"5 Things I wish I had known when I started Acroyoga..."
To cap off our "Acroyoga for Beginners" series, we wanted to take a more personal approach and share something of our experience of being a beginner. But as we began collecting thoughts, we realized that our experience is unique and others may have very different, and equally valuable reflections. So, this has become a collaborative article. We approached several people who practice acroyoga at various experience levels and asked them, " What do you wish you had known when you started?" They graciously opened up about the physical, mental, and interpersonal trials of their first years in acroyoga. Our common intention is that we might help the next generation of beginners have a more prepared and generally easier entry. We are so grateful to all of our contributors. You can find their names, along with how and where to follow them, at the end of this article.
When we look at the answers we received to this one simple question: "What do you wish you had known when you started acroyoga?" we see a wide range of reflections spanning the physical, mental, and interpersonal aspects of this practice. Which is not surprising, since we are all continuously learning and changing in these areas every time we practice. We all saw some overlap, for example, several contributors mentioned that they are still learning so much, which also makes sense; we are each of us always a work in progress. So, for simplicity's sake here, we've tried to organize answers into 5 categories of thought...
We are each always a work in progress.
1. I wish I had found acroyoga sooner.
I wish I had known about acroyoga earlier in my life – both because of the body awareness I have gained through practicing and because of the great and open-minded community I’ve become a part of. - Sofie
I wish I knew that the awesome thing, which I discovered at a music festival, was called akroyoga and I had tried it earlier. - Tina
2. I wish I had been more open to different roles and styles earlier.
"Growing up" in the Cph acro community that has a strong(er) tradition for role switching, I enjoyed trying both roles (especially the first acro years). So giving one advice on: Do try both roles. It is fun and beneficial. - Jørn
I also wish I had gained more attention to and practiced my basing skills, even though I looove to fly and feel most comfortable “up there”. I guess it’s quite normal to have a preference for either basing or flying, but it really gives a better understanding for the practice – and better communication between the base and the flyer – when knowing how to do both. - Sofie
I wish I would have tried being a flyer sooner. I didn't really try to be a flyer until I was kind of forced to try in Denmark, even then fearing I might fall or I was too big for them to do anything with. In that moment though, I could tell the base move their foot here or there and I felt I understood better how I should be as a base myself. - Zane
I would like myself to be open to many inputs – both acro- and movement-wise. This is an ongoing challenge for me. Sometimes it works, sometimes not. But I think I might have moved to standing (acro) earlier if I had not dismissed it as not-interesting-because-it-is-not-flowy-as-acroyoga.- Jørn
3. I wish I had known better how to communicate my needs.
I would have liked to know that I was allowed to say, "no" and be picky about my trust/who I chose to work with - it seemed at that time, the acroyoga community was all about inclusion which, in its essence is quite valuable, but it can also be the opposite and it actually made me feel “used” from time to time. - Julie
Physical contact with new people doesn't have to be weird or scary. I feel much more well-balanced with my own body and comfortable with being in contact with others. That's another thing I love about acro! - Sofie
And how easy it is to see your partners' mistakes, and how hard it is, to realize most of the time you contribute quite a lot to those - Kasper
I wish I would've known how to say, "no" when I don't feel like flying, basing or spotting on/ with somebody. - Marie-Therese
I also wish I knew - and really TRUSTED - that "less talk, more acro" is often exactly what is needed. Throughout my practice over the years, I could have said less and still learned more and helped others learn more as well. I have a tendency both to over-analyze and over-share. Although each of us will develop our own unique conceptualization of Acroyoga, and although feedback is essential for learning, I wish I knew from the beginning that feedback between each attempt is completely unnecessary. - Peter
(We wrote an article last year called Communication: Finding the Yoga in Acroyoga which addresses many of the topics our contributors had difficulty with in the beginning. It is a good read to prevent or reduce frustrations around verbal & nonverbal communication in your partnerships.)
