What happens when acrobatics meet yoga? A whole lot of excitement and possibility. For me, it was a weekend of freedom and it all began from the moment I said “yes” to the experience. Through friends I found myself in touch with Joe Yonek of Chicago, Illinois and we began talking about the Dutch Acro Workshop he was hosting with Niko Douwes. Joe and his AcroYoga partner, Lise “Kat” Evans, practice Montreal style AcroYoga with their community at Divine Flight. Joe explained to me, “Our practice is about creating connection with others. Through our practice we cultivate love and joy and are given the opportunity to share it with others.”
I told Joe I wasn’t going to be able to make it to Chicago due to the yoga classes I was teaching and the train schedule. In that moment, I heard myself say the words “I can’t” and cringed. I realized “I can,” but that I was choosing not to. So, there I was watching myself type the words, “Oh heck, I’m driving there!” and agreed to attend the workshop. I had all sorts of excuses for why I couldn’t make it, when deep down my heart was completely for it. I quickly arranged for my dog sitter, taught my three yoga classes on Saturday, threw my yoga clothes and some toiletries in a bag, and asked a friend in Chicago if I could crash on her futon. I will admit I had to make an emergency Walgreen’s stop when I realized I had forgotten clean underwear and my toothbrush, but hey, I can laugh at myself. I felt like I ran away for the weekend and it was exhilarating. Five short hours after my initial “no” I had arrived in Chicago.
First, I attended Joe and Kat’s incredible acrobatics performance at Synphoria, a bohemian magical wonderland filled with dance, music, art, love, healing, and laughter. I really enjoyed the performance and had front row seats perfect for photo ops. Afterwards as we all socialized, I was approached by Niko Douwes and he introduced himself. Niko hails all the way from the Netherlands. I put the pieces together and realized he was the teacher for the Dutch Acro Workshop scheduled the next day. He told me about a month-long intensive teacher training happening in Thailand and I again found myself saying, “I can’t.” But I really wanted to say yes.
In the morning, Joe invited me to breakfast with Niko and Kat and we all met for a leisurely meal, which I assumed was powering up for the long day’s workshop. We had a great time talking about AcroYoga and I got the opportunity to ask questions about teaching and practicing. Joe and Kat have been practicing Montreal Style Yoga for approximately three years. Niko comes to Chicago to conduct workshops and has been an acrobat for about twenty years. They were all very inspirational and gave me a lot of hope and encouragement to be able to practice more and eventually teach AcroYoga. I asked Kat about how she got so far in her practice after just three years. Kat said the difference was they continued to show up to practice when others didn’t. So, once again it comes back to dedication and commitment.
We made our way to the Dutch Acro Workshop held at Urban Lotus Yoga. The class started off at about 1:30 pm and was approximately five hours long. Niko began class with a few core exercises like plank, alligator walks, and shoulder openers. I knew things were about to get exciting fast. I started flying almost immediately! Niko and the other acrobats helped me get there with a lot of patience and techniques. I learned star, better handstand techniques, stood on shoulders, and hung upside down. Kat gave me a big hug at one point. Joe encouraged me to breathe. Niko helped me with my handstand. I felt like an actual acrobat and the group welcomed me into the circle with wide open loving arms. The workshop ended with a Thai massage, closing friendship circle, and Niko’s kind words.
Not only had I actually found wonderland, but I think I stumbled upon yoga paradise. I just didn’t want to leave and wished I could stay. The closer I got to home on the drive back, the further back to reality things became. I just wanted more and I knew it would probably happen sooner than I thought. I felt so much love and warmth from these new friends that you could cut it with a knife. I’m unsure when my path will cross these beautiful and amazing acro-yoga-bats again, but I can tell you I’m already planning my trip to Thailand. I can.
Here are a few tips to find your own yoga paradise:
- Create your intention – You must know where you’re going in order to get there. Visualize what it looks like and dream. You don’t have to know how you’re getting there, but know what you want.
- Start saying, “Yes, I can” – Don’t wait, no more excuses. Make a decision about what you’re going to do and take steps to get there. It doesn’t matter if you get there, but only if you try.
- Make connections – Connect with people you want to surround yourself with or mentors you aspire to be like. It all starts with taking that first step of reaching out and taking risks. The reality exists that you may fall down, but that’s all part of the process.
- Be adventurous – Throw all caution to the wind, pack your yoga bag, and go! Don’t wait to plan a trip with your bestie, just decide to go and make friends along the way. You’ll be amazed at what magic takes place when you just trust the process. (And don’t forget clean underwear and a toothbrush!)
- Practice yoga – Honor where you’re at and allow things to unfold. Forcing it will only bring frustration and pain, so be patient with yourself and let things flow. Don’t forget to breathe.