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December 18, 2014

FIT FOR LIFE Gymnastics, yoga combine in AcroYoga

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Posted: Sunday, April 27, 2014 12:20 am | Updated: 1:44 am, Fri Aug 1, 2014.

AcroYoga. Never heard of it? That’s OK, the new workout trend — a combination of partner acrobatics and yoga — has not made it into our area yet. But if former local gymnastics standout Elizabeth Overton is correct, AcroYoga is the hottest fitness craze and it’s coming our way.

Overton, a Talladega native and 2009 graduate of The Donoho School, is currently working toward a certification to teach AcroYoga in her adopted hometown of Chattanooga. After a friend introduced her to the trend at a “jam session,” where people meet to practice together and get a little informal instruction, she was hooked.

“My first love was gymnastics,” said the 22 year old. “I dedicated the first 17 years of my life to it, but my body was wrecked by the time I graduated from high school.”

Overton says she really misses the workouts of her gymnastics days, but has learned to be kinder to her body so she will be strong and flexible the rest of her life.

While AcroYoga incorporates a lot of gymnastic elements, Overton says the workouts are not as hard on the joints and are much more accessible for people who have no acrobatic experience or who are not yet in great physical shape.

“Most beginners will learn basic poses and transitions,” she said. “All you need to bring to class or workshop is a smile and a sense of humor.”

AcroYoga does require a partner but it’s not just for couples, Overton clarifies.

“It’s just as much fun with friends, coworkers and even people that you met five minutes ago,” she said. “It’s about communication, trust, empathy and laughing.”

One person is the base and is responsible for creating the foundation for the acrobatics. The flyer places all their trust in the base while they are moved, rotated and flipped through the air by the base. A spotter makes sure the workout happens safely.

AcroYoga combines three main elements — acrobatics, therapeutics and yoga. But Overton says that does not mean you can’t focus more on one at a time.

• Acrobatics — strengthens the core and stability muscles.

• Therapeutics — helps a lot with pain and soreness, incorporates stretching and massage.

• Yoga — combines the other two and requires focus and flexibility.

“AcroYoga is a great core workout for the flyer and a great core and leg workout for the base, but you’ll be too busy laughing and concentrating to notice,” she said.

Other benefits include increased flexibility and stability around the joints, which become even more important as you age, said Overton. She credits the new workouts with gained flexibility and strength, as well as being great therapy for her back, shoulders and hips, which still bother her from her years as a gymnast.

Overton keeps her competitive edge sharpened with AcroYoga competitions and performances, for which she trains five to six days a week with her partner, Matt Fields-Johnson.

Overton doesn’t know of any AcroYoga instructors in the Anniston area but said she would love to organize a workshop if there is enough interest.

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