Whether it’s from following PPRG or watching our friends Alex Holley and Mike Jerrick on FOX29 Good Day Philadelphia, chances are you’ve seen the #RideTheRob Acro Yoga challenge on social media. For our August First Friday Interview, we got the chance to ask Rob Li, creator of this challenge, where this all started from. More interestingly, how does he get people to trust him within mere seconds are asking, “Do you want to be lifted in the air?” Four years into the project, he heard feedback about how yoga and workout apparel wasn’t exactly perfect. Now, he’s on a mission to change that, too. Find out more behind the empowering yoga project, as well as his new business venture.
Philly PR Girl (PPRG): Let’s start from the beginning. What sparked #RideTheRob?
Rob Li (RL): I get a lot of creative and random ideas in the shower, and sometimes I’ll forget them once I step out. With #RideTheRob, the thought stuck with me, and I immediately tried to figure out logistics and prepared for this project. Having cheered for about 20 years and recently getting into Acro Yoga, I wanted to show people how much fun it can be to fly. At the time, I didn’t know this fun little project would evolve into something more and inspire others to create challenges and personal goals beyond expectations.
PPRG: Besides just hitting a numerical goal, what is your goal for this project?
RL: My goal is to empower friends and strangers by showing them that they’re capable of more than they think. It seems like this project evolves every year. At first, it was to showcase Acro Yoga was. Then, it became about bringing people joy and creating a deeper connection between human beings. Now, I realize it can show people how to learn and do seemingly impossible things. I’m also working on adding a philanthropic element to this project as I collaborate with various charities and events.
PPRG: While acro yoga poses look so amazing, they can also look scary! How do you work to gain someone’s trust?
RL: Naturally, I want people to feel comfortable and safe. In the Acro community, consent is a major component of the culture. It only takes me a few moments of talking to someone to observe their comfort level. A psychologist told me that it was a very fascinating project because people are able to trust me within seconds of meeting me. I’m not sure how to explain it. A few people have mentioned that I give off “great energy,” and that they trust me right away.
For those that have never tried Acro or flown before, it can be empowering. Generally, they feel accomplished and that they can take on the world, which can last throughout the day! The tricky part is knowing when people are willing to go outside of their comfort zone when they initially decline to be lifted. For many, a part of them wants to try it, but they have reservations. Either way, it’s important to be respectful of their final decision. Those that have changed their minds to get lifted have expressed how they’re glad they tried it. If you’ve been a part of the project, what determined your trust in me to lift you?
PPRG: What are some of the best moments from it, such as someone overcoming a fear?
RL: There have been so many amazing moments. Being part of someone’s experience in overcoming a fear is incredible! I’ve also helped people unlock a skill they’ve been working on for months, which is awesome. Even when someone simply says that I just made their day, that’s rewarding enough.
Before I lift people, visions come to me. In one case, a make-up artist was very hesitant in being part of the project, though her boss insisted she get lifted. My vision was to list her while she was putting make-up on her boss. After her lift, she was exuberantly crying happy tears. She felt empowered, never being lifted before because she always thought she was too heavy or big, even around her boyfriend.
While I was at a pool club in Florida, I lifted a woman who said she “really needed that.” She told me that she just kicked out her live-in boyfriend after she found out he was cheating. He was packing all his stuff while she was at the pool, and she was not in a good head space. Our short time together had made her feel beautiful and amazing. Plus, now she had a new Tinder pic!
PPRG: Wow, those are some stories for the books! Where is the “craziest” place you’ve ever performed a lift?
RL: There are quite a few. I’ve lifted a flight attendant while 34,000 feet in the air, on stage at a gentlemen’s club, on paddleboards, at hospitals… Every day is really an adventure since I’ll do Acro wherever! The pose depends on who is flying and what feels safe.
Active Elixir was born as a “perfect solution for people of movement.” I wanted to address issues people have experienced with their performance apparel in various movements. My focus became finding solutions for all these various niche markets, obviously starting with Acro.
Since the launch, I am now developing pole wear and swimwear. In the next year or so, I am aiming to provide pieces for belly dancing and social dance. I’m constantly inspired with ideas and recommendations from friends. Once it all comes to fruition, I test the prototypes on active practitioners in the community. I gather feedback on every piece and make changes until it’s perfectly functional, comfortable, well-made, and stylish.
PPRG: What are the best and most challenging parts about launching your line?
RL: I did not formally learn how to design, but I know how to listen. I’ll sketch out designs based on talking to people about what’s important to them. Then, I incorporate design elements that I feel are cool yet functional.
Starting an apparel company is a lot of work, and I’m learning more about the industry each day. It’s been interesting searching for reliable manufacturers that can take my ideas and create quality products. So far… I’ve also learned a lot about bras and boobs. (It’s still very confusing.) There are also many body types and preferences to consider. Now, I appreciate and pay attention to what women need from their performance apparel. On the other hand, I’m studying shopping habits and learning about marketing through social media. That’s a lot for someone who basically posted twice a month on Instagram!
I am so grateful for the amazing people that have helped me and believed in me in realizing this vision. It’s heart-warming to see happy people with my products. They tell me stories about how great they feel in Active Elixir It’s really rewarding to hear that after putting so much time, energy, and money into such a huge endeavor.
August 8, a friend and I will be performing some acts to benefit the Lupus Foundation of America. He’ll attempts to carry 41 people up the museum steps, and I’ll be lifting them when they arrive at the top. For those who love the lift and are looking for a long term practice, I’ve developed a Pole Acro Workshop at Flaunt Fitness. I’m also teaching SUP Acro classes with Aqua Vida.
In terms of Active Elixir, I want more voices in the community heard in regards to what they’re looking for out of active apparel. For instance, a flyer told me she likes crop top hoodies, but she wants to keep the hoodie on while doing Acro. As you may know, there are a lot of inversions in Acro, so I had to come up with a way to keep the hoodie from becoming inverted. It had to be accomplished without zippers, which can hurt the base. I came up with a prototype that included magnets in the hoodie. It should be available just in time for fall as a part of the Day To Evening Wear Collection!
If you’ve been a part of #RideTheRob or one of his classes, share your experience with us in the comments or on social media!