Communication: 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.
Good communication is an essential skill in acroyoga and one that we get plenty of chances to work on. Here we share some of the things we have learned about effective communication through our own practice: What works for us and what we take away from the training that guides our communication in other areas of life.
1. It's always "US."
This is our number one, most used, and most helpful mantra (in acroyoga and in life!) Acroyoga is always a partnership. The absolute minimum number of people for any acroyoga pose is two, and more than likely we also have a spotter (we hope!) Group poses are limitless, so there is never a time in acroyoga where we don't need to consider ourselves a team. In fact, one of the great gifts of regular acroyoga practice is that we develop cooperative skills. So, in the spirit of cooperation, make a habit of using, what @standingacrobatics calls, "WE-based language." For example, "WE need to make the entrance quicker," rather than, "YOU need to be quicker." And also, "WE could use a few more reps," instead of, "I need more practice." Because when the practice is struggling, it is US struggling. Even if one partner has an easy time performing the pose with someone else, THIS partnership is always about US. And don't forget that when things are clicking and the progress abounds, that's US, too! More on that below...
2. Your partners are not mind-readers.
Ask for what you need because your partners won't know until you tell them. Share your expectations for yourself and your partners. We encourage and appreciate clear, solution-oriented feedback from each other, for example, "I feel I need more support for my right arm." We tell each other as soon as possible when one of us is getting frustrated and try to be clear about WHY. Remember that your partners want to help you, but you have to let them know when and how. Be honest and open. Over time, playing with the same partners, they will start to pick up on your non-verbal cues more efficiently, but don't expect them to read your mind, even if you have known each other a long time.
3. You are not a mind-reader, either...
...so be a good listener. No matter how well you think you know your partners, you must reciprocate and give them an invitation to express their needs to you. Sometimes it can be helpful to ask a specific question like, "What do you need from me right now?" or "What could help you right now?" Other times, just leaving a pause in the action and dialogue might be enough. However you go about it, find a way to make the invitation and let your partners know you are ready to be an active listener. Listening can go a long way toward positive working relations.
4. Start with an intention to learn something new.
Even if you are the more advanced or experienced person, when you enter into the partnership with an attitude that you are here to learn, every exchange becomes more open. Cultivate a habit of saying, "YES" to your partners' suggestions. Try out their ideas. Don't assume there is one way (your way) to solve a problem. Different tactics will work for different bodies, especially when you play with different partners, so become an investigator rather than a dictator.
5. Get on the same page about feedback.
This may be redundant to tips 2 and 3, but it is still worth mentioning... In our partnership, we have slightly different preferences about feedback and discussion. Sarah likes several tries to feel a pose or transition before she is ready to discuss changes. Martin is more analytical and is often ready to chat after one try. It often helps to agree before we start training a new skill on the number of times we'll try something before we discuss it. This way Sarah doesn't become bogged down by too much talking, and Martin knows a talk is coming so he can more patiently wade through a few rough trials. We all have a different tolerance for talk vs. action, so discuss a strategy with your partner before you begin training, especially when working with a new or unfamiliar partner.
6. Be gentle.
Your partners are humans, just like you. Be gentle with them and with yourself. Breathe deeply and consciously relax at least one part of your physical body between reps and before speaking. Acro is a strong and powerful practice with dynamic energy. We can all get excitedly persistent, especially when we feel ourselves on the verge of a break-through. But this is also a chance for us to learn the art of softening.
7. Celebrate together.
Lastly, remember that this is FUN! And that no matter what you did today, you showed up! Your partners showed up, too. Even if it feels as if there is a lot of work to do and a long way to go, take time to give yourself and your partners credit. We have a ritual of telling each other one thing we did well today. Some days it is teeny tiny: "I made it through the warm up today." Some days is it major: ”I unlocked a new skill today.” Even if all you can come up with is: "I wore my favorite pants to training today," that's ok! Practice ending on an uplifting note, express positivity and warmth to those around you, and you will have the support to keep coming back even after the rough days.
Have you learned something about communication through your acroyoga practice? What did we leave out on our list? We'd love to hear your thoughts and keep the conversation going, so share your feedback below in the comments - we are listening.
We have more non-physical skills to chat about - look for further entries in this “Finding the Yoga in Acroyoga” series. And let us know what skills you find relevant to this practice beyond the ones we highlight.