Fun Fitness: Aerial Fabric

She exuded confidence. Gracefully, she ascended the delicate silk fabric high above the audience. All eyes were on her as she contorted her limbs into jaw dropping and awe inspiring shapes. I was mesmerized and judging by the looks on everyone else's faces, I wasn't alone.

It's no secret, I adore aerial arts. I was first bitten by the bug at a women's conference years ago. Speaker after speaker spoke about our innate value and purpose as women. It was encouraging, stirring, and uplifting. You have probably been in this sort of environment; one where you suddenly believe anything is possible and you have the confidence to conquer anything. During the conference, the most beautiful aerial dancers would perform between speakers. To me, their grace, strength, and beauty embodied everything the speakers were sharing. They were making the seemingly impossible seem easy. They were fearless, flexible, and captivating. I wanted those traits to permeate every area of my life.

I forgot about it until one day before a salsa class. One of the dancers shared she was obsessed with aerial. She attributed her enviably toned muscles to her weekly aerial fabric classes. Not too long after that, I found a studio that offered different aerial classes and took my first class. From the time I took my first hoop (lyra) class, I was smitten.

As a person who HATES going to the gym but values my health and fitness, I am always on the look out for a fun, unique, and effective way to stay active. I found that and so much more in aerial. If you have been considering taking an aerial class of any sort, I whole heartedly recommend it. There is so much to choose from: silks/fabrics, hoop/lyra, pole, trapeze, hammock, rope, and probably a bajillion others I haven't heard of yet. It is a fun way to increase your upper body and core strength, while improving your flexibility.

What to Expect

Before we jump into what typical class looks like, I MUST warn you to wear the proper attire. Snug leggings or tights which cover the backs of your knees will save you from nasty burns. And don't forget a supportive bra paired with a top that you don't have to be concerned about spilling out of. I speak from experience. The last thing you want is to invert and realize your breasts have wiggled free for everyone to see... Don't say I didn't warn you.

Warmup and Conditioning: Floor Work

Classes usually start with some quick cardio. This might mean running round the room, doing some jumping jacks, or high knees; pretty much anything to get the blood flowing. After heart rates are up, it is time to work on strength, alignment, and flexibility.

If you have ever taken a dance, pilates, gymnastics, or yoga class, you will feel right at home during an aerial class warm up. Much of the warm up, stretching, and conditioning stems from these worlds. A combination of torture stretching and pilates and yoga based core work typically ensues.

Warmup and Conditioning: On the Silks

You might think it's time to start learning Cirque du Soleil worthy acrobatic feats, but not so fast. More conditioning! This time pull ups and more ab work on the silks is how your instructor will whip you into shape and strengthen you for the skills to come.

New Skills

Finally! The part you signed up for. Time to learn fun and fancy skills and tricks. This part of class continues to stretch and strengthen the joints and muscles. But what I love most is how it stretches and strengthens my image of what I am capable of. Expect to surprise yourself with your ability to do something difficult you have never done before and cheer others on in doing the same.

You will likely learn to climb, tie a few knots, gracefully descend the silks, invert, and some sort of contortion like bendy twisty (those are the technical terms, of course...) maneuvers. Body & Pole's Aerial Fabric page has some great video examples of common skills.

Cool Down

The last several minutes of class include a well deserved moment to breathe and stretch. Stretches targeting those rarely used but now cramping muscles in your forearms, hands and fingers, wrists, and shoulders usually close the class.

I always leave class feeling stronger and happier than when I arrived. If you are even the slightest bit curious, find a class ASAP and give it a go. I can promise you, fun times are ahead.