In many cases there is a run before you walk mentality. I know people who have a fairly impressive hand to hand but can't L-base their grandma in bird. When they come to a jam, hand to hand is all they do, all they want to do. They balk at anything else, as if it were beneath them. I appreciate hand to hand and the work involved in it. I even spend a fair bit of my practice ... well practicing it. Having hand to hand as a skill in my toolbox definitely aids movement possibilities in a flow. That being said it isn't my end all be all. When others are loudly playing with hand to hand and moving all over a space with a ton of spotting and people and attention, I'd much rather prefer to be off in the corner working with a flyer on some really rad spins, pops, and holds. Sure occasionally that will include hand to hand but only occasionally and often lying on my back rather than standing on my feet.
It seems to have a lot to do with intention. Acro yoga itself is an interesting discipline. People come to it from very different places. I'm a yogi. I have an active practice and have been teaching for almost 4 years. I approach acro yoga as I do any other yoga, I consider it part of my practice. It isn't about attention or grand standing. For me its about connection and movement with another. That connection to me is the essence of the practice. I had one of my acro yoga students put it quite well the other day, she said "I practice all kinds of yoga and love it, but only in acro can I enter a room and have 2 or 3 hours pass without a single other thought." After all isn't that one of the basic fundamentals of yoga? However, many others come to yoga from elsewhere. From gymnastics, dance, circus arts, dare devil types, extreme sporters, the list goes on. A very different place from a yogi. You can visit almost any jam any where in the world and I suspect very quickly pick the two groups of people apart.
Its a meeting of two worlds, in that sense, around a common goal. After all, acro yoga brings fun and play to people's lives. It also brings show. It is amazing to watch. That show and attention attracts many different people, even addicting many different people, yogis are no exception. Hand to hand then is one of the showiest, especially once you're standing up. Its way up in the air, can be seen from a long distance and grabs attention like no other poses do. People begin to crave it, that intangible success, and given the large amount of practice and effort involved its no wonder it becomes an obsession for some. Yet when I see it being practiced, it tends to be all I see. I don't see it moving to something else. I don't see it coming from something else. I don't see artistry, I don't see fluidity, I don't see peace. Its being done for the express purpose of show. Hand to hand and that is all. Rarely even do i see it being done in a beautiful way. Its usually rushed, usually wobbly, kinda scary, always loud, and a video camera is almost always involved.
For me I've seen acro yoga change. Or rather the emphasis of it change as it becomes more and more mainstream and popular. I see a move away from the yoga that gave birth to it, moving ever further towards acrobatics. I see it all as a fine line. I like to think within acro yoga you can move in and out of both worlds effortlessly. That is part of the beauty of yoga, it can be anything you need it to be. It isn't defined by the details its defined as a path to a result. A result you set and work towards. So yoga can be acrobatics, it can be dance, it can be mountain climbing or drag racing. Its for those of us who like our acro yoga with a little less hand to hand, that have trouble finding places to do and learn other things. At a recent divine play, the quintessential acro yoga festival, I took the dutch acro intensive. My community was exploring and playing with standing holds and hand to hand and I thought rather than just jumping in head first it'd be a good idea to learn the skills. I found the class very challenging. I also found it difficult to find partners. I was scoffed at for my hand to hand skills, and made to feel extremely uncomfortable. However I stayed and was lucky enough to find some great people who let me practice with them and learn. I was grateful for the opportunity and what I took back to my community was invaluable. The way I was treated on the other hand by some of the students was not acceptable. It was just the next day that I was in an advanced L-base class, I saw some of those very same people who had scoffed at me struggling immensely in standing acrobatics, struggling on the floor with L-basing. I offered to help but was received with yet more scoff as they left. L-base was for losers is what I imagined they were saying as they grumbled off. L-basing simply doesn't hold the same attention and fascination as standing acrobatics do for many people.
It was at once an enlightening and a growing experience but on the other side of it I saw some of the ugly. Its a view of different worlds colliding. No practice is ever going to be perfect. I love acro yoga, and it is a huge and hopefully life long part of my practice. I accept all the people it attracts and smiles it creates, from all walks of life, from doing to watching. It creates community and play like no other activity I've ever done. But can we ... maybe just for today ... do a little less hand to hand? Please!