AcroYoga in Utah a playground for high-flying grownups

Stage • Fitness trend highlighted as part of AcroYoga and aerial yoga show "Flight of Fancy" this weekend.
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Amy Olson took a while to warm up to yoga.

She appreciated the burning workout and the spiritual side of it, too. But she missed the hoisting, tumbling and teamwork from her days as a young cheerleader and gymnast in Indiana. So she tried AcroYoga, which involves at least two people working together to stretch, lift and balance each other.

"You're getting a fiery workout" in those classes, she said, "but also partner stretching and someone to help you cool down as well."

Olson teaches at Aerial Arts of Utah ( and is performing as part of AcroYoga and aerial yoga show "Flight of Fancy" on Friday and Saturday.

The performance will include moves in the vein of Cirque du Soleil shows. Dancers will hang, bend and hold each other on trapezes, too. On the ground, Olson and others are set to pull off choreographed acrobatic stunts.

In Salt Lake City, the newer, more social style of yoga practiced at studios like Aerial Arts of Utah and Yoga Upstairs (classes taught by Kimberly Preston) has grown in the past decade or two, mostly by women who do yoga and seek to share it with spouses, significant others or friends, Olson said.

The playful classes have a jungle gym atmosphere. They create a close community, say some who practice there.

But it isn't just for couples. People can bring friends or show up solo and work with an instructor.

Whomever you bring, instructors will encourage you to laugh, climb and play, and get to know the others in the room.

"It's definitely not as serious as a traditional yoga class," Olson said. "We try to get people in the mood of being more childlike."

Christopher Staser, a Salt Lake AcroYoga student, likens the acrobatic version to dance classes. "Even if you go with your own partner, you might end up trading off with everybody," he said.

And you don't have to be an acrobat, either. Level 1 classes for beginners start with the basics, and most team moves involve a spotter.

There's no one too old or too stiff to try out the beginner class, Olson contends. All it takes is an instructor's help, a spotter on the lookout and an open mind.

Staser, the student, said his favorite part of the classes is the surprise that comes with pulling off a move that seems impossible. An example: a tandem cartwheel that spins one partner upside down, on top of the other.

"You see something that is crazy and difficult," he said, "and you get together with people and you pull it off." "Flight of Fancy"

Cost • $25

When • Friday and Saturday, Nov. 22 and 23, 7:30 p.m. Doors open at 7.

Where • Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, black box theater.

More info • for tickets