I knew from the beginning how fun acroyoga is - that's what got me hooked and why I've kept on training since 2013. I wish I knew back then that acroyoga is also the perfect arena for me to work with my tendency to be a pleaser-type personality. It's a social space where I have to learn to take care of myself - which I've not always done. I've trained in varying degrees of pain countless times to serve the flyer or group, serve the trick or movement, and in a sense appearing to be stronger than I am. I wish I trusted more that I would still be appreciated, still included and loved in the community if I took more breaks, said more no and disappointed eager flyers more. This is still WIP for me. - Peter
I wish I had a better understanding of the customs of the jams, and how to approach them. I remember feeling in the beginning that they were a bit intimidating and I had a lot of questions such as, "Is it okay to show up without a partner? Do experienced people think it’s important to show up when you’re a beginner? Do you need to ‘bring something to the table’, or can you just show up and go with the flow?" - Sofie
(If you, like Sofie and myself and MANY others, find the jam environment intimidating, read our article, "How to Play: a beginner's guide to jams," for a crash-course in jam etiquette.)
4. I wish I had known the importance of the basics.
I wish I knew it is important to get the basics right and to play with people who are at your level - this is what allows you to progress. - Tina
Working flexibility to 90 degrees as a base is the first that springs to my mind. And spending more time perfecting basics before chasing big tricks. - Kasper
I wish I would've known more about the importance of alignment. - Marie-Therese
I wish I had known how fundamentally important spotters are earlier because I was very cautious and scared for a long time. Spotters could have helped me progress while having more fun. Once I learned to use and trust my spotters, I could take risks and be bolder. - Sarah
I would have liked to know how much easier things are when you relax more - I remember myself in the beginning using so much effort, trying so hard to succeed with a trick - but it has happened multiple times that a trick suddenly becomes reachable when my body learns to relax more, only using the necessary muscles - Julie
5. I wish I had known how diverse acroyoga is.
That there are different atmospheres and approaches to AcroYoga. There are different dynamics depending on the intention of the jam space, practice session, partner combinations etc. what I mean by this is that sometimes you’ll have some encounters that are more performative focused and wanting to get to doing cool stuff without as much attention towards the human connection/communication piece of Acroyoga. Other experiences may focus you towards the communication piece rather than just being able to get into some cool moves or perform some soapy washing machines. - Kyle
One doesn't have to do it the way everyone else does. - Martin
I wish I had known about acroyoga when I first started traveling by myself because acroyoga groups are all over the world and they make good connections when traveling. They are often like-minded people who know the local area well and can offer recommendations, help with travel arrangements, and even offer a place to stay. It is like having extended family everywhere. It is also fun to practice in different places and get a sense of the uniqueness and personality of each local acroyoga community. - Sarah
Do host other acroyogis if you can. - Jørn
The most important thing...
Possibly the one thought that sums it all up, the most important thing to remember, and the one that too often gets lost:
It's just acro, remember to have fun. - Martin
Thanks to the contributors!
Thanks to everyone who took the time to reflect and share something of your experience. Many of our contributors guide classes, workshops, attend jams, organize events, and serve acroyoga associations in Denmark and around the globe. Below, we have provided links to their websites and SoMe - so, find them, follow, and spread the acroyogalove.
Jørn Villesen Christensen: read Jørn's blog on acroyoga and see his beautiful photography work at https://talldanestale.dk/ and his fb page Jørn Christensen :: Acroyoga & Photography
Sofie Elland: follow Sofie's acro and other adventures on her ig: sofieelland
Kyle Ernst: join Kyle's email newsletter at kylernst.com or follow him on ig @kyle.bravos for thoughts on movement and more.
Julie Hendel Astrup: follow Julie to see fabulous designs as well as fabulous acro on ig as hendelhunteracro and hendel91.
Zane McKinney: enjoy gorgeous moon photography on Zane's ig: zane.mckinney.
Kasper Moritz Nielsen: check out upside_down.acro on ig for snowboarding, acroyoga, bouldering, and BJJ fun.
Marie-therese Pallis: follow upside_down.acro on ig to see Kasper and Marie in action.
Tina Santl Temkiv: friend Tina on fb for great articles on climate science and more.