What is it about AcroYoga that gives us such a rush of adrenaline? Is it the thrill of being up in the air, the heat of a fellow human’s body or the soul-capturing focus? Perhaps, and probably, it’s a combination of the three.
AcroYoga is a practice of shared movement, balance, gravity, and intention. On many levels, it is essentially the yoga of interpersonal connection. All relationships are based on the power of choice—be it with closest friends, odd family members, intense coworkers, or the incredibly discomforting mouth-breather standing behind you in line. After years of practicing AcroYoga with countless people around the world, we have found one thing to be true: When it comes to our relationships, we have complete agency over how we show up to participate, even when placed into situations outside of our control.
No matter the skill level—or even the actual skill—we are all working towards something in our personal practices.
In a solo-based skill set like yoga, it’s challenging enough when we’re ultimately the only one responsible for the level of our perceived proficiency. Adding someone else into the equation? Nice to meet you, Ego! My name is Vulnerability, this is my friend Fear, and we’ll just be sitting over here in the back of your head while you try make things look how you’d like them to feel. Don’t worry, we totally won’t silently judge you.
In other words, it’s easy for things to get messy when working closely with another person, regardless of the relationship. Next time push is about to come to shove, be honest with yourself: What do I want from this relationship? Am I focused on the task or the connection?
We’ve been teaching AcroYoga for years, and many of the challenges we see come up between people—be they novices just starting out, seasoned training partners, or just two talented practitioners trying to work together for the first time— happen when they share the same goal, yet they have two vastly different approaches to get there. Alternatively, they might have a completely different endgame in mind even though they’re physically on the same page.
Task Versus Connection-Oriented Relationships
The difference between connection-oriented relationships and task-oriented relationships is extremely apparent in AcroYoga. We always try to strike a balance between the two in order to truly soar.
When challenge arises, our drishti (focal points) can easily and unknowingly shift to tunnel vision—much like trying to hold your breath when driving through a tunnel. The world is temporarily suspended until we reach our destination. One is fully task-oriented when the only thing that matters is the skill. Both meaning and a sense of accomplishment are found upon completion of an objective. While it’s an incredible source of motivation when working solo, it doesn’t always translate into partnership, whether that task is on your mat or in your daily life.
Being connection-focused requires an ability to be present with others. For many, this is much easier said than done. Think back to the last time you ran into someone you haven’t seen in a long time. Even though you may have had a million other things to do at that exact moment, that quick hello turned into a hours-long deep and meaningful. While you may have fallen behind on the rest of your day, the satisfaction of reestablishing a secure connection still brings a smile to your face.
In comparing the two, it may seem that being connection-focused sounds more friendly and positive than task-oriented. Much like the relationships they serve, these states of participation are not black and white. It is essential to strike a balance between both sides—not just with your partner, within yourself as well!
Qualities of Task-Oriented Relationships:
Main focus: Leveling Up
Tunnel vision, time distortion (never enough or too much), only feeling complete when task is achieved, a strong focus on how things look.
Qualities of Connection-Focused Relationships:
Main Focus: Leveling Out
Present and attentive, time becomes less relevant, focused on the journey, partnership over completion, a strong focus on how things feel.
When working side-by-side, it’s possible for both people in a relationship to be fully task-oriented partnership. In order to work together with someone, however, mutual participation is absolutely vital—not just to the completion of the task, but to being able to pursue the actual task itself.
Yoga, in itself, revolves around an individual’s practice of mindfulness through movement and awareness. Even though we may study alongside others in class, it’s very much a solo experience based on our strengths, challenges, and histories. Finding connection through self-practice, in this case, can actually be seen as a task.
AcroYoga, on the other hand, can only be done with a partner. No matter how good the individuals may be, the connection is only as strong as the communication between the participants. Instead of quickly judging how the other performs, how can we better observe our own desires, abilities, and expectations in relation to our partners?
When asking for a connection, you are entering a relationship. For this relationship to deeply serve both partners, it must continue grow from a foundation of connection.
Relationships are a map, with a distinct beginning, a general direction, and an agreed-upon destination. The dotted line that we follow is connection, and many obstacles will befall the path. These roadblocks provide important opportunities for the participants to grow together or fall apart.
The tasks we face, alone or in partnership, can easily take center stage. While the excitement in completing something difficult creates feelings of success, the show must go on after the moment passes. The next time a relationship begins to lose direction, pause and compare maps. With just a quick re-orientation of task and connection, you may be surprised just how easily it can be to get back on track.
Photos by Wil Foster of Rock Candy Photo.
Seriously lighthearted and playfully grounding, Lauren Matters believes in healing power of connection through play. Tapping into the quiet strength developed over a lifetime of horse training and equine therapy with a degree in clinical psychology, her classes are a unique presentation of mindful balance and dynamic practice. If freedom is found in the dance between structure and flow, Lauren uses yoga and partner movement as the catalyst for those looking deepen that understanding with balance, flexibility, and power. Visit her online through her website, Facebook, and on Instagram.
Not all yogis are created equal. Daniel Scott is one of them. A yogi provocateur offering a fresh alternative to the traditional “yoga voice,” Daniel Scott’s classes are a lively mix of balance and improvisation, strength and flexibility, breath and body. With light heart and open mind, Daniel focuses on moving into postures, not through them. A globally renowned yogic movement teacher and AcroYoga instructor, Daniel enjoys long baths, street art, and good coffee. Deeply dedicated to sharing the immense journey between self-conscious and self-aware, Daniel Scott strives to answer an ever-present question: Are you moving or being moved? Visit him on his website, Facebook, and Instagram.