003, when both were training at Circus Center San Francisco, and they started teaching the next month. Soon, they were certifying other instructors and watching AcroYoga help thousands of people conquer fears and connect with others.

The combination of Nemer’s and Sauer-Klein’s interests has historical precedent: Krishnamacharya, called the “father of modern yoga,” was inspired by British gymnastics and “flew” a few people himself in the first half of the 20th century. Since then, others have toyed with blending yoga with acrobatics or with massage.

“There’s been flirting between them for a long time,” Nemer says. But there’s never been such a need for this practice until now, he adds. “Our society has moved so much to this cyber world that we don’t touch other humans. We need to get to laugh and play and learn about communicating.”

One of the first positions he teaches students is plank on plank: Someone gets into plank, and then a partner grabs that person’s ankles and pops on top in the same position, only facing in the opposite direction. From there, it’s possible to do pushups — and almost anything else, Nemer says.

Although it’s a fairly simple move, it requires working together and putting faith in another person. And that’s really the basis for all AcroYoga, both the athletic positions that demand strength and the therapeutic ones that call for complete passivity. (A partner can serve as a human traction machine, helping someone use gravity to let loose.)


Nemer

In every session, the goal is to do something that didn’t seem possible before. That might be balancing in handstand on someone else’s palms, or it might be trusting a stranger to fly you. Whatever the goal, Nemer says, people learn that they’re capable of much more than they realized.

“That carries off the mat and into their personal life,” adds Nemer, who sees the potential for using AcroYoga to foster peace in the Middle East and instill confidence in children touched by tragedy.

Another upcoming outlet for AcroYoga? Gyms. Nemer has developed a curriculum for AcroYoga Fitness ­— a class that centers on circuit partner training ­— that he expects to roll out this summer.

But first comes this trip to D.C., which includes a White House tour — and maybe a chance to get Obama flying on something other than Air Force One.

Training for Dynamic Duos

Jason Nemer’s five-day immersion course is sold out, but there are other opportunities to partner up:

-AcroYoga instructor Vanessa King is teaching “Give Love: Partner Yoga and Thai Massage,” at 4:15 p.m. Saturday at Little River Yoga ($60 per couple; 6025 Wilson Blvd., Arlington; 703-203-8510, Littleriveryoga.com).

At 6 p.m. Saturday, Urban Evolution will host Acro Sutra, a workshop culminating with a group pose (the “Three-Headed Dragon”) and bubbly ($20-$30 per person; 5402 Eisenhower Ave., Alexandria; 571-215-8218, Urbanevo.com).

Trapeze School New York’s location by the Navy Yard offers partner balancing on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Every class is different, but instructor Kierstan Van Houten promises new tricks and a full-body workout ($30, 4th and Tingey streets SE; 410-459-6839, Washingtondc.trapezeschool.com).

Vicky Hallett is a MisFits columnist and the Fit editor for Express.
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