On a recent Thursday evening in Washington Square Park, a blonde woman who had been twirling in the air was interrupted by a girl who wanted to know how it was done. The blonde woman came down to the ground, extended her legs in the air, and the child, dressed in a pink dress, sat on her feet. She flashed a big grin as she got her first lesson in AcroYoga (acrobatics + yoga).
Lana Sonterblum was among the many who stood watching, snapping photos and shooting video. “She’s so cute with the kids,” the NYU student said. “I almost feel bad for her, though. She came out here to hang out with her friends and now she’s babysitting all the kids in the park.”
“She has incredible strength, too,” interjected her friend, Kishory Maury. “Her body strength is insane.”
Both women also agreed that the AcroYoga guys sporting bare chests and tattoos were pretty eye-catching. While flattering, none of this attention was a new experience for the group’s leader, Jeremy Martin, a boot camp, hatha yoga and acro teacher who spends four to eight hours a day outside practicing.
He also leads a performance group. “Every Friday night my team, Acro Street Team, performs on the corner of West Third and Sixth Avenue to pull in all of the random people,” explained Martin. “We put the buckets out where we accept money, we perform our acrobatic tricks and we also convince drunk people to try flying, which is like airplane or bird.”
For those who would like to try flying in a less inebriated state, Martin and his team offer classes on Tuesdays at 7 p.m. in Washington Square Park. Worried about breaking your neck? Yeah, I was too…
“I have not personally had a big mishap. This is a dangerous sport because there is acrobatics. However, there is the base, the one higher (at the top) and then there’s a spotter whose job is safety. We do our very, very best to keep everyone safe. That’s the yoga part of it,” said Martin. The previous weekend he led sessions at NY AcroFest 2015 at The Muse in Bushwick. “During our festival that weekend there were 150 participants. One woman got a little whiplash from a head knock and one person broke a toe and one person had a dislocated thumb. So there were three injuries out of a 150 people over three days of events.”
Despite these hazards, AcroYoga is both relaxing and entertaining (if you aren’t afraid of heights). Though I have no experience with acrobatics or yoga, Martin offered to help me “fly” and I soon was sitting on his feet, above the ground. He supported my body with his legs and hands and guided me through a superman position. Then I was suspended in the air on my back and, as I looked up at the sky, I was instructed to let my head hang down and take deep breaths. The details of how I changed positions faded in my panic/excitement and I found myself facing him. We were palm-to-palm as I extended my legs out high.
When the tutorial ended I stood up and the shorts that Martin had loaned me to put on under my dress were pulled down in one quick movement. I yelped, thinking I had flashed the whole park, before realizing my skirt had fallen into place.
“We like to mess with our guests,” said Martin and laughed, the shorts in his hand. Even funnier than these type of pranks?
“It’s not necessarily unique to this location, but it’s kind of interesting when we lift somebody up and somebody rips a big fart,” said Martin. He grinned and blew a raspberry. “Too much tension and internal pressure builds up.”