Saying No to Touch

Writing the last few posts for this site, I’ve wrestled with what to share. Being the president of ArkansasAcro, I used my duties and responsibilities to shirk off being personal with you. While I know there are people who do care about the business side of this community, this post is about being vulnerable. This post is about touch.

In the worst days of my pain, I did not want to be touched very often. The upper parts of my arms and thighs felt bruised most of the time. To this day, I don’t like using a purse or backpack often because of the red bruises that get left behind (fanny packs rock) when I’m in the middle of a flare up.

Not wanting to be touched didn’t always translate into not getting touched. Being friendly, especially in the south, tends to involve a hearty hug or pat on the upper arms. I would clench my teeth and smile with people who didn’t know me. If people found out I was in pain, I’d brush off their apologies. I’m bad at hiding my pain, so this happened often. “Touch is one of my love languages,” I would say. It made me uncomfortable being different, not wanting to accept what others accepted. Fibromyalgia wasn’t my choice, and it almost felt like I was losing my autonomy by being in pain.

In acroyoga, we touch each other all the time. Whether it’s base-flyer contact, flyer-spotter contact, or even base-spotter contact, we have to touch to practice. Another crucial part of acroyoga is communication. The more I found myself wanting to grow in my practice, the more I realized how important it was to say how a movement felt.

Even more recently at an AcroYoga Elemental Immersion, we talked about the concept of “body-comfortable.” In the act of giving thai massage or practicing therapeutic acro, both people should be in a comfortable place in their bodies. We were not just told a concept, though, we were taught ways to make it comfortable to give as well as receive. A large part of this was just communicating to be sure both people were comfortable.

While the pain from my fibromyalgia is under much better control, I still deal with bad flare-ups at least once a month. The bruised feeling in my limbs is gone most of the time, only returning in the meanest of flares. When it does return, though, I find I am better equipped to deal with it.

With acroyoga being one of the facilitators, saying no to touch has become much easier. I no longer feel like I’m losing my autonomy when I say no. Instead, I acknowledge that I am practicing it and gaining confidence each time.

Recently, I’ve been in a lot more pain. I haven’t yet figured out the trigger, but my joints have been swelling and popping more than I’d like. My skin feels achy, and moving does not feel good. Throughout this time, I’ve been able to say no to touch and yes to being more comfortable and safe in my body.

If you are one of the people who deals with a pain associated with touch, I want you to know that acroyoga can be for you. I still deal with pain, and some days I don’t practice. I do all of this with the confidence that my team and community will still be there to lift me up through it all, and respect my decision to do so. I also know that taking a stand for myself sets the example for others to do the same for themselves.

To my leadership team and community, thank you for your patience and love. Thank you for allowing me to be in less pain, and respecting my needs. Thank you for also being there, with feet held high, waiting for me to jump right back on and fly. We lift each other up in so many ways, and I am so grateful.