Building Trust part 2: Finding the "Yoga" in Acroyoga series
An acroyoga practice is as much about developing yogic skills as it is acrobatic ones. And many skills, physical and non-physical, are shared by both acro and yoga. In this series we look at some of those less tangible, but very necessary skills.
Trust is a two-way street: we develop trust when we learn that we can rely on ourselves and others; we earn trust when others learn they can rely on us. Building trust relationships is just like building a muscle - we must work at it, train it. In this how-to, we discuss some of the ways we build trust in acroyoga.
1. Be honest with your self.
Know your limits. We encourage working at the edge of your comfort zone. This is where the real magic happens, where we grow more capable and more mature. But we must also know when we are beyond the edge in order to develop trust in our own assessment of our abilities. We like the traffic light metaphor: If we are in the Green, we are probably not working toward personal growth. If we are in the Red, we may be approaching danger, moving too fast, letting ego and ambition be the guides, which in the long run doesn't teach us to trust ourselves. But if we are in the Yellow zone, working at the edge of the comfort zone, we can progress with an awareness and understanding that allow us to process and integrate information, which teaches us to have faith in our own abilities and our self-assessment.
2. Be honest with your partners.
They cannot read your mind. They won't know when you are in the Red zone until you tell them. If you are constantly working from a place of fear, you certainly won't be developing trust in your partners. And if you are over-selling your capabilities or experience, you run the risk of allowing your partners to be injured, which definitely does not earn you their trust. Any injury, no matter who is at fault, puts everyone in the room on guard and reduces the trust level of the entire community for awhile. Even if injury is not the result, your partners can feel your nervous energy, your timidness, and your anxiety when you are beyond what you assess to be within your scope of practice. But this doesn't mean you have to stop playing just because things are difficult or scary in order to maintain trust! (Keep reading to number 3 below!!)
3. Ask for help.
Once you've decided that you are in the Red zone, beyond your comfort level, you have the opportunity to make adjustments. Ask for alternatives - maybe there is a modification or another way to practice this skill or pose that lends more support. Ask for spotters, mats, lines, advice, or other systems to be in place that will help you return to the Yellow zone. Change up the program, practice something more familiar and come back to this pose later. Or just take a break. Rest and a few deep breaths can make a world of difference! In acroyoga, there is very rarely a lack of creative alternatives, so rather than walking away, consider using these to regain trust in yourself and your partners when you feel it waning.
4. Expect that everyone is practicing accurate self-assessment.
In our approach to acroyoga, we believe that pushing others past their limits is not our job. We provide an invitation to safely and lovingly work with each other toward expanding the edges of the comfort zone. But we assume that each practitioner is responsible for their own growth. The prime example is respecting the word "Down." In our classes, workshops, and our own practice, when one partner wants out of a pose, there is no negotiation, no pressure to stay longer, no guilt, and definitely no feeling badly about the request to come down. There is only one response to "Down," and that is to come down. In this way, we learn that we can be heard and respected. Which helps us to earn each other's trust.
5.Expect that everyone is working toward a common goal.
Avoid blame, even in your own mind. It can be sooooo easy to have a fleeting (or lingering!) thought like, "Is she even trying?" or "I am working for this so much harder than he is." Toxic thoughts can really disrupt the building of trust, in our experience! Even if you think you are keeping them to yourself. So we try not to let them become part of the process. If toxic, blaming thoughts do arise, we might take break or even acknowledge them to each other. "I can feel myself blaming you even though I know you are working hard...maybe I need a water break." And then we switch tracks or come back together when we can see more clearly and enter into the partnership again with gratitude and... you guessed it...trust!
Have you noticed a shift in your self-reliance and ability to trust yourself, make decisions, or confidence after taking up an acroyoga practice?
Has an acroyoga practice allowed one of your personal relationships to experience deeper trust?
Have you found it easier to trust people in general since starting acroyoga?
We'd love to hear your reflections and keep the conversation going in the comments below.