Estonian Acro Yogi Couple Bonds by Contorting in City Squares
NEW YORK CITY — As they traded off soaring, arching and straddling on top of each other's feet, a leggings-clad couple with matching blue eyes, sandy hair and petite forms drew stares from their spot in the Union Square grass. The agile duo may seem born for the striking performance, but only recently did they discover Acro Yoga — a yoga-acrobatics practice that's transformed their relationship and drawn them from Estonia to North America.
"It's another way of communicating with each other, not only getting to know each other's bodies in a new way but also each other's thoughts," said Silver Tang, 24, of the yoga form that he discovered on a trip to Ecuador about two years ago. "Even here most people have never seen it and they get so excited and inspired, so sharing this is doing a huge favor for yourself and for others."
Tang and his girlfriend Ester-Helena Aua, 23 — who first met as teens while working as a waiter and waitress at a medieval restaurant in Estonia's capital city — are about to embark on their "dream" acro yoga teacher training in Montreal, at one of the only two teacher-training schools in the world, they said. Throughout June, the limber couple performed their "flights" in public plazas and parks throughout New York City to make the money they'll need to subsist while in Canada.
"We were fired from Times Square," laughed Tang, recounting an episode when cops said they didn't have licenses to busk in the Midtown tourist spot. So the yogis concentrated on Union Square and Washington Square Park, where they said fans readily tipped them for their tricks.
"For one set of about 15 minutes we can make $30 or $40...Here we can take it easy," Tang said, adding that the couple performed and studied for a few months in Quito, Ecuador before coming to New York. "In Quito we'd do 10 sets all day long and make $100 total, and we'd be so exhausted."
The strenuous physical activity has transformed their bodies into "the best physical forms of [their] lives" while diffusing relationship issues as soon as they arise, Aua said.
"I tend to be really moody, and then we do a set of acro yoga poses and I'm like a new person," she said smiling. "I never really got into yoga. I've always been very competitive, but I'm just starting to understand yoga...Even the acrobatic part can be therapeutic for me, like doing a shoulder stand on his head helps my headaches."
Meanwhile Tang, who convinced Aua to learn acro yoga after he returned from his first trip to Ecuador, said he became obsessed with the form as soon as he studied a few poses — but there were no schools or teachers in Estonia.
"YouTube was our guru," he laughed of the countless videos the pair mimicked to pick up the practice.
"He was doing acro yoga with my sister, with everyone...no one knew what it was," recalled Aua, who finally became obsessed with the form as well and said she was eager to practice with more people in their teacher training.
"Usually it's just the two of us, but in this month we'll be with so many crazy acro yogis," she beamed.
As for Silver, he said his ultimate aspiration is to bring the interactive gymnastics to his most reserved and doubtful viewers.
"People at first are scared and shy, but then you can have a release of your back and come off of a flight feeling relaxed and open," he said.
Silver hinted they might return to the city to start their lives as instructors after the Canadian training.
"New York City is like a magnet," he said, stretching out on their pink yoga mat between sets. "It seems people really appreciate what we're doing."