Ever thought to enhance your yoga skills to a higher level? Or if you’re a yoga virgin, enter into the world of yoga with a unique style? Well the Gili Bankit Festival will give you the opportunity to embrace AcroYoga! We will be hosting workshops and performances held by two amazing and loved AcroYoga instructors, Victoria (Tori) Mclartyand Mickolas (Mick) Epstein.
Explore more about the couple in a recent interview. Tori shared how she and Mick fell in love with yoga, how yoga has supported each of them both in recovering from two accidents and how if you let yoga and AcroYoga into your life it can better your whole existence.
Interview with Tori - Acroyoga master
Tell us a bit about you and Mick?
I am from Fremantle in Western Australia. Movement has always been a big part of my life, I have represented the state in horse riding, surfing and touch rugby. Flying trapeze and Acroyoga/partner acrobatics have become a large part of my life over the last 10 years. I currently teach Acroyoga and granny yoga (a very relaxing slow paced yoga and meditation). As part of my teaching I travel around and teach at festivals and run retreats all over the world. I compete in the local Ninja warrior competition in Perth. I also do energetic space clearing - hard to explain if you haven’t heard of it but I use sage and sound to clear the energy in houses and other spaces.
Mick was born in Adelaide, lived many years in Tasmania and has travelled around the world adventuring, climbing some incredible peaks and exploring the amazing tracks on a bike. Mick is an outdoor education teacher and before meeting me (Tori) was living in his van travelling around teaching. He has been a wilderness guide, rock climbing instructor and can’t get enough of the outdoors. Mick is a very strong rock climber and was featured in a film at the 2018 Banff Film festival. He is super fit and training for 200km bike race. Mick is also very environmentally conscious.
We are both currently living on a boat in Fremantle, teaching regular Acroyoga classes and performing partner acrobatics together. We are both very passionate about movement and living a healthy lifestyle. We are very spiritual people and have a regular meditation practice and try to be very mindful. I organise a tour that both of us are doing in September to the remote north of Western Australia (the Kimberley). We spend a month travelling to small communities and teaching circus to the remote aboriginal kids.
How did Yoga enter into your life?
I always had a calling to yoga and met a guy at a bus stop in France in 2002 who was an ashtanga instructor. My journey started there and not after I found myself at a yoga retreat that changed my life. I began instructing yoga in 2008 and did my Acroyoga teacher training in 2014 in San Diego - another life changing event in my life.
What makes you most passionate about yoga?
My passion for yoga is the connection that you form with your own body and how it moves and responds. Yoga creates space for you to really listen to yourself and your body. When I have a regular yoga practice I find I am much calmer and relaxed, things just fall into place and I feel like I’m shining from the inside.
Mick uses yoga to heal and stay in touch with his body. He works physically hard with his body and asks a lot from it. Yoga allows the softness and lengthening back into his muscles. Mick also had a back injury when he was younger and yoga has helped him keep his back in good shape.
How did your path lead into being a yoga instructor?
I was practicing regularly and working in corporate health promotion running wellness programs in offices all over Perth. I could see that most people in these offices were not getting enough movement to keep their bodies supple. For most of them vigorous exercise was to daunting but gentle stretches and slowly progressing into more strenuous yoga poses was achievable for them. This inspired me to do my teacher training and start teaching corporate yoga.
When and what awoken you into the world of Acroyoga?
I randomly came across an Acroyoga flyer and went to a class. I enjoyed it and continued to practice the basics. There was 5 of us that became friends and had a regular practice session at my house. I found a 5 days immersion in Bangkok a few months later and that was the real awakening for me. The level was much higher and the skills were more advanced and the community of people were incredible, so welcoming and inclusive. This training sparked something in me that I need to pursue this practice more and lead to me travelling to different trainings and exploring more of this world.
Mick had done a little Acro before, but after meeting me his practice went to new levels. We practice most days and have been to high level trainings around Australia. His strength form from years of rock climbing and his flexibility from years of yoga combine to make the perfect base for Acroyoga.
What is different about Acro to normal yoga and what makes it so magical?
With yoga being a personal practice a lot of it is very internally focussed. Acro being a partner practice it is very partner and externally focussed. Acro challenges you in term of connection with other people, trust and communication.
The magic is different for each person but seeing people achieve something that they did not think was possible is a very magical moment for everyone involved.
We have heard that Acro not only enhances fitness but also awakens a new lease of life and supports the rise of personal development....
Acro can be a life changer for most people. There are many aspects of life that can change through the practice. People are welcomed into a very supportive network of open genuine people. Trust is built through different poses and movements. Self confidence is found when doing new things that people never thought they could achieve. For many people touch is not something that they do regularly receive. In Acroyoga, touch is always nonsexual and with consent in a safe place. The touch is supportive and creates amazing connection between people. Because of this connection and support that is created, the Acroyoga communities around the world are made up an incredible group of the most supportive and loving acrobats.
Connection with others also leads to connection with yourself, and people can find challenges that come up through this practice that relate to their life outside Acro.
Acro creates a space these challenges can be worked through which in turn resolves these issues in the other parts of that person's life.
Tell us about a time in your life when you felt like you rose from the ashes?
I feel I am very fortunate and I am very grateful that I have not had major tragedy or been covered in too many ashes. One small example would be returning from an injury. I broke my feet and had a major concussion. I was on Lombok, I got back to Perth 5 days later, I couldn’t stand up for over a month and could not get out of bed because of the concussion.
I took myself away to my sister’s house in Port Hedland where I meditated morning and afternoon and played with my nephews. That’s all I could do. My vision took over a year to return to normal. I decided there must be a reason for this to happen and asked what I could learn from it all. I learnt to slow down and take more time for myself. The more you look after yourself the more you have to give. I came back to Perth with a new fresh outlook on life and have learnt to listen to the signs my body is giving me when I start to overdo things. Life was and still is fantastic.
How long have you been sharing your love for Acro as teacher and where did your journey start?
I did my teacher training in 2014 in San Diego with a great friend that I started Acro with. We did our teacher training and then attended an Acro festival in Portland before travelling to Thailand and teaching classes on the beach in Tonsai. When I returned home, I opened a studio in Perth and have continued to teach there. I am also teaching regular classes at the Ninja Academy and I have run retreats in Lombok, Peru, East Timor and taught at other places around the world.
Mick and I have just started out teaching journey together
Who is Acroyoga suitable for?
Any person that wants to explore the possibilities of their body and connection with others. You do not need to be strong and flexible to practice Acro. There are many progressions and foundational skills that people can explore.
What are you looking forward to most about teaching and sharing at the Gili Bangkit Festival?
We are looking forward to sharing this fun and amazing practice with the beautiful people on the island. The atmosphere at a festival always brings great teaching experiences. Watching people try Acroyoga for the first time and seeing the excitement and joy on their face is one of the most rewarding things. We are looking forward to sharing group games and partner skills. We will be creating an all inclusive place for people to explore and get out of their comfort zone and try new things - that’s where the magic lies.
What can people expect to gain and feel from your workshops?
People will get the opportunity to experience something new and different that creates a sense of euphoria when people first try. They will gain skills they can take away and safely share with their friends. They will be using skills such as communication and will build trust in the people they are working with.