Ethics & Behavior in AcroYoga

AcroYoga with Chris Filkins

Have You Experienced Inappropriate Behavior from Others in AcroYoga?

October 27, 2014

In March of 2014, I was approached by a young woman who wished to discuss a man in our AcroYoga community who she felt was using his authority, status, and role as a base in the community to place women he worked with in compromising situations. She had felt pressured by him to engage in sexual touching. While she felt like she handled the situation well she was concerned that he was giving people new to the acrobatic community the idea that this practice is about sexual touching instead of play and community and physical fitness.

I told her that I could not help her deal with this situation as I didn’t want to be involved in any “he said-she said” situation.

She insisted that this was part of a larger problem and that she felt predators were moving into our community to take advantage of those of us who just wanted to play. She felt that I, as a teacher and leader in the community, would be able to recognize the issue and help her work towards finding a way to mitigate this concern moving forward. I told her that unless there were multiple people making these complaints I wouldn’t want to get involved. But if she wanted to bring people to me to tell their stories perhaps we could work together towards helping the situation she perceived as a threat to our community.

Now some 7 months later I am aware of at least 11 flyers who have made similar complaints about 5 bases in our community. Complaints range from inappropriate behavior to behavior that could have possibly resulted in the police being involved if the woman at the time had chosen to pursue it.

In recent weeks I went to the Divine Play Festival in Portland Oregon and one of the things I learned is that our community at Original Muscle Beach has developed a reputation for bases being “handy”. I was informed that flyers have visited us at the OMB and have gone home to tell stories about the behavior of some of the bases in our community. I was informed that all of us are being tainted by this. The occasion for my learning this was participating in the “Acrochats” portion of the programming schedule led by Ezra LeBank. I specifically chose to share what I have learned about my community over the past 7 months. And in the process I received a lot of private feedback from several quarters.

But at Divine Play I also learned some other things. One is that, according to my understanding, none of the leading organizations in AcroYoga seem to have a coherent, systematic, or adhered to method for educating its teachers and practitioners on the subject of sexual boundaries and personal safety. Nor do they seem to have a system in place for dealing with such complaints about teachers or practitioners. Secondly, I heard stories of teachers and monkeys in other communities where “handsy” inappropriate behavior has resulted in enormous amounts of hardship or difficulties for those involved.

It pains me that this has begun to happen in my community. (Or that I only just learned of it happening – although all the victims I have spoken to in this feel clearly that the problem is growing with the current interest in our practice growing around the world) But its even more painful to realize that we are not alone and that there are teachers out there preying on their students in this way and that there bases and flyers who feel entitled to make others uncomfortable because they see this practice I love so much as a doorway to sexual conquest.

In the coming weeks 6 of us in my community are working to create a public education program for our community to help address this growing problem. We have worked with many thought leaders in other communities to help us get a handle on what is happening and to get ideas as to how to deal with this.

And so as we embark on our campaign to raise awareness of this issue in the larger community I am asking those who have stories to share them with us so we have a better idea of the scope of this issue. If you feel like you have been the victim of an AcroYoga partner who has acted inappropriately and has been too “handsy” we would like to hear your story. We have no intention of sharing this information with anyone without your permission in advance. If desired, your identity will be completely confidential. The reason we are asking is that we are searching for stories from others to try and ensure our educational campaign touches on as many aspects and perspectives of this as possible. So by sharing your story with us you will be a part of helping us craft this message we intend to share far and wide throughout the acro community.

Please help if you have experienced inappropriate behavior which no-one should have to deal with in this practice. By working together to find commonalities and how to talk about these issues we can foster a better environment for all of us.

Christopher Filkins
Anya Muradian,
Ashley Witham,
Amy Priscilla Milan,
Cesar Sosa,
David Frison,

& with the additional support of others such as Kevin Scott Cannon, Kirk Angelo Blaker, April Barron Tucker, & Andrew Hammond.

You can send this to us through this email address

If you would like to be a signer on this document, share your support for this type of public education efforts, and/or be kept in the loop for our video release in the near future please drop us a note here:

Please share this with anyone you think might benefit from knowing this issue is being addressed.

This was originally shared on Facebook.