Rich Risbridger spends his time suspended above ground in yoga positions and bending over backwards to help others do the same. An aerialist and yoga instructor in Asheville (as well as a storyteller, web designer and permaculturist), Risbridger drops a new spin on yoga for people to play and smile in Asheville.
However, he shares, he wasn’t always the happy person he is today.
“I was a righteously angry person,” he says. “And my yoga practice was turning me into a person with a lot of compassion. It made me realize what can be done to change people from the inside out.The asanas and the 8 limbs of yoga had a beautiful energetic power over me. It became the No. 1 exercise to practice in life.”
Risbridger decided to change his life around after dropping out of architecture school, where he developed an unhealthy sleep pattern, limited social contact and stagnant energy source. Something shifted for him once he started taking yoga classes in Boston and then in New Orleans, where he moved shortly thereafter.
“I would come back from yoga and not want to eat a half pound of red meat anymore,” the instructor says. The physical practice, without any intention of doing so, started to mellow out his stressful life as well.
The yoga instructor left his life in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina hit in 2004, where he experienced a community of alcohol and depression. “When I got home from Burning Man, I realized I was incredibly lucky and somehow nothing in my house was destroyed. Everything I owned became a gift,” he says. “I decided I’m going to do exactly what I’m inspired to do, whether it makes any sense or not.”
And so, the 38-year-old ran away to California, joined the circus and became a yoga instructor.
“The one thing that never changed was my yoga practice,” he says. “It is what brought me all the way to Asheville. I can teach here for free at the donation center and not stress about finances. I like the small community here.” Influenced by his involvement as a circus performer, Risbridger teaches a playful yoga flow at the Asheville Yoga Donation Studio.
“I tell jokes during class, and we make silly faces at each other so that we fall out of tree pose,” the instructor says. “I want people to have a good time and feel fantastic about themselves. The attitude is to take ahimsa (non-violence) into circus practice as well as into other parts of life. There is no worry or stress in class. It just always feels wonderful to teach.”
Risbridger is performing with the Asheville Vaudeville Circus at the Magnetic Theatre on Nov. 3. He teaches Playful Flow at the Asheville Yoga Donation Center Wednesday, 10:30 a.m.-noon, and he encourages those with a more advanced practice to attend.
Kate Lundquist is a freelance writer and yoga teacher living in Asheville. Her website is here, and she teaches Saturdays, 2:15 p.m.-3:45 p.m., at Asheville Yoga Center.