On my schedule for today was an aerial yoga class, which I assumed meant a hearty yoga session using a silk hammock. It felt the perfect mix of working out, while dreaming of being in a swaying hammock on the beach in Mexico with a Corona in hand. I had researched aerial yoga classes online and seen the pictures of the flowing poses harnessed above the ground so thought I might be successful at this experience. Off to Aerial Revolution I went this morning.
I should have known I was in the wrong class when I didn’t see any silky hammocks suspended from the rafters. Instead, I found silks of fabric hanging from a rig point at least 30 feet in the air. I thought maybe part of the class was going to be tying off our own hammocks in the pools of silk – at this point I still have a zen mind. My fellow yogi’s were busy stretching and talking about the latest tricks they had tried in a previous class. Tricks? I don’t remember my yoga instructors referring to tricks, but rather poses. Maybe Aerial Revolution has their own lingo. The only other newbie in the class is an overly spirited flower child that was singing while she stretched. She announced how excited she was for the class after giving herself a round of applause. I’m giving myself a round of applause for just being there.
The warm-up solidified that I was indeed in the wrong class. The instructor asked us to run laps, do walking handstands and down dog worm stretches the length of the gym. At this point I’m longing for my Core Power yoga class, which always starts in child’s pose. After the grueling “warm up,” the fiercely strong instructor, Megan, invited us to chose our silk. I felt virgin white was the right choice since I was clearly experiencing something new, and I felt divine intervention was going to be necessary. The first directive, given to the flower child, the aerial mermaids and me, was to climb the silk, Russian style. That required us to wrap our foot around the silk and then climb up using the wrapped foot as a base for the other. There was nothing Russian about my first attempt other than hoping I was a Russian doll, and my aerial rock star was deep inside waiting to be discovered. The flower child climbed her way to the top of the rafters on her first attempt. I’m now less enamored with her daisy-filled life. Moving on to more advanced techniques (which for me was simply learning how to tie the knot that was going to decide if I was going to survive or fall face-first onto the mat) came with instructions to hook both arms around the silks and then flip our legs over our head. It made me think back to days spent on the playground, where I had no fear and was thin enough to fling myself around the monkey bars without hesitation. The 41-year old version of myself wondered again if my knot was tight enough, if my feet could actually get over my head and how I would possibly try to keep up with the daisy chain that took to the silks like white on rice. With the instructors encouragement, and lots of help, I was after 12 attempts, able to get my feet to heave themselves over my head and invert myself like an airplane. The instructor commended my effort and I think secretly expressed her delight that the hippo did not kick her in the head during the inversion. The silks at this point were so wrapped up that it was like waking amongst tangled bed sheets after a bad dream. I wondered if I just lay down amongst the silks if anyone would notice.
Our final exercise was to do an elevated split, which required us to create a foot hold using the silks on both feet. The darn foot hold requires you to weave the silk around your calf and then zig zag back and forth with the silk. I can’t decide at this point if my legs are now longer or my arms have become shorter because I can’t seem to get my hands and feet to reach within the forest of silk. The teacher keeps offering positive affirmations and reminding me that all students have to start somewhere. Daisy child has mastered the technique and has already moved on to the splits. Her first timers luck is now getting on my nerves. The foot hold offers a new challenge – loss of circulation in your foot. I ask innocently if feeling like the silk is a tourniquet is normal and the instructor confirms that it is. How do these aerial stars not have missing toes since they surely must fall off without any blood circulation? I pretend at this point to be in such awe of my classmates that I would rather watch than participate – the truth being that I couldn’t feel my feet, I never mastered the right technique for wrapping the foot hold and I was too embarrassed to ask for the 40th time, nor did I have the upper body strength to suspend myself any longer. The only joy that comes over me is the fact that we only had 6 minutes left in the class. I decide striking up a conversation with the teacher is better for my shaking muscles and lack of coordination than trying the candy cane pose all the fancy yoga pants are attempting.
The instructor does confirm that I am indeed in the wrong class, that this is an introductory circus arts class and not the “om” yoga experience I was attempting to have. She reassures me that aerial yoga is much easier, which I know translates into her attempt to tell me that I will prefer the harness of the hammock more than the jaw clenching experience of Russian foot holds and candy canes. A more experienced student pipes in that aerial yoga is a better place for me to start – was this her way of saying that every circus has a clown and I was indeed the clown of this class? Well, someone has to feed the elephants in the circus!
If you have profound upper body strength, have every confidence in a 30 foot silk being your life line and you have no fear of heights, then Silks 1 at Aerial Revolution is for you! I think I might stick to a hammock on the beach, sipping a Corona! Namaste!