Interview | Getting High with AcroYoga's Jenny Sauer-Klein
Jenny Sauer-Klein has a background in theater and dance and has been studying and teaching yoga, circus arts, and healing modalities for 12 years. She studies Shadow Yoga and Ayurveda with Scott Blossom, and continues to deepen her relationship with Eastern energetics through the Tao. As the co-founder of AcroYoga, she is dedicated to the path of partnership, and is deeply grateful to travel this magnificent planet in service of love.
A lot of people first perceive AcroYoga as an intimidating, if not precarious practice to engage in. Any thoughts?
What I love about this practice is actually how accessible it is, as it relies more upon technique, rather than strength or flexibility. I think that's why it has caught on so fast, because people become empowered by realizing that they are far more capable than they thought they were. What makes AcroYoga hard or easy to learn has much more to do with how open someone is in their heart and mind than in their body. Once someone has experienced the bliss of being flown, that usually helps to release that initial "I can't do that" thought.
You have a background in the theatre. How have your theatrical studies influenced your teaching &/or vision of AcroYoga?
Little did I know when I was studying theatre, how invaluable it would be for teaching yoga! I chose live theatre rather than film because I love the fact that is it happening live, in real time, and that there is a direct transmission of energy between people sharing a particular moment in time and space. There is something ancient, tribal, honest and real about this kind of gathering that inspires me. My theatre background has prepared me incredibly well for public speaking, thinking on my feet and improvising, engaging an audience (students), making eye contact, projecting my voice, and the list goes on and on! Being project and story-line oriented, I think of the arc of a workshop, with a clear beginning, middle and end. I want to take people on a journey, and I want them to walk away feeling moved, and to come away with a better understanding of themselves and how they relate to life.
Do you see the eye-catchy and spirited nature of AcroYoga in any way at odds with more traditional teachings that stress the importance of guiding students toward an inward path?
AcroYoga is captivating to watch because there is a grace and joy in witnessing two bodies move as one, in the same way that the ultimate goal of yoga is "union," finding harmonious oneness within ourselves and the divine. There is nothing that brings me in deeper contact with myself than the mirror of relationship. Interacting with others gives me the constant opportunity to reflect on what is it in me that is triggered by this person or situation, or what is it in me that is delighted by this person or situation. Any practice can be transformational and enlightening if that is what we seek to gain from it. AcroYoga is that for me, as well as my solo asana practice, and I think both solo and partner practices are great compliments that ultimately lead me to the same place of connection to spirit.
You've built a reputation over the years as a clear, concise, and consistent teacher, and this practice seems to come very natural to you to teach. Has this always been your experience? Any sage wisdom for all the new yoga teachers out there?
Growing up, I wanted to be an actress on Broadway, so when I found myself teaching circus arts to children in my early 20's, it was a bit of a surprise to me as I had never envisioned myself as a teacher. Teaching children is generally much harder than teaching adults, and a lot of the lessons and methodologies I learned there have continued to serve me greatly. I think it is a very comfortable role for me largely due to my theatre training and because I love working with groups and guiding group energy. When I started teaching yoga, I used to go in without a plan at all so that I would learn to trust myself and to respond to the students in the moment. That was huge growth for me. In terms of teaching, what I learned to do so well with children is to break things down into their most basic elements, and layer in a progressive, linear way. If you take the time to refine the foundational techniques and principles, then everything you layer on top of that unfolds with integrity, ease and grace. Being "advanced" means doing simple things with great awareness, and hopefully, with great joy.
Netflix geek alert - I recently saw an old episode of "Dirty Sexy Money" in which Blair Underwood & Natalie Zea practice AcroYoga in their posh bedroom, while an older long-haired bearded man (presumably their teacher) sits in a meditative pose looking on. How do you feel about such mainstream representations of the practice?
I can't say I am very in touch with the mainstream, but I am also not trying to keep AcroYoga out of that sphere either. I get kind of tickled to see these reverberations and to know that this work is out there in a big way. I think all forms of yoga should be available to everyone and I think it is great that yoga is really getting out there.
And speaking of the mainstream, if the story of AcroYoga ever goes Hollywood, who would you choose to play yourself & Jason?
Ooooooh, good question! I must admit that I consulted with Jason on this one, and we came up with Johnny Depp and Demi Moore!
You & Jason have consciously chosen to make AcroYoga a global practice from its inception. Do you see it catching on and thriving more in any one particular region of the planet?
It has definitely become the biggest in the US so far, I think partially because that's where we have invested the most time and where we have the most teachers. However I think the next big frontier is South America and it is catching on strongly there and moving fast. There is a lot of momentum for grassroots community building practices that promote peace and joyfulness. We are planning to do our first bi-lingual teacher training there in the end of 2012.
Where's the most precarious place you've ever practiced AcroYoga?
Probably doing standing high acrobatics in Telluride, Colorado right near this giant waterfall on a wet, rocky, steep incline for a photo shoot. Or it could be on the Great Wall of China in freezing temperatures, doing a standing hand-to-hand (a handstand in Jason's hands) when our hands were totally numb! There have also been plenty of cliffs, ledges, and outcroppings that dropped off into the ocean or a steep ravine. At that point, you've really got to trust your base!
What qualities do you most look for in a Base?
Sensitive, grounded, determined.
Receptive, unified, steady.
Responsive, fast, intuitive, in service.
What's one thing we (and everyone else) don't know about you?
I used to want to be a veterinarian when I was a kid, because I loved animals so much. Having recently made the decision to travel less in my life and have more consistency at home will allow me to eventually (sooner than later) get a dog! Can't wait!
Thanks so much Jenny! Until we see Demi & Johnny flying on the big screen, we look forward to flying with you & Jason at Wanderlust Squaw!