It is a gorgeous sunny day in Berlin. I have a meeting with Almuth Kramer and as I come out of the metro, I see this tall, beautiful, joyful, and self-confident woman. She is impressive, yet so friendly and nice. We walk over to a cafe and order something to drink. Despite the fasting and the cold shakes, I am feeling the warmth coming from the heart of this human being in front of me. We talk.
With background in performance and entertainment, Almuth has been practicing and teaching yoga for a very long time, eventually finding her passion for AcroYoga. In this method, the basic yogic principles are combined with partner acrobatics, followed by a deep relaxation technique usually done through massage.
As Almuth explained to me in person, AcroYoga has two major roots. One is coming from Montreal (Canada), where ever since 1999 Jessie Goldberg and Eugene Poku, having background in circus performance, created sequences of dance, acrobatics, and yoga. The main element of this AcroYoga style was based on the movement and performance. The second root of AcroYoga stems out of San Francisco (Acro Yoga Inc.) around 2006, founded by Jason Nemer and Jenny Klein, comprised of acrobatics, yoga, and healing arts. The emphasis here is more on partner yoga, the connection, mutual-trust, and the sharing of energy that comes with it. Both schools offer their own teacher training certificates, but share many of the postures.
Almuth belongs to the San Francisco school. She has been there quite close to the beginnings, is one of the lead teachers, and participates in many of the official Acro Yoga Inc. teacher training programs. She is based in Berlin, Germany, but travels extensively all around the world as the result of the ever-growing and expanding AcroYoga community. She will be teaching a few of the AcroYoga classes during the Barcelona Yoga Conference 2017.
An: At what point in your life did you realize that you wanted to pursue quite an alternative way of life and become a yoga teacher, a body worker, and a performer (clown)? Do you find it difficult to have more of a freelance, project-based work instead of secure source of income in some 9 to 5 kind of scenario?
Al: I worked in theater & festival productions, as well as in the science field before I decided to become a freelancer. Neither of those jobs was a 9 to 5 kind of scenario. It is way more important for me to pursue work that I feel a “full-body-yes” for and that keeps me and other people happy and healthy than having a fixed monthly salary.
My experience shows that if you do what you love with a clear intention, the “what” (teaching, performing, organizing events) doesn’t matter – you’ll be very good in what you do and people will appreciate it, resulting in the financial gain quite naturally. When doubting my path or facing obstacles, I remind myself of a quote from Natalie Goldberg – “Trust in what you love, continue to do it and it will take you where you need to go”.
An: Let’s dive deeply into the AcroYoga first! It’s such an interesting mix: acrobatics, gymnastics, partner balancing act… What do you find the most exciting about AcroYoga and why?
Al: AcroYoga surprises people. Most people don’t have any idea of what they are physically capable to co-create. The very first time flying on someone’s hands and feet, or holding someone else up there, can be a mind-blowing physical and emotional experience. To facilitate and witness such an experience gives me a lot of joy.
I can’t imagine AcroYoga without laughter, without falling, without trying something new, and even if it doesn’t work yet, trying it again and again just to make a different mistake to learn from.
An: Can AcroYoga have a more subtle aspect behind it just like any other yoga method: the mental, emotional, even spiritual element?
Al: For me it’s a deeply spiritual practice, because it helps you to develop trust in yourself and others. It’s unthinkable not to be present, not to be completely engrossed while balancing someone on top. It demands full attention, dedication and concentration.
Yoga means unity and AcroYoga is community – we often co-create in groups of three (base, flyer and spotter) to mutually support and keep each other safe. Humans are social beings that thrive in a safe, supportive and loving environment – that’s an aspect I sometimes miss in my solo yoga practice. Working together successfully with other people demands good and loving communication. Being aware of my needs and wants is the first step to communicating them. It’s s a constant process of reflecting on and adjusting my inner world to my environment.
An: Now moving on to your work with Thai massage… how did you get into that? What do you love about it the most, and how does it add to your experience with yoga?
Al: Thai Massage is a meditation in motion, a practice of listening, a dialogue without words, an expression of loving kindness (metta) through touch and a precious gift to give & and to receive. My first contact with Thai Massage was an AcroYoga workshop. Like the shavasana after a hatha yoga practice, the AcroYoga includes healing arts to balance and complement the fiery acrobatic work with techniques for release, deep relaxation and integration.
I enjoy to take someone on a journey through their own body but from a perspective they can’t experience by themselves. The human body is a fascinating construct. After touching hundreds, maybe thousands of bodies, I understand that truly everybody is unique and full of surprises. Making assumptions doesn’t help. The best thing to do is to forget everything I learned and allow curiosity, sensitivity, and loving kindness (metta) to guide me through this exploration.
Thai Massage also taught me a very positive egoism: I need to take care of my alignment and relaxation as a giver first, because everything transmits. My receiver feels if I am uncomfortable in my body, because a part of my attention is going to the place of discomfort instead of to the touch-connection with the receiver.
An: Last but not least, let’s talk about your life as a performer. Do you think that one is born with a talent to perform, or is it something that can be learned?
Al: It’s all about the intention behind the performance. If the intention is set, everything else unfolds. Even though I am coming from a theater background where it’s also about creating an illusion, my idea of performing – as a clown or with AcroYoga – is simply about creating a space in which the people are allowed to observe a certain process, ideally becoming inspired to embark on their own journey of receptivity. I am generally more interested in processes, improvisations and evolutions born out of the moment, instead of creating a result that looks the same every time.
My goal as a performer is to enjoy this process no matter what happens. There is nothing to be learned. This is real life. It’s about being open to magic or shit to happen, and then to deal with it. For instance, I once ripped my pants in the middle of a performance – it wasn’t a pleasant feeling and of course I had my moment of shame – but then I just kept doing what I was doing, forgetting about it.
Performing is about the willingness to be transparent, vulnerable, sometimes funny or even naked. To present my work, a part of me and my emotions, means sharing from the heart and creating a variety of experiences and sensations for myself and others. For me this is characteristic of the essence of humans: we are social beings and we need an emotional connection, so there is no need to hide imperfections in the process.
An: What lessons have you learned about: the body through AcroYoga, energy – thanks to learning Thai massage, and the manipulation of perception through performance?
Al: The mind is the strongest muscle in the body. The secret behind any of the above-mentioned aspects is always the reason behind the actions. If the intention is clearly set, everything unfolds and I can go with the flow in any circumstances.
Almuth will be teaching the following AcroYoga classes during the BCY 2017: