These acroyoga safety tips might SAVE YOU!
The following steps to help keep your practice safe:
Accurate Self Assessment
Communication in advance
Falling and rolling drills
Blocking and catching drills
Knowing when to rest/stop
Spotting, when to use and how
I want to explain each of these in more detail, and how you can practice and use them to help keep you safe and injury free!
Accurate Self Assessment:
This is about being honest with yourself and your partner, and accurately learning to assess your own skills, capabilities and safety.
If you want to attempt a new skill that has some risk to it, first assess your own skills, and your partners skills in relation to the new skill you want to attempt.
If you realise that your skill in the progressions or similar moves is not actually that good, or not that consistent or predictable.
Then that is your clue in your self-assessment that you maybe need to take extra safety measures, or first master the progressions more before attempting the full skill.
I had someone the other day ask me at a jam to help him do castaways (a very advanced icarian pop), yet I had just witnessed him doing some very poor technique simple pops.
This is an example of poor self-assessment, as he could not recognise that he was not technically ready for the skill he wanted to try... (I gave him this feedback and encouraged him to work through the progressions first instead).
Communication in advance:
What I mean by this is it's too late communicating mid-movement or when something is already happening.
When working on dangerous skills or skills with some risk, it's important we communicate up front clearly, so everyone involved understands what will happen, what they are expected to do and how etc.
This is so essential because if one of you thinks you are doing a progression and the other one thinks its the full skill, the movements will be unpredictable and dangerous.
This also impacts spotting, often people request spotters or ask for spotting but do not clearly communicate with the spotter what they will do, and what they expect the spotter to do and not do.
So communicating all of this up front is pretty easy and quick to do, and can make all of the difference!
Falling and Rolling Drills:
Flyers take note!
Falling and rolling are skills that are essential to develop to boost our own confidence and safety when flying.
They are movements you don't want to have to use, but if you end up needing to use, they can make all the difference between a bad injury, and no injury at all.
There is technique to falling and rolling, and it can be taught and learned, just look at judo practitioners or parkour runners, they are all very skilled at falling and rolling.
My advice is to start small, and build it up by practicing regularly until it becomes a habit of muscle memory.
That way when you need to use it, you will do it automatically.
Blocking and Catching Drills:
Bases and spotters listen up!
This is an essential skill to learn as a base or spotter to help keep your flyers and yourself safe.
What I mean by blocking and catching, is training your body's reflexes to try to catch or block a flyers fall, especially when they are falling on top of you.
The aim with this is not necessarily to keep the flyer up in the air, but to reduce and slow the fall and the impact of the fall so that an injury doesn't occur.
If a flyer is falling towards your hands, consider blocking with your forearms to protect your wrists from injuries.
If a flyer is falling in L-base near your legs, try to slow and absorb some of the fall with your legs by resisting and slowing the fall down towards the ground.
I often see newer bases just completely drop flyers without any instinct to catch, block or slow the fall.
It's of course likely you might drop a flyer as a newer base (although shouldn't be an issue if using a spotter), but to drop someone without any effort to resist, slow or catch is not okay, that is something you should train and practice to make instinctual so it happens automatically.
Knowing when to rest or stop:
Fatigue, and your body getting tired and exhausted can occur in acroyoga the same as in any other sport or movement.
I use a method of diminishing returns as a good guideline for when to stop, and I also constantly try to tune in with how my body is feeling.
Diminishing returns means if I am practicing a skill or movement, and it is improving and getting better, at some point if it then starts to get worse and the performance drops off, that is likely a sign that I am fatiguing or getting tired.
I use that as an indication to take a rest or break from that movement.
Also with tuning in and connecting with your body, when you start to feel weak, feel a bit shaky, or your muscles are very pumped and tiring, then those are all indications and signs to stop or take some rest.
Spotting when and how to use:
Spotting as a simple guideline should always be used for skills that you cannot guarantee will be safe without a spotter.
This will of course depend on your level and experience.
if you are experienced with a skill, and your partner is too, you know the ways it can exit or go wrong, you can safely fall out, block or catch out of those exits if something does happen, and have done the skill successfully several times already together... Then you can probably practice that skill without a spotter.
If you cannot guarantee the safety of the skill together, then you should be using a spotter, or other safety equipment until you can.
It's also important that if the other person wants to use a spotter, but you feel confident that you can guarantee their safety, you should still respect their request to use a spotter and build up and practice the skill until they feel safe enough and agree to attempt it without a spotter.
In terms of how to use a spotter, it is important to have someone spot who understands the skill and the correct spotting technique, and clearly communicate in advance how you want them to spot.
I've seen many people spot a skill they have no idea how to, and they end up creating more problems and safety risks instead of helping.
So there you have it, these are my top tips for improving the safety of your acroyoga practice.
This is of course based on my personal experience and what I've seen in my own practice and in others.
There are of course even more tips and advice we could discuss on safety in acroyoga, but the ones I shared above are the bits I think are worth highlighting that are too often overlooked.
I think most of us can improve our skills in one of these areas if not multiple!
Then we can all be safer in our acroyoga practice, and help keep our friends safe too :)