I couldn’t help but fall in love with fire spinning when I was introduced to it. I fell even more deeply into the art when I began practicing it. Initially, I thought it was the incredible fire burning brightly at the end of my spinners. It wasn’t long before I realized it was the “flow” of it all.
What Are Flow Arts?
“Flow Arts” is a term that encompasses a movement-based art form. Flow arts draw from various ancient and modern movement disciplines. You’ll see everything from Maori poi spinning to modern fire dancing to martial arts and tai chi, and around to hula hooping and circus arts.
Flow arts combine dance with creative movement exploration with skill-based prop manipulations.
“Poi” is one of the simplest and most common forms of the flow arts. It’s the practice of swinging two small weights around on cords. A poi set comes with one for each hand; flow is the key. It’s an excellent physical activity, and the challenge of starting a good flow and keeping it steady engages you in a way that it’s almost like meditation.
The Flow Arts
The flow arts definitely take on their own meaning for each individual. That’s because they are many things.
- A sport and leisure activity, simultaneously
- A hobby
- A new way to dance
- They allow one to explore and interact with the physical world
- Movement meditation practice
- Creative outlet
For many, flow arts become a serious technical pursuit of mastery because we want to harness the “flow.” The flow is a state of optimal experience; it’s also referred to as “the zone” or getting into a groove.
Many people I met in the fire spinning scene first encountered the Flow Arts through fire dancing.
There are different tools or props used in the flow arts, including
- Flower Sticks
Dragon staffs and buugeng are a couple of newer props added to the list more recently. Not all props or tools use fire; some are LED lights, while others aren’t on fire or lit up at all.
Chinese ribbon dancing is an ancient flow art practice. I also love watching contact jugglers; the spheres they use remind me of a scene from the movie Labyrinth.
The connection of flow arts to body and mind is powerful. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, also known by many as “the Father of Flow,” is a researcher and author in the field of psychology. He defines the Flow as a mental state where a person is completely immersed in a feeling of energized focus, complete involvement, and success in the process of an activity that they’re engaged in.
There becomes a mind-body balance that’s soothing yet energizing. For some, the flow can become somewhat hypnotic or trancelike. It’s like a motion-based meditation, and while the aesthetic value of flow arts is relatively easy to see, it also benefits us physically, mentally, socially, and spiritually.
The Flow State
Whether they started practicing flow arts for fun or as a hobby, many people find that it helps them feel more connected with themselves and others. Some folks feel more of a connection to the ethereal, feeling part of something greater than themselves.
Connection To Self
Something about fire spinning led me to find a deeper connection with myself. The best way to describe it might be that I felt whole or complete as if everything was flowing energetically inside and around me. When I’m spinning, I feel entirely present. There’s no thinking too far ahead or mulling over problems and stressful situations. If you’re not in the moment with the flow, the flow doesn’t exist.
The part of my brain that stresses and worries begin to quiet down. That’s when the peace of mind flows in. What we put into the flow comes back out, and accepting challenges that come with the process is a beautiful lesson in self-acceptance. We have to be okay with being bad at something before we get better at it, and that’s something I learned to carry through with anything else that I’m not great at.
While we might hear the art called by various names, the practice all comes back to the same thing: the flow. The mind-body connection makes us more aware of ourselves, our surroundings, and the people around us.