Am I STILL an acroyoga beginner?
Updated: Jun 29, 2020
With so many styles of #acroyoga out there, and ALL of them so new in the world, it can be difficult to know where we fit. Different teachers and trainings set different standards of progression. Different festivals, workshops, and conventions set different skills as pre-requisite. And unlike yoga, acrobatics, gymnastics, dance, and other influencers of acroyoga that may have more clearly defined #levels and #progressions, acroyoga is still a very new tradition. *For more information about the history and development of acroyoga, see our Acroyoga page.
So, how do I know what level I am? And why does it matter?
Last things first
Does it matter that I know the level in which I am currently working? Especially when there are no universal definitions for words like, "beginner, intermediate, and advanced?" We always want to come to the practice with a #beginnersmind. That means we want to remain open to possibilities that we haven't seen before; we want to appreciate the process and not get caught up in goal-oriented training; and we want to celebrate curiosity at every level, in all roles, and especially inwardly, by constantly questioning, exploring and reflecting on this practice.
Some groups, like the Dutch Acrobatics Convention, have pulled away from using arbitrary levels. According to their website, they prescribe to the philosophy that, "When attending a workshop it is important that the skills (tricks) you are going to learn in that workshop fit the personal skills you already have." This makes SOOOOO much sense to us! We get good at what we practice, so, if washing machines are my jam, I might not have a very extensive standing acro vocabulary. If I love Icarian games and dynamic moves, my rotations may not be all that sustainable. And if I thrive on creating new poses and flows, then ALL of the most common skills may be foreign to me, while my technique and body knowledge are immense.
But there are practical reasons for recognising where we fit into both the local and the global acroyoga communities.
Accurate self assessment is HUGE, HUMONGOUS, and REALLY BIG in acroyoga. If a stranger asks me to play, and I imply that I have more experience than I do, I can put us both, and our spotter, and those playing near us, at risk. And it probably won't be a fun jam. A general rule is that, as we are learning to base and fly poses and transitions, we are also learning to spot them. So, again, if I imply that I have more experience than I do, I may not be able to spot as well or as effectively as my playmates are expecting.
Conversely, if I downplay my knowledge, I might not get the best jam experience I could AND I might actually be stealing an opportunity for this stranger to get a richer experience from our time together. So, in order for me to self assess accurately, and play nicely, I need to know something about the larger world of acroyoga and where I currently fit in it.
Festivals, conventions, workshops, and master classes can be expensive! It only makes sense to find the place where we will be challenged AND supported; where we can work hard AND expect to have some success. It is generally accepted that I take a class below my current working level. We can ALL use more training in the basics - some of the best classes we've ever taken were Open Level/All Levels/Beginner classes, because the teacher gave us new ways of working with fundamental material! (Back to the beginner's mind, right?)
However, it is NOT always acceptable to take a class when the level is far ahead of my current work. While I may say to myself, "I can always sit down or skip the things that I can't do," we have to remember that this is a social practice. My partners may not be able to get the most out of the class if I can't hold my own. And, generally speaking, conventions and festivals are organised so that there are lots of spots open to beginners, while there may be a limited number of spots open to more experienced practitioners. If I take a spot above my working level, I may be forfeiting someone else's chance to learn and grow. In some settings, this is not a problem. And if I have a familiar, steady partner, it may be fine. If I really want to attend the class anyway, the best idea may be to contact the instructors or organisers ahead of time to find out how strict they are about pre-requisites and requirements.
Just because this is the level where I am working right now in my practice, doesn't mean this is where I will always be. Remember, we are discussing acroYOGA, which means we focus on the process of learning about ourselves and others, through connection and play. We focus on today rather than orient toward future goals. However, goals and objectives, when driven by curiosity and a sense of exploration, can also be motivating factors. So, if they get us off the couch... no judgement! AND, as you'll see in our next post, not all of the skills required for intermediate or advanced workshops are about physical performance. Setting goals around effective communication, deliberate concentration, and breath connection can transform every minute of every day into an opportunity for practice, until we are truly living our (acro)yoga.
So, am I an acroyoga beginner?
The simple answer is, YES! We all are! Acroyoga is still in its infancy. Come to this budding practice with a beginner's mind and you may find that a beginner is the very best thing to be. In our next post, we'll share some of the pre-requisites, skills tests, and requirements from around the world to help you...
A) Accurately self assess your current level;
B) Place yourself effectively at your next class, workshop, convention, or festival;
C) Set some short and long term goals for yourself, if that's your jam; and
D) Get a sense of the global acro community as it is developing right now.