I love AcroYoga. It is a practice based on communication, trust, and loving-kindness. After twenty years practicing yoga, I discovered acro in 2007. Traditional yoga asana is solitary internal practice, on your own mat and in your own head, so I fell in love with the partnership, communication, and play doing AcroYoga.
After many years of daily practice, after many hundreds of hours of classes, workshops, and retreats as a student, I started teaching as a substitute for one of my teachers and discovered that I love teaching and sharing the joy of the practice even more.
A few months later I did not hesitate to pay $3,950 in tuition and spend two weeks at a Teacher Training, in hope of becoming a better teacher for my students and to join a global community of teachers. Here are twenty experiences I did not expect from my AcroYoga .org Teacher Training residential retreat:
- Living conditions including rats, raw sewage, and a yurt over 100° F
- Living out of my car
- Sleeping outside
- Sharing a bathroom with ten to twenty people; an hour a day waiting in bathroom lines
- Wondering if the living conditions were intentionally meant to bond us through adversity...
- Only to see how divisive it is when some have beds, bathrooms, and air-conditioning while others do not
- Having to go shopping for adequate food
- Being dropped to the floor out of a therapeutic pose on the first day after asking for a spot and being assured one was not necessary
- Being surprised by rules such as "No coffee" and having to ask permission to leave the site
- Being told repeatedly by faculty to shave my head
- An instructor screaming at me inches from my face bullying me to do something unsafe after I had said 'No'
- When requesting help from faculty, meeting dismissal and laughter
- Being told to make the best of it and not complain unless offering a solution
- Despite not everyone having a place to sleep, the faculty still made a priority to set time aside to set up the 'Merch table' to sell us things
- Sessions consisting of nothing more than listening to a CD of the New Age channeling of Abraham Hicks
- A session devoted to one co-founder processing the differences leading to the break up of the partnership with the other co-founder
- Despite the very high heat, recreational activities included a sweat lodge, a hot springs, and a wine tasting
- Two weeks dealing with sleep deprivation and heat illness, for which one person was hospitalized
- A final test consisting of co-teaching a workshop in a 90° room, while the faculty acted as students pretending to be drunk, stoned, sexually inappropriate, and disruptive, followed by sitting in a circle to say what we learned
- Being told afterwards: "If you want a refund, we will revoke your certification" which in my mind made it official that the price of being a certified AcroYoga dot org teacher was tolerating this abuse.
I attended http://AcroYoga.org/ AYTT8 in 2012. It broke my heart. Immediately afterwards, I was in shocked disbelief, unable to make sense of the disparity between my expectations and my experience. I blamed myself for not handling the situation better, for not doing something different. It took me a while to become angry at what I felt as a betrayal of trust. Over many months, I talked with the people that ran it, trying to understand their point of view, trying to find a perspective where it was all just an unfortunate accident with everyone acting in good faith. In the end, I demanded a refund and severed ties with the organization. I no longer attend retreats, but I still teach and love the practice and fly people in the park.
The event was three years ago. I write about it now in hope that it can benefit anyone who has gone through anything similar, and to encourage a discussion in our growing community on the important questions: How should we train our teachers? What does it mean to certify a teacher?
If you have taken a Teacher Training, share your experience here or privately in this survey so that future students can know what to expect. Did you attend a training which you can recommend? If you are considering a Teacher Training, here are some thoughts on the nature of teacher training, twelve questions to ask before investing and a comparison of some of the trainings to help you find one that is right for you.
“I have been deployed for a year and a half in a field hospital in the Middle East and even during that time I haven't experienced an overflowing toilet in my living space. Nor was I told to "find a space" on the floor to sleep on and be up for training the next day. Yep, I am saying that I felt more rested when I was living in a war zone.” - Alice Karrasch, AYTT8
"The sad part is, (literally, I was crying my eyes out during the retreat) that I actually thought I could get some feedback from the training. I went because I wanted to become a better teacher. I had been teaching acroyoga for many years and had already attended http://acroyoga.com/ TT, in addition to 9 other related teacher trainings.
Within moments of my arrival, I was in shock. Even though I had been warned by teachers from past trainings, it was way worse than I had imagined. From the horrible food, limited bathrooms, cult-like demands and above all, facilitators that either had no training in how to coach the trainees into growth or simply did not care and were power tripping, it was not a pretty sight. I was told that I had "three red flags" which apparently meant that the staff considered me to have made way too many mistakes [while practice teaching] and that I should feel really bad about it or something. I experienced zero communication on what I had done well or in what ways I could have improved. The last straw for me was when one of the facilitators publicly criticized me personally, which left me in tears.
After only a few days, I decided this was not worth my time and left. I was extremely sad and disappointed. Although I didn't even pay for the training myself, I was convinced to go by my teachers, and was offered to come and retake it another time and place, I declined. There's so many wonderful teachers and trainings around the world, find one that resonates with you!" - Natalie Weinstein, AYTT8