Active Living

Aerial conditioning: Because you've always dreamt of being in the circus

Aerial conditioning: Because you've always dreamt of being in the circus

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The studio at Blue Lapis Photo by Veronica Castelo
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Blue Lapis Light dance instructor Alicia Carlin (l) shows student Tolly Moseley a new move to try. Photo by Veronica Castelo
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Balancing on the silks Photo by Veronica Castelo
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Eventually you just have to let go of your fears and have fun. Photo by Veronica Castelo
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Stretching before class at Sky Candy. Courtesy of Sky Candy
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Stretching for optimal flexibility at Sky Candy. Courtesy of Sky Candy
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My fingers have almost recovered from a bout of what I can only assume arthritis feels like.  I was told to expect