How to Play: A Beginner's Guide to Jams
Thinking about trying Acroyoga? Teaching beginners? Or maybe you are acro-curious? This series on Acroyoga for Beginners is for you!
In this article
We address concerns and questions we often hear from beginners around jamming, like, ”What is a Jam? How do I find a jam near me? How do I know if I am ready to join a jam? What do I do once I get there?"
We hope you'll try out our advise, go to a jam, send us pictures or tag us (@trainmoveplay on SoMe), and let us know if you have more questions.
What is a Jam?
A jam is an open training session. There is usually not a leader nor lesson. Anyone can join and all levels are welcome. If a jam is held in a park or other public space, it might be free to enter. If it is held at a gym or studio, there may be a small entrance fee.
Acroyogis can come to a jam to train solo or with a regular partner, but it is more common, and encouraged, to play with multiple partners. Playing with different partners has huge benefits, especially for beginners. We learn to work with different bodies and talents, we can practice various roles (flyer, base, spotter, or middle), and we learn to communicate and problem solve with different personalities and temperaments. Jamming is a low pressure and casual way to learn a large number of skills.
How do I know if I am ready for a jam?
The short answer is: You are! Since jams are open to all levels, curiosity and a willingness to learn are all that is really required of you.
If you have never, ever, ever tried an acroyoga pose before, you may want to do a little research so that you know what you want to learn and how to ask for it. Reading our article on 5 Acroyoga Poses for Complete Beginners is a good place to start. You can also watch some youtube videos - Daniel Scott has a wide range with helpful and humorous instructions and Jacob and Debbie have a beautiful and well-organized video collection here. Acropedia.org is a good resource because you can filter your search to see beginner-friendly skills. You can also read the article, Acroyoga Terms for Beginners so that you have some common language.
What should I expect at a jam?
With no teacher nor leader, how will you learn new material? A jam is a skill share; kind of like a movement potluck. Everyone brings the skills they are working on - maybe something recently learned in a class or an original idea for developing something new. Each small group may be working on something different, or sometimes an idea spreads around a jam like an inspiring virus, jumping from group to group.
people to be welcoming - most acroyoga communities are. They might want to hug you after your first meeting.
a loose structure with people stretching, hand-standing, juggling, maybe slack-lining or snacking... it probably won't look super organized.
that people will be willing to help you learn and will happily put you through a few beginner poses.
to take care of yourself and that others will also be taking care of themselves. Self-reliance and trust are key aspects of acroyoga.
someone to approach you and ask you to play. You may have to take the initiative to ask for someone to show you some poses. It can be intimidating, but remember that everyone had a first day and most people want you to enjoy the jam.
a lesson. There is no instructor, so you will be relying on other hobbyists to show you the ropes. You may get different instructions and opinions on the same pose from different partners. Take as much info as you can, try your best to accommodate your partners, and be gracious.
to work with one person for the whole jam. Again, this is a very social and fluid group dynamic. Some times duos train exclusively, but it is not the norm. If you come with a partner, don't expect to work with that person the whole time. You may be split up so that you are each working with a more experienced partner. You'll have time to come back together later.
to nail all of your acroyoga goals in one day. You will be sore. You will find new muscles and new ways of using your body. You will meet the end of your range of motion. Try not to get frustrated nor discouraged.
What do I do at my first jam?
You've done the research and worked up the courage to show up to a jam. Now what?
Warm Up! Before you dive in, take some time to sit on the sidelines and warm up your body, especially your hamstrings (back of the legs), wrists, and hips. Do some solo yoga poses, Sun Salutes, or just move your body in a way that gets you loose and raises your body temperture.
Look around. While warming up, look around at the people already playing. Notice groups who seem like they are working on something you have seen, or something that seems relatively accessible. Also, notice anyone who seems interesting, has a good energy, is friendly, or that you might click with. You can also be aware of anyone else who came alone.
Ask to be a spotter. Asking to spot is a super gentle way of getting involved. You can be close to the action and see and hear what is going on up close. Look for two people playing together and ask, "Can I spot you guys?" Chances are, they will say sure. Most people are willing to have a spotter on hand. If you don't know much about spotting, the primary goal is to follow the flyer's hips and keep the flyer safe by slowing his or her trip to the ground should the pose fall apart.
Ask to play. It may seem elementary, but the phrase, "Can I play with you guys?" is the most straight-forward way to get involved and let people know that you want to fly or base. If you are coming to a jam for the first time and haven’t had a class yet, you won’t be bringing a particular skill to work on. No problem! Just let your partners know that you are a complete beginner and ask them to show you some basic poses. You might ask them to teach you Bird pose, Throne, Whale, or Foot to Shin. These are good places to start; most people will know these poses and how to teach them.
Mingle. Polygamy is the rule of a jam. It is generally accepted at most jams that everyone will work with several partners. So, after working with someone for a bit, you can easily move on. Say thank you to your current partners and look around for another person, couple or group to play with.
Take breaks. You are always free to pause, stretch, drink water, eat a light snack... and take stock of how your body is doing. If this is your first entry to acroyoga, check in regularly with your body and make sure you are not over-doing it. The excitement and fun of a jam can easily disguise the amount of WORK you are actually doing. If you notice your body getting tried or sore, you can sit and watch, stretch, continue to spot without flying or basing, or you can leave any time.
Stretch. Yes, again. You'll thank yourself later. Before you leave, or when you get home, stretch your hamstrings, wrists, shoulders, back, and hips again and drink a big glass of water!
How do I find a jam near me?
Start with social media. Search Facebook groups and insta hashtags. Use words like "acroyoga," "Acro," and your city's name. When we are traveling we always look for the local jam. We usually try English and also local spellings - for example, our local group is on SoMe as Akroyoga Aarhus, with a "k". Once you find a group, DM them and ask if they have an open jam happening regularly or soon, where it will be, and if there are prerequisites or a cost. of course, if you know someone who is already attending a jam, ask them directly for the info.
What if I don't like it?
You are always free to leave a jam. Again, self-assessment is a big part of the process and culture of jams. You might decide to try again later. Maybe you decide to take a beginner's class or workshop before returning. Maybe you find a partner to go with you next time. Or maybe you don't. All options are available; there is no commitment to trying, so there is nothing to lose!
Jams are a super low-cost, low-commitment, and low-pressure way to try acroyoga and a big part of the acroyoga scene. Some folks ONLY attend jams. Many attend jams as well as a weekly classes, sporadic workshops, and seasonal festivals. There is a way to practice acroyoga that fits your schedule, interest, and budget, so if do some research and get involved!