In 2017 I had the pleasure of participating in something new and exciting – an exercise in movement my friend Ben, otherwise known as Ellio Blox, is now calling Co-Acro Movement.
I first met Ben when he was facilitating an acro-yoga session with a youth group from the Cross Cultural Learner Centre in my city. I was blown away by the activity that Ben had set out for this group of youth – when he talked about acro-yoga he talked about connection, support, trust and I knew this was something that I needed to experience. But more importantly, I knew that this was something that I wanted to bring to the folks that work out of Innovation Works, our local social innovation shared space. I saw it as an opportunity to build community, push ourselves outside our comfort zone and connect in new ways.
I knew that the session would be amazing, but I don’t think I was prepared for how magical it would truly be.
You might be thinking – “so you did a workout, big whoop“. But it was so much more than a simple workout. It was very much so an emotional, mental and of course physical practice.
At the beginning of our session, we sat in a circle and Ben talked to us about the process that was about to unfold. He asked everyone in the circle to share, in one word, how we were feeling. Some people shared words like excited or curious, and many shared words like nervous or scared. Everyone that joined came into the exercise not really knowing what to expect and the vulnerability in the room played a major role in setting the stage for the session.
Ben taught us that there are three different roles that a person can play in this type of movement: the Base, the Flyer or the Support.
We spent some time loosening up our muscles and then we went into our first activity – an exercise in trust. We got into groups and each of us took turns in the middle, crossing our arms over our chest and simply falling. The other members who were circled around were meant to softly catch and guide the person in another direction.
This warm-up in itself holds such a beautiful metaphor for our own personal journeys in life.
Once we got our feet wet, so to speak, we began practicing a few different poses. The airplane, the throne and a standing pose.
We could have very easily gone through the motions of these poses feeling a sense of pride in our abilities to overcome new physical challenges, but Ben was able to challenge us on a deeper level. I feel that I can speak for many of the folks present when I say that the process of discovering these position allowed us to discover some very powerful and important lessons.
What did I discover during this exercise?
There is something very powerful about human touch and eye contact
In this exercise we were forced to get comfortable with intense eye contact. In order to practice the movements we were required to focus on one another’s eyes, hold on to each other’s body parts in different ways and talk about one another’s bodies and our abilities. Being in this kind of environment created a level of comfort that you usually only feel with close relationships – we became fast friends. I think sometimes we get so used to creating this personal bubble that we forget the power of touch and the ways in which eye contact can make you feel safe, supported and connected.
The Base – we have this idea of who the base is. This is the person holding everyone up, They are often the one with the obvious strength. When we got into our groups we thought we knew right away who would be the base but as we began to experiment with switching roles, and with the support of others, many of us found strength that we didn’t know we had.
The Flyer – this is the person doing the active position. The most amazing thing about this position is that it requires you to let go and trust that the people you’re working with will support you and keep you safe. At one point Ben said “sometimes it’s easier to surrender completely” and I found this to be so true. The best flies are when you completely let go – you find your perfection in the act of surrendering.
Last, but certainly not least, the Support – Often times we have this assumption that the support person is the weaker of a group. Maybe they’re more introverted, work behind the scenes, have less physical strength or leadership skills… but this exercise provided a beautiful reminder of the centrality and power of the support person. This is the person who has the big picture in front of them and helps to guide you toward success – and although they might not be in the middle of the action, they are there to help lift you up, keep you from falling, and catch you when you do.
When we finished this workshop we came back into our circle and again and Ben asked us to go around and share one word that described how people were feeling. This time around people shared words like strong, confident, connected, community.
My biggest hope coming out of this exercise was that the people who attended not only enjoyed themselves and explored something new – but that they took their learnings into their everyday life. What I loved most about this experience was the feeling of community and connection – and the exploration of strength, surrender, trust and support. We all have opportunities to play these roles – whether in our personal or professional lives. And we have the opportunity to experience each of these roles in different situations.
We are never just a base, a flyer or a support. We have the ability to be all three.
I invite you to think about your world – whether work or personal. Where do you have the opportunity to be the base and provide a foundation for others to rise up? Where do you think you should fly and trust that your people have you? And where can you step back, support others and be ready to catch them if they fall?
I’d love to hear about it! Feel free to share your reflections in the comments.