Posted by on Sep 30, 2015 in celebration, delight, gratitude, magic, mindsets, personal growth, possibility, present moment, Yes | 5 comments

Circus Yoga logo by Kristin Mele Bortles

The power of a group.

These are some of my favorite concepts.

It’s more than the idea that one hundred people working together can accomplish more than a single person.

What excites me about collaboration is the energy and power of diverse people coming together with different skills, different ideas and different ways of expressing themselves and joining together for a single cause.

Last week I participated in a CIRCUS YOGA class.

What drew me to the class were the words

fun, community, collaboration.

Too often, we think that, in order to connect to our hearts, we have to do it alone.

Sure, there are some things we need to do alone. Silent meditation, solo retreats and solitary adventures all help us find our unique power and vulnerability.

But we are on this planet together and there can be great gifts gained by working together in community, by sharing in a group, by coming together for a single purpose.

When we work with others, we connect into much larger energy. We can enjoy the benefits of other people’s strengths and lean into our own vulnerability. We can let go of our need to “do it all” and control everything, knowing that someone else is there to support us, guide us and carry the weight.

So when I saw the announcement for this Circus Yoga class, I was excited, curious and I thought, YES! I’m in.

And immediately I heard all of my excuses in my head:

“It’s a Friday night, I’ll be too tired.”

“I have to teach a class the next morning.”

I looked at the website and saw people of all ages, connected in a circle, juggling, standing in human pyramids, and I thought, “Yes, that DOES look fun!”

And then more voices:

“I’m too big to be lifted.”

“I’m not strong enough to be a base support on the bottom.”

“What if I can’t breathe?” 

One thing I know about myself is that, what I resist most is the thing I need to do. It’s where my biggest growth can happen.

And so I calmed myself, reminding myself that I could take a nap that afternoon if I needed to. That, even if I wasn’t able to participate in every activity, just BEING there, being a part of the community experience would be wonderful.

And in that brave and clear space, I signed up for the class.

There were 22 of us, aged 8 to 80. The 80 year old had recently learned how to fly on a trapeze at her grandkid’s summer camp. There was an older man who couldn’t touch his toes. There were slender and strong yoga instructors and several older-than-me women who practice regularly.

But I wasn’t  intimidated or second guessing my being there. I was proud and glad that I had chosen to come and I was ready for whatever the evening presented.

We began in a circle, sitting on the floor, cross-legged. We used our neighbor’s bodies for support as we leaned left and right, stretching and sighing, twisting and reaching.

We paired up with partners, mirroring each other’s movements, moving so slowly, in unison, until we no longer perceived a leader or a follower.

We pushed with sticks and pulled with ropes, creating silent conversations of trust between our bodies.

And then Erin, one of the Circus Yoga leaders asked, “Who’s never flown before?”

I raised my hand, assuming it was just an information seeking question. But really, she was seeing who she might pick to demonstrate a partner-supported pose.

She chose a lean, strong, flexible woman with a yogi name. Erin laid on her back the the floor and the yogi stepped her feet around her, following Erin’s directions. She tucked, she breathed, Erin placed her feet at the yogi’s thigh creases and the yogi breathed again, allowing Erin to lift her. She raised up, long, lean, effortless.

Seeing the yogi suspended over Erin’s body, I remembered doing this as a kid, my father holding me by the hands, lifting my body in the air with his legs and me giggling and laughing.

The yogi relaxed her head and her body got longer, the backs of her palms rested on the floor. Erin moved her legs, flying the yogi slightly forward, then returning to center, the yogi’s body still folded over her legs.

They held the pose for several minutes, the yogi completely relaxed. And then she retucked, refolded, leaned in and stood up, saying she felt so energized and tall.

And then Erin asked, “Who else wants to try?”

I don’t remember raising my hand, but she called my name. And I was thrilled. I wasn’t scared. I wasn’t nervous. I wasn’t worried that she wouldn’t be able to lift me. I was so opened and ready and trusting.

Erin laid back on the floor and I stood with my feet next to her hips. She placed her feet just below my thigh creases and we breathed in together, connecting. Conspiring, she called it. Another breath in and she tucked her knees in as I folded toward her. Exhaling, I rested my hands on her shins.

I folded forward, eyes closed, my head toward her heart, and then I was up in the air, the weight of my body so stable on her legs, her hands gently supporting my shoulders.

I heard someone say that my hands weren’t touching the floor.

Erin guided me to spread my own legs in a wider V and I felt my body release and relax, the backs of my palms now resting on the floor. Erin’s hands were no longer holding my shoulders and I let go even deeper, breathing into all of the space within me and around me.

In that moment, I wasn’t the biggest woman in the room. I wasn’t the woman with tight hips and asthma. In that moment I was strong. I was vulnerable. I was flying.   



Working with others can teach us so much about ourselves.

Just showing up, open and receptive, can present us with the most amazing opportunities for opening our hearts.

For more information about Circus Yoga and how you can join in on the fun, visit

How do you connect to community? What have you gained from being a part of a collaboration? Please share your stories by clicking on the Comments below.

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