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Power Imbalances in Acroyoga! (Have YOU Experienced THIS?)

This is a topic that warrants some deep analysis and serious conversation. Because it's important, but also because I believe it's addressable and changeable.

I've touched upon power imbalances before in some previous emails, but there's plenty to discuss here, and I want to do it proper justice, so if this goes on a lot I'll split it into 2 posts.

I was having a chat recently with Mel (the very experienced ladybase), about the topic of power in acro and it residing mostly in male bases.

We had a decent discussion, and it got me thinking about this topic and how we can improve it.

So let me start by explaining that in acroyoga partnerships, and the practice in general, I have personally noticed, and it seems to be a common consensus, that there is a power imbalance generally.

What I mean by power imbalance is that one person in the partnership has more power or control or dominance over the other.

How this shows up in Acroyoga is that one person has a stronger voice or opinion than the other.

Maybe they are more dictating the decisions, judgements and safety calls, or driving the direction and focus of the partnership in general etc.

Just to be clear this isn't only applicable to regular training partners, this is just as apparent in pairings in jams that haven't ever played together.

Also to clarify I am not saying this is always the case 100% of the time.

But I do believe it is incredibly common and widespread in our practice, and something that should be looked at and worked on (Hopefully these words/thoughts are a small step in helping that).

Maybe you're reading this and thinking, yeah there's some power imbalance in my partnership, but so what, why is that necessarily a bad thing?

My answer to this is a few reasons:

  1. AcroYoga at its heart is all about teamwork. Yes leadership is important in teams and in partnerships, but for true harmonious teamwork a balance of power I believe is really necessary. For mental, emotional, and physical empowerment, confidence and equality of both individuals.

  2. It's perpetuating this to others, if we teach in a power imbalance and always conduct ourselves unequally we are setting the same example to others, who will end up forming the same bad habits.

  3. If you have only experienced a partnership that is imbalanced, whether you are the one in more power or the one in less power, you maybe aren't aware how much better things could be in a more balanced partnership.

So let's assume we are agreed that this is an issue, then before we jump straight to a solution of how to fix it, I think it's helpful to understand why this occurs...

Firstly basing and flying.

These two roles have a very different perspective, and I hear many people always stating that the base has more responsibility, in terms of safety, as they have to always keep the flyer safe.

On one hand I feel that very much myself when I'm playing with someone, I feel a great deal of responsibility to keep them safe as I don't want to cause anyone or myself injury.

However I also hold the belief that everyone should be equally responsible for safety.

I think by making the statement that the base has more responsibility for safety it is disempowering the flyer in the statement itself already.

There is also the factor that the base has a better vantage point and is not moving around and flipping upside down, so it can be easier for them to objectively view and see the situation.

This can lead to an imbalance in power because the base can feel more validity that their point of view is correct. I have noticed this in my own practice at times, I sometimes think because I see more and have more information I am more likely to be correct in knowing whats working or not working etc.

The reality is that this causes an imbalance in power as well because by valuing our voice or viewpoint as greater than the others we are directly reducing their value.

The other reason power imbalance occurs is linked to genders and their typical roles in acro.

It's no secret that the majority of men in acro are bases, and the majority of women in acro are flyers.

The truth is that culturally and socially over time for better or for worse males have been more dominant in terms of power and in many aspects and areas of life, especially sports and relationships.

Obviously this is shifting over time, but so that we don't go down that rabbit hole, I want to keep this focussed on the acro.

The point is, this perpetuates into our practice of acroyoga as well, where men may be unintentionally taking more control and power in an acropartnership.

I think you can understand why then this power imbalance can tend to occur in acro.

I can certainly understand, relate to and have experienced all of the above things, from myself or from others.

(I hold my hand up and admit I'm not perfect in this area)

But the good news is that awareness is the first step to addressing and fixing a problem.

So keep your eye out for the next blog where I'll discuss the solutions and ways we as a community and individuals can address this topic, and redress the balance of power!


If you want to really improve your acro practice, learn more, or attend one of our retreats and events, then these are the best ways I can help you :)

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