Yoga

This Man Wants to Acro Yoga Lift 10,000 People, and the Photos Are Absolutely Stunning

Meet Rob Li, whose mission is to spread acro yoga and joy.


Photograph courtesy Rob Li.

Everyone has goals. Maybe they’re to lose weight. Maybe they’re to get a promotion. Maybe they’re to finally move out of mom and dad’s basement.

Even so, it’s not common you come across a goal like local entrepreneur Rob Li’s: to lift 10,000 people in the air.

The idea to lift people came to Li, like most great ideas, in the shower. A former cheerleader and current acro yoga instructor, he wanted to introduce more people to acro yoga. He decided he’d try to lift 2,017 people by the end of 2017 and share the photos on social media with the hashtag #ridetherob2017. But then, he says, his mission evolved into something more.

“It’s about bringing joy to people and showing them that they are able to do things that they didn’t think they could. You can see a transformation when people get lifted,” says Li. “Bringing that happiness and feeling of empowerment to friends and strangers inspire and motivate me to keep going.”

Photograph courtesy Rob Li.

Photograph courtesy Rob Li.

Photograph courtesy Rob Li.

Li’s goal isn’t totally unique. In fact, there’s another Philadelphia Rob — Rob Lawless — who had a similar goal: to meet and befriend 10,000 people, shared through the Instagram account @robs10kfriends.

When 2017 came to a close and Li had surpassed his goal — he lifted 2,301 people last year — he was inspired by Lawless to take his challenge a step further: 10,000 people in five years. Now he shares his posts under the hashtag #ridetherob.

Photograph courtesy Rob Li.

Photograph courtesy Rob Li.

His goal is ambitious, especially given that it requires a lot of strangers to put their trust in Li — trust that he’s not a weirdo, that he won’t drop them, and that he is who he says he is. Even though Li says he’s been turned down, he’s been happy to see “no” turn to “yes” on a number of occasions. 

Some people see me lifting people, and they ask to get lifted. Other times I approach them and tell them about my challenge,” says Li. “If people are reluctant, I respect that. I’ll lift all their friends, and then they usually come around.”

While Li says that lifting tends to have a domino effect — once one person is lifted, others want to be, too — some have wondered: Am I too heavy to be lifted? Li is quick to assure them that he can handle it.

“The heaviest guy I lifted was 360 pounds, and I’ve lifted six people up at once before,” he says. “I tell them I can leg press 1,010 pounds, and they don’t weigh half a ton.”

Photograph courtesy Rob Li.

Photograph courtesy Rob Li.

Photograph courtesy Rob Li.

To lift 10,000 people in five years means Li needs to lift five or so people a day. To stay on track, Li says he’s lifted over 100 people in one weekend. All of these interactions, of course, have led to some pretty interesting scenarios.

One time, Li says he talked his Uber driver into getting lifted. The driver pulled over, and Li hoisted his driver on a patch of grass next to the road. Another time, Li lifted a knife-wielding chef in his kitchen. Once, he lifted an entire bachelorette party. He hopped on their party bus afterwards, and ended the night with an invitation to the wedding. The night the Eagles won the Super Bowl, Li was on Broad Street, lifting fans overhead.

Photograph courtesy Rob Li.

Photograph courtesy Rob Li.

Photograph courtesy Rob Li.

While Li is glad to be familiarizing more people with acro yoga, he also sees his campaign as a way to spread happiness.

“It’s fascinating to see how quickly trust builds and how so much joy can come from this,” says Li. “People have the biggest smiles on their faces and have told me that being lifted up like that has made their day. You can feel the positive vibes from doing something so simple.”

Photograph courtesy Rob Li.

Photograph courtesy Rob Li.

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