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How to Juggle!
Juggling Tips for Beginners
Learning how to juggle is not as difficult as you might think! You just need a few fairly simple instructions to get started.
Juggling does take a lot of practice, however, especially in the beginning. But once you get the rhythm and train your arms and hands to toss the objects just right, juggling will feel much more natural.
In addition to being just plain awesome and fun, juggling can also be a form of exercise and meditation.
Some of the Benefits of Juggling
Juggling is good for the body and mind
Juggling is entertaining and cool, but there are other remarkable benefits.
While I wouldn't argue that typical juggling takes the place of going to the gym, you may be surprised to feel your muscles, particularly your biceps, working quite a bit. You will probably also notice some increase in respiration and heart rate. Indeed, if you juggle specifically for the purpose of working out, you can really get your heart pumping!
Juggling certainly improves hand/eye coordination as well as overall body coordination and balance. It is good for motor skills in the arms and hands, and focusing on proper stance can benefit the entire body, particularly the back and legs.
Interestingly, juggling has some meditative qualities to it. When your skill level gets to the point that you aren't chasing the balls around wildly, you can settle into an almost trance-like state as you keep the balls moving in a cascade. Juggling requires focus and concentration, which tend to settle the mind. Unlike a standard sitting meditation, juggling gives you something to do. This bit of distraction is a tremendous help in keeping stray thoughts away as you get into "the zone."
A Few Items to Get You Started
Square or round bean bags are excellent objects for juggling. You want something soft but firm that is the right size for your hand to easily grasp.
Once you become more accomplished, you may want to try lacrosse balls.
My first juggling bean bags and instruction book were from Klutz. I've had these bean bags for more than 30 years and still enjoy juggling with them! The book provides excellent, fun instructions for how to juggle at both the beginner and more advanced levels.
Choosing Objects to Juggle
There are several factors to keep in mind when selecting which objects to juggle. Of course you can choose balls as your juggling objects. Bean bags are another good option, since they have a nice feel and don't roll away when dropped! Using juggling scarves is appealing - they almost float in the air, giving you a lot more time to throw and catch. Kids, in particular, may like learning how to juggle with scarves because it makes juggling far less frustrating.
When juggling with balls or bean bags, it helps to have objects that fit in your hand in such a way that your hand naturally cups around to catch them. If the objects are too small, they're more difficult to grab, creating a lot more work for the fingers. A slightly heavier object is better than a slightly lighter one, since the weight also encourages the hand to naturally wrap around it. Tennis balls are okay, though a bit on the light side. Lacrosse balls have a very nice feel to them, both in terms of size and weight.
Juggling scarves almost float through the air, making them very easy juggling objects for beginners
Ready to begin?
The first step in learning how to juggle
Start with one ball, tossing it from one hand to the other. The ball should arc slightly, with the top of the arc at about the level of your forehead. Easy, right?
Once you feel very comfortable with the rhythm of passing the single ball back and forth between your hands, you're ready to start practicing with two balls.
Let's Make It Two! - The second step on the road to juggling
Start with one ball in each hand. Toss the first ball in your standard arc. As the first ball approaches the top of the arc, toss the second ball in the same arc pattern, slightly inside of the first ball's path to avoid a collision.
Initially, it is easier to just let the balls drop to the floor so you don't feel flustered by trying to throw and catch what may suddenly feel like a lot of objects. (You may want to use bean bags, which don't roll away when they drop!) The rhythm for this is "throw, throw, drop, drop."
Once this feels boring, work on catching the two balls: "throw, throw, catch, catch."
Juggling Exercise Video
This video is specifically designed with the health benefits of juggling in mind and provides instructions for how to juggle.
Are You Ready to Juggle Three Balls? Great!
Start with two balls in one hand and one ball in the other hand. Again, you may find it easier to simply allow the balls or bean bags to drop on the floor for now.
Toss the first ball from the hand that is holding two balls. Toss the second ball from the other hand just as the first ball is approaching the top of its arc. As the second ball rises toward the top of its arc, toss the third ball (from your first hand) and send it on its way, just inside the second ball's arc. Although everything is moving at the same rate as when you were tossing two balls, it may suddenly seem much faster and more chaotic!
When you're ready, work on throwing and catching the three balls. If catching all three balls is too difficult, just catch one and allow the others to drop to the floor. As you feel more comfortable, try catching the second and third balls as well.
Then add a fourth throw by tossing the first ball again when the third ball approaches the top of its arc. Keep practicing, adding more and more tosses to keep the balls in motion.
Once you are able to juggle more or less continuously, you can start to add some tricks! Try tossing a ball behind your back or under your leg! Instead of tossing the balls slightly inside of each other's arcs, send them on an outside path with a wider arc.
If you find yourself taking forward steps in order to catch the juggling objects, train yourself to stay put by either juggling in front of a wall or imagining that you're juggling at the edge of a cliff.
By forcing your feet to stay planted, your arms and hands will learn to toss the objects correctly to take off and land in the same plane.
Another Juggling Tip - There isn't as much flying around as it appears
If you look closely, you'll see that when juggling three objects, only one is really high in the air at a time. One object is always in the hand. The third object is either in the hand or has just been released or is about to be caught.
Jugging Two Balls with One Hand
Technically, this is actually more difficult than juggling three balls in two hands, since the ratio of juggling objects to hands is greater - 2:1 rather than 3:2.
Place two bean bags or balls in one hand. Toss the first object up so that it goes about as high as your forehead. Release the second object when the first approaches its peak. The real trick is trying to avoid collisions! For two objects with one hand, you actually want to toss them more or less straight up and down, moving your hand before each toss to send the objects along different paths.
Great Juggling Video - How to Juggle Three Balls
Now that I've rambled on, check out this video for an excellent beginning juggling lesson!