West Side Park in Champaign plays hosts to all sorts of outdoor activities, some more unique than others.
It's just another Wednesday for husband and wife Steve and Sharon Willette. Together, they own the Living Yoga Center in Urbana. Once a week, they head outdoors to practice "Acro Play."
"Acro Play is a combination of acrobatics, yoga, and often Thai yoga massage," says Steve.
"About five years ago, Steve and I went to a Valentines Day partner yoga partner yoga practice at a studio in Chicago," says Sharon. "That's where this kind of play was first introduced to us. And I just thought, 'This is so much fun!' In a normal or regular yoga practice it's an individual thing, but when you play with yoga or practice yoga with a partner it's about connecting with another person. It's about communication, and it's about trust."
While it may seem hard to believe, Steve and Sharon say yoga itself is a safer and more calming practice than your regular workouts. Steve even thinks there are fewer injuries with yoga.
"There's more focus on the entire body rather than specific muscle groups," he says. "You're more attentive because yoga is about being present. The idea is to not necessarily analyze it but to be able to feel it and know where you are. To know where you are in space and know where you are in the inner space, too."
With as much fun as they have, they recognize that it may not be as easy for those new to the practice to stand on someone else's wobbly arms.
"We've all been doing this for four or five years," says Sharon.
For the less experienced (and perhaps less trusting), they offer partner yoga classes at their studio. It is similar in principal but less airborne.
"It's not, because I wouldn't want to scare anyone away," Sharon says. "A lot of what you do in partner yoga is you work together in stretches. It's slow and it's deliberate and you help that person find a space that they may not have been able to find on their own."
To Steve and Sharon, yoga and Acro Play are as much a workout for the body as they are for the spirit.
"As soon as I get into a yoga practice everything else just goes away. I make a connection between my mind, my body, and my spirit. I just feel happy," says Sharon.
"Yoga, I believe, should be for the person at that moment," says Steve. "It also has to do with, when we do partner yoga, what reliances we can find in one another and how we can trust and build from there. Plus, when you're playing with it, you get to laugh a lot more."