I was playing at an Acro Jam in Manila, Philippines and a newbie wanted to try it out. His enthusiasm was contagious, so of course I said yes and started with the classic beginner pose of bird. The thing is whenever he based me and other flyers he kept closing his eyes. Over and over I had to ask him to please look at your flyer.
In truth, what I was really saying with the question was “hey, it’s scary being up here without you looking at me as your legs move every which way underneath me. Don’t you know I’m going to fall and plummet to my doom!?! BTW, I was dropped on my head when I was first learning to fly years ago and got a concussion. Please look at me (I beg you) – show you care, show you’re supporting me, show we’re in this together, show you see me.”
It’s known that communication through eye contact, words, and listening are essential to expanding in this practice. Often it can be the most challenging part, particularly knowing and being able to ask for our needs.
Recently, I read the book The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer. She talks about when she was a street performer as The Eight Foot Bride. Whenever someone would put money in her milk can she would reciprocate in an unusual and beautiful way: by giving them a flower. When giving the flower she treated every single patron as a ten second love affair. Behind that love affair, what was really happening was a nonverbal communication of gratitude: deeply looking into her patron’s eyes and showing them they are seen -really seen- and that a meaningful connection is taking place during those moments.
In Amanda’s Ted Talk “The Art of Asking” she says, “I would get harassed sometimes. People would yell at me from their cars. ‘Get a job!’ And I’d be, like, ‘This is my job.’ But it hurt, because it made me fear that I was somehow doing something un-joblike and unfair, shameful.”
Eye contact is so powerful for this concept of connection that seems to be one of the biggest draws of making AcroYoga a practice. It’s important to look at and see one another or this whole community thing all seems superficial (and not to mention all goes to hell when trying to execute a flow, washing machine, pose or any other trick for that matter).
Even though AcroYoga is intended as a partner practice, many of us are really alone while doing it which exponentially escalates the fear. Signs are not always as obvious as the base closing their eyes. Instances of not being seen and fear arising look like:
- Someone’s body in the partnership is super tense, frozen, flailing or spazzing
- Breath holding
- Facial expressions of complete horror and uncertainty
- Being objectified aka as being manhandled from one move to another with no idea what just happened
What if the community approached fear in their AcroYoga practice with a ten second love affair every time we connect with one another as a spotter, base and flyer?
The thing is in AcroYoga partnerships it’s possible to have that love affair. By asking.
Over five years into the practice and many trainings later with some of the greatest teachers, I’ve found asking is a huge part of what allows the strong partnership Francis and I have. Our practice is constantly evolving where being seen or having to ask is not needed because we’ve tapped into a deeper connection, sensitivity and awareness created by taking the time to ask early on in the practice while we are learning. Other times, when we are pushing our edges and doing things that scare us we are constantly asking a lot of one another to be confident that we both feel support and are able to practice in a safe, mindful way.
Here are my favorite things to ask for that make the biggest difference for overcoming fear in any AcroYoga practice:
- Ask to go slower in the movements
- Ask to get solid in the current pose before moving to the next level one
- Ask to do progressions before going for that trick that’s frustrating or scary
- Ask an experienced teacher for guidance
- Ask for more support where it feels weak or unstable in the connection between the base and flyer
- Ask for a trustworthy spotter
- Ask to change roles (base if you fly, fly if you base) in basic poses with someone same size or smaller
- Ask to sync the breath like in yoga using the inhale and exhale to mindfully move together
Through asking I’ve found that a constant level of mindfulness between the base, flyer and spotter exists. Without this level of awareness the whole partnership and possibly community starts to fall apart and with it comes injury, burnout and frustration. In the big picture, asking allows trust to grow and fear to diminish in our partnerships both within the practice and outside in everyday life.
Please take a moment right now and notice if fear is a factor in your Acro practice, and what you’re doing to overcome it. Send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org I would absolutely love to hear from you.