A Guide to Jams: HOW to play with beginners? (part 2/2)

We often hear from beginners that jams are intimidating and alienating. This is a two part article about what YOU, as an experienced practitioner and veteran in your local jam, can and should do to welcome beginners. Part 1 focused on WHY you should play with beginners and part 2 focuses on the HOW.

In this article

We brainstorm tips for how you can introduce beginners or newcomers into a jam community while still making your own jam time effective and fun. We give our opinions on questions like:

  • What poses and how many should you teach?
  • How much time should you spend teaching newbies?
  • Can you teach even if you aren’t a trained teacher?
  • How can you multi-task teaching while continuing to train yourself?

What poses are good for beginners?

We recently wrote an entire article on this question which you can find here if you want to read the whole thing. However, we basically recommend 3-5 poses depending on how gung-ho and energetic they seem. Leaf, Bird, Throne, Foot2Shin, and Figurehead are our go-to beginner poses. These are simple to base, fly, and spot, not terribly intimidating, and so ubiquitous that they can go to another class or jam and use them with anybody, so they feel immediately connected to the larger community. Minimum effort and maximum reward – our favorite combo!

NOTE: Be sure to teach beginners HOW TO SPOT all of the poses you show them so that they can safely practice without you later! If you only base them through some things, you are seriously short-changing them on the education in acroyoga front!

Ancient-ish Acroyoga Proverb: Teach a man Bird an he flies for a few minutes. Teach a man to spot Bird and he flies for a lifetime.

How much time should you devote to a newcomer?

You don’t have to spend all day with them. In fact, don’t! You can easily overwhelm a beginner with info. Just 15-20 mins can be enough to teach them 3-5 poses and make a big difference in the level of welcome and inclusion they feel.

“But I am not a trained teacher!” debunked

This is not rocket-science. If you can fly, base, and spot these simple poses, then you can teach them! Just a few pointers to keep it focused:

  • Keep them safe – use spotters, use mats, go slow, make sure you are not just keep them from falling down, but also giving them the information to keep themselves safe later!
  • Keep them active – this is not a time for you to show off. You want them to see and feel as much as possible in a short amount of time.
  • Manage your expectations. They are beginners. They will look beginner-ish! Resist the urge to over-correct. Rather than talking a lot and giving a million tips and cues, just give the most immediately necessary info and then let them try it several times. If they came with a partner who is also new, you can base them or fly with them one at a time so they can feel an experienced partner, but as soon as possible, let them work on it together while you spot. Hold space for them to figure it out!
  • Be generous. This is an investment your are making in the future of your community. Make them the focus. Help them look and feel good about themselves.
  • Be patient – don’t rush them. Give them space and time to be nervous, anxious, to try it again and again. Guide them in processing questions, ie, How foes that feel? What do you need more off? Model being a patient, compassionate and trustworthy partner.
  • Be gracious – Don’t bully them. We all know the feeling of being bossed around. Especially small flyers know that it can be a fun ride or an uncomfortable experience to have a stranger pick you up, manipulate your body, then set you down. Don’t be THAT guy or gal!

Multi-tasking is a beautiful thing

When we play with beginners at a jam, we (secretly) use the time for ourselves, too! Shhhh! Here’s how:

  • We generally demo the pose first, but instead of grabbing our typical roles, we change it up. We like the advise from @upside_down_acro that if we can perform the pose with confidence in our atypical role, ie, if Sarah can base Martin in it, then it is probably a beginner-friendly pose. This also gives us a chance to talk-through our atypical role, which is a great teaching practice since we always want to be able to teach an acroyoga class solo in a pinch.
  • Then we base the beginner through the pose, but instead of just entering and exiting, we take the opportunity to do some leg presses, range of motion drills (see how far we can rotate in different directions), or fall and recovery drills (lean to one side, almost to the point of falling and then recover.) This gives us, the bases, a nice warm up, while giving the new flyer a chance to feel how far a pose can go before it becomes unsafe or unsustainable.
  • We always want to teach the newbie to spot, so we might put these first two ideas together: switch roles and then repeat the above drills while the newbie spots. We may also insert a long hold in a pose here and do any chatting, questioning, or processing with the beginner while we hold a pose.

Have we convinced you?

We hope you’ll try out our suggestions the next time you have beginners at a jam, send us pictures or tag us (@trainmoveplay on SoMe), and let us know your own thoughts about mingling with the newbies.

For more thoughts on teaching, check out our article, The TrainMovePlay Teaching Philosophy, and let us know what you believe about teaching, jamming, and building connection and community through movement.

Know someone who might enjoy this article? Please share it and spread the acroyoga love!

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