Acro yoga play is such a beautiful way to connect with other humans and learn impressive skills you never thought you’d capable of. Not to mention, it makes for some really great Instagram content too. 😉 Most importantly, though, acro teaches us about trust, communication and the boundaries of our bodies and our personal space. The acro yoga community is such an accepting, supportive and playful group who often seem to be “Yes” men and women, willing to try some daring feats. However, it is important to know that you can also say “No.”
Feeling safe with the person you are playing with is crucial. Even though it is often described as acro play, this can be a very dangerous activity and safety should always be priority. Before you jump into acro for your first time or with a new partner or into a new skill with an existing partner, do a quick self check-in. Do you trust the person you are practicing with? Do you have a designated spotter and do you trust them? And of course, do you trust yourself? Your instinct will almost always be right! Even if you have the most trustworthy partner if you don’t trust yourself you run the risk of injury to yourself or others.
For any “famous firsts” or new skills I highly encourage having a spotter. A spotter being a third person who will be attentive to the participating bodies and break a fall if needed. Seems like common sense but unfortunately many people fail to invite a spotter over because others seem busy. However, WE CARE! If you need a spot, ask for one and I guarantee you’ll be supported. One, you’ll make a new friend, and two, you won’t break an arm or an ankle! Sounds like a win-win situation to me. 😉
Whether you are new to acro or have been practicing for years there will be situation which you may decide is not safe or you are not comfortable with (yet) and you need to trust your intuition and be honest with your partner.
Communication is everything in acro. How else can you coordinate beautiful, precise movements with another human? You need to have excellent communication both verbal and non-verbal. In the case of consent before action, verbal is the best way to go! Just be honest. It’s that simple. If you don’t feel comfortable, say so. See below on “How to say no to a friend”.
If you have a pre-existing injury, definitely make that apparent. If you inform your partner about your injuries, they can help prevent further injury by being aware and avoiding your injured area or being extra attentive. This way you can still acro play but with mindfulness. You may even come up with a new flow as you use new parts of your body and leave the injured parts out.
We all have unique bodies, skill sets and levels of comfort, therefore we all have unique boundaries. Know what your boundaries are and know that they should always be honored. You do not need to give into peer pressure (which may be masked as “Just try, I believe in you”). Even if your friends sound reassuring, you don’t have to comply if it doesn’t feel right. Again, check-in with your instinct, and go with that! Your boundaries will shift and change as you become more experienced and as you experience new partners. As you practice, you’ll cultivate a stronger sense of body awareness and awareness of others both physically and energetically and it will only become easier to set your boundaries openly.
Not only is it important to be honest with others, but also be honest with your own body. Injuries happen and you need to honor your body by taking time to rest. (Rest day? And miss out on learning a new skill?) Yes. Take the time to rest and heal! You’ll be surprised at how much stronger you are when you come back after some rest and self-love. Sometimes you have to tell yourself “No” when it’s in your body’s best interest. 👌
Of course, also let your friends and partners know when you are choosing rest for your shoulder, ankle, fill-in-the-blank with a body part, or just in general. For example, I’ve had shoulder pain for the past couple of months and have not been able to do as much acro as I would have liked. When showing up at acro jams I’ve really had to activate my willpower to say No.
Some days I would decline all acro play and explain that I am resting and healing, and I would opt to stretch and socialize instead. Other days I checked in with my body and chose to acro with a more seasoned acro-yogi or acrobat who has attentive body awareness. However, I would decline play with those who were still working on their acro awareness and body-saving skills. Because of my injury I could not “save myself” if something went awry without worry of further injury. I did not want to risk my long term acro play capabilities, so I had to be selective. It has become easier each time to be upfront and decline if I feel it’s necessary.
It’s hard sometimes! You may feel bad declining someone that you care a lot about as a friend, but a true friend will value your honesty. To be honest, I have some very good friends that I simply don’t feel comfortable doing acro with. Some are still learning and have not yet built the reaction time or awareness to save another. Others are into “big tricks” with no regard for building foundations first. Both can be very dangerous for both flyer and base.
The best way to navigate this:
Last, but definitely not least, respect the decline. As a receiver, don’t be offended if another human declines acro play with you. Don’t take it personally, know that they are being open and honest with you and that is a beautiful thing! You don’t know what they’re experiencing in life and it may have nothing to do with whether they like you or your acro abilities. Always assume the best and be honored for the open communication. You can always offer to play another time.
I had an amazing friend of mine decline my offer to play because they had a performance coming up. They were very upfront about it stating they had a show that weekend and didn’t want to risk it. However, they did feel comfortable doing some tricky standing acro with a familiar partner of theirs. I wasn’t offended in the slightest and wanted them to have an incredible performance, which they did!
I also asked a good friend of mine to acro play once and he just blatantly said No. Not offering any other explanation. It actually made me laugh out loud because it was so blunt. I knew there was no ill-intention or dislike, he was just matter-of-fact. It was great! It gave me the confidence to be more upfront with others.
As in any community, communication is key! In the acro community especially, as you do have other human’s lives in your hands (and on your feet). We want to protect the humans we love, and the new humans we meet! You also want to protect yourself, your body and your boundaries as well. So keep it simple, always do an intuitive check-in and be open and honest with your communication. Know that you can say No. That way your Yeses are a “Hell Yes” and you can have a wonderful time learning acro things you never thought possible! 💚
If you are a beginner to acro yoga and are looking to learn the basics, I offer acro lessons! I’d love to teach you the foundations and introduce you to the community so that you can begin your acro journey!
Love & [Fire] Light! 🔥