“I’m extremely fascinated by anything that’s kinda out of the ordinary, things that people don’t generally do,” said Nicholas Coolridge, an acrobat and enthusiast of all hobbies deviating from the beaten path. Now he is helping Santa Barbarans indulge their sense of adventure and desire for innovative exercises with lessons in the art of AcroYoga. As the name suggests, the two-person activity combines acrobatics and yoga to strengthen coordination, balance, and teamwork.
Although Coolridge only became an AcroYoga practitioner three years ago, he has engaged in similar activities since he was a small boy. “I’ve been an acrobat my entire life,” Coolridge said. “I grew up nicknamed Monkey Boy and Tarzan; I learned how to do handstands at 5 years old with my dad.” His passion for tumbling began with boyhood gymnastics classes and has evolved to the more freeform arts of parkour (a training form born from military obstacle courses) and freerunning (a martial-arts-based discipline inspired by parkour), which better suit Coolridge’s spontaneity and creativity. His adventurous spirit finds outlets in other daring outdoors sports such as hang gliding, paragliding, biking, rock climbing, trekking, exploring, and even wilderness-survival adventures with groups of friends.
Although he still enjoys the high-impact nature of parkour and freerunning, with their focus on high-intensity jumps and flips, he has turned to AcroYoga for the gentleness of the poses as well as the thrilling experience of weightlessness that the positions allow. “I can see this being something that I can do for the rest of my life,” he said. “It’s such a smooth, coordinating thing; there’s just no impact involved in most of the moves, and it’s relatively safe.”
Coolridge emphasizes the universal appeal that comes with the safety of AcroYoga as well as the surprisingly small amounts of strength and flexibility needed for the basic moves. “You can pretty much do it with anyone; I mean, I’ve done it with my grandma,” he added. The experience of AcroYoga is different than any other form of yoga due to many of the poses that involve lifting or being lifted by a partner. “It brings back that childhood feeling of the airplane game, feeling light and that flying feeling of going up on the parent’s feet and being tossed around by mom and dad.” This also adds the element of teamwork and trust between partners, another aspect of the activity that Coolridge enjoys immensely.
Coolridge participated in this year’s Summer Solstice parade, collaborating with artist Pali-X-Mano to perform an acrobatic act involving Pali’s famous inflatable floats. “Creating a unique performance for what we’re placed in is what I love the most,” Coolridge said.
Nicholas Coolridge teaches AcroYoga at free meet-ups at Alameda Park on Tuesdays and Fridays, 5:30 p.m. Check out his group at facebook.com/acrolocos and his Instagram @ModernTarzan for more information.