Reopening Acroyoga and Movement Communities after Covid-19
Considerations around the impact of the shut down, managing our expectations, and staying sensitive during the reopening for acroyoga and movement communities.
After three months of quarantine, including a ban on all public meetings and large groups, and pretty much any kind of contact between folks who don't already live together, things in Denmark are (finally!) starting to open back up. It is exciting and at the same time, we wonder how this opening process will go. The shut down came suddenly and without much warning, but the opening process has been much debated and anticipated. For many of us, the reopening is a welcome relief to the isolation of distancing measures. And at the same time, we have become accustomed to the distance, to the largess of our personal bubbles, to waving rather than hugging, to cleaning our hands constantly. I use hand sanitizer on myself and the baby any time we touch ANYTHING outside of our apartment, whether at the store, the playground, etc. Some times when we have been out walking, and have not touched anything, I STILL sanitize our hands before going back into the apartment and then wash them AGAIN once we are inside. It is a level of caution that I have never used before and I wonder how long this feeling of needing to "get clean" will last.
Moving, Training, & Playing with our quarantine buddies during the shut down.
The impact of shut down
The distancing measures have obviously had some pretty giant impacts on our acroyoga and movement communities, locally and globally, many for the worse, some for the better, and probably many that are as yet unknown to us. There are likely ramifications of this pandemic that we won't see nor understand for awhile yet. Families are struggling, economies are suffering, and people are dying. It is easy to get caught up in the annoyances and inconveniences of the shut down and forget to acknowledge that there are many families grieving loss right now. We hold them in our thoughts. We know that many gyms, studios, and small businesses have had to close their doors. We know that many teachers who rely on group classes, travel-based train-cations, and retreats for income are struggling and may have had to find other jobs - they may never go back to leading movement classes again, and we have surely lost some great teachers.
We are a resilient community and there have been some positive things to come out of this scary and difficult time. Some of the positive changes we have seen
Online teaching as really taken off. We never anticipated teaching movement and yoga classes online - we enjoy the energy and feeling of a live group of movers too much, and have had too many opportunities to teach live classes, to consider or be motivated to try an online format. However, when the gym where we normally teach opted for online classes, we went along. Teaching online has stretched us in ways we never saw coming. It is HARD to teach online! Live-streaming and recorded classes require a totally new set of teaching skills. We have learned a lot in these past week about ourselves as teachers, about the teaching-learning relationship, and about our own best processes and practices. (Maybe this will be a whole post in itself...TBD.)
We have had the fabulous chance to take online classes with many teachers around the world who are creatively and generously distributing content. Talk about, "The world is my class room!" Never has there been this massive amount of movement class content flooding the net. And teachers have gotten so creative in the ways they use their home space, whatever they have on hand to keep moving. We took a super sweaty functional training class where the only equipment used was a water bottle. We have taken class from members of professional dance companies, teachers back in the States, in Europe, and Canada, and movers of all kinds that we would not have met this spring if not online.
We have reaffirmed that we really love moving with other people. For all the benefits of a global online community, we wouldn't trade our local groups. We will be very happy to get back into the gym, the park, the studio and move with our friends again. We cherish our local movement spaces and buddies more than ever. We miss you guys and can't wait to meet up soon!
The world is my classroom.
Manage our expectations
So, once we are given the green light, can we expect our acroyoga community to bounce right back? It would be lovely to think that we will all pick up right where we left off. But there are some considerations, as always, to ensure that we maintain awareness around safety and consent.
We want to stay within the guidelines set out by the local authorities, in our case, the Ministry of Health, and the World Health Organization, whose guidelines you can find here.
Accurate self assessment - Be aware that we are out of shape! Have you spent coronacation binging online classes and industriously building a home gym in your back yard? Or have you binge-watched Netflix and built an impressive library of cookie recipes? Be honest. For some of us this is the longest we have gone without steady training in awhile. If you have been ill, you may be weaker than you imagine. Grief and stress take a serious physical toll on the body. Stay present, focused, and conservative when estimating how long and hard to go when returning to jams and refrain from pushing others.
We want to leave space and permission for each member of our community to reenter at their own pace and in their own way. While some members might feel great about diving back into a jam, playing with multiple partners, having lots of spotters, and hugging everyone, others may not. For their own reasons, some members may want to maintain some distance, training alone with the group for company, training with one or two partners, etc.
How can we stay sensitive and receptive?
Reentering the world of contact could be intense and maybe even overwhelming for some people. We can help each other. How about....
We ASK PERMISSION before hugging, touching, or spotting another person.
We CHECK IN with ourselves and with each other regularly, especially if the spidey sense tingles and we get a verbal or non-verbal cue that ourselves or our partners are feeling uncomfortable. Is it the difficulty of the pose? Is it the intensity of training? Is it the level or duration of contact?
We CHECK BACK IN if we have taken a break or gone to play with someone else and are returning to a previous group or partner. Ask permission again. State our level of comfort and ask for space or time when we need it.
Maybe we SET ASIDE TIME OR SPACE for solo training space. We could advertise solo warm up and training from 3-4 and then partner jamming from 4-7, for example, so that those who know they don't want contact can schedule accordingly and not feel left out of the group altogether.
MEET OUTDOORS if weather and space permit. This could be something either required or encouraged by your local health advisors anyway. But it may also be a way of putting some members of the community at ease. Fresh air is good medicine.
We DON'T PRESSURE anyone to play more than, longer than, or with more people than they expressly and enthusiastically desire. Just because someone played with you earlier in the week, doesn't mean they should be held to the same standard today. If practitioners feel better wearing a mask or cleaning their hands several times during a jam, no problem. Let's acknowledge that even though the authorities say when we are safe to meet up again, everyone will come back at their own pace and in their own way.
Basically, we use the same sensibilities of empathy and compassion toward each other as we always use in acroyoga with heightened intentionality.
All of these considerations apply to other movement and partner work communities, too. Contact improvisation groups, dance teams, wrestling clubs, yoga classes, and everyone else who moves in community together will be going through the same things. It could be good to check in across movement communities and get ideas from other groups about how they will manage the reopening process with awareness and respect.
Stay safe. Stay sensitive. Have fun. We hope to play with you soon, friends.
Are you excited to get back into training?
How is your acroyoga or movement community addressing the reopening?
What are your reservations or recommendations about playing and training together again?