AcroYoga is a practice centered on community, trust and communication. We can learn a lot by examining the taboo topics leaders will not discuss in public.
Acrobatics is intrinsically dangerous. People get hurt. As the fine print of the liability waivers say, we all accept that risk. But, if you try to quantify that risk and ask: How many people got concussions last year? What injuries have occurred at Divine Play or AcroLove or the many Teacher Trainings? Silence. AcroYoga maintains a media image of fun and play. Talking about injuries does not help sell what people are selling. Community is for the able-bodied. When you get hurt, go home and come back when you can play more.
Drugs & Alcohol
Professional acrobats understand that adding unnecessary risk to an already risky activity is stupid dangerous. Yet, in AcroYoga, as an amateur recreational sport, that is controversial. Ask senior teachers about drugs, and the response is an equivocal statement about “accurate self-assessment.” If you care about the risks, you are expected to ask your partners, every one, every time, in a practice where we all work with many strangers frequently. Some festivals have a strict sober & drug-free policy, most do not. Try asking a festival about their drug policy: see if they respond or delete the question. Talking about drug use does not help sell what people are selling.
As in the larger yoga world, some teachers treat their students as a dating pool and some students pursue teachers romantically. Public discussion of professional ethics and power imbalances are discouraged. As an amateur activity with no governing body, everyone decides for themselves what is appropriate. One student writes: “I’m tired of acro yoga being portrayed as a “healing” practice only for teachers to fuck their students on retreats - on the regular.” Organizations which certify teachers are silent offering no leadership. Talking about professional misconduct does not help sell what they are selling.
AcroYoga has a consent problem, both as a physical practice and as a social community. It starts in classrooms and jams with teachers who do not respect students saying No to simple things. Physical safety is endangered when people take risks without consent of their partner. New people can’t give informed consent when they don’t know the risks they are taking. As in the larger yoga community, sexual assault occurs. One woman wrote: “Sexual assault is a cultural NORM in this community.” Talking about sexual misconduct does not help sell what they are selling. What are AcroYoga organizations doing to teach consent?
AcroYoga cultivates an image of community, family, and play to sell festivals and retreats. As in yoga, it is more profitable to sell Teacher Trainings than to teach classes. As an unregulated amateur sport, anyone can call themselves a teacher and anyone can offer certifications. As in yoga, organizations and teachers exploit students for cheap labor. Try asking at a festival: Are all teachers and assistants paid? Ask what teachers are paid, well, that is taboo everywhere. The way to profit is to create a brand and run a multilevel marketing pyramid where your customers push your product and give you free labor. Talking about money does not help sell what they are selling.
As in yoga, AcroYoga subscribes to an authoritarian model of charismatic cult leaders whose behavior is not to be questioned. Tribal identity and loyalty are more important than facing issues. Circling the wagons to defend the tribe does not solve problems; it let’s them persist for years.
You may feel strongly after reading this. To dismiss this critique, check all that apply:
[x] Why are you so angry? #TonePolicing
[x] Who are you to criticize? #MakeItPersonal
[x] I’ve never seen this. #NotAProblemWhenItDoesntAffectYou
[x] You have a grudge. #Deflection
Helpful tips if this makes you uncomfortable and you want to discourage others from talking:
• Make a joke of it. Crude sex & drug jokes will both relieve tension and show your contempt.
• Question motives or character. Attack to distract from issues. Put critics on the defensive.
• Interpret nuanced issues as absolutes. Post straw-man exaggerations to simplify thinking.
• Be a language lawyer. Dissect every word. Demand proof for every sentence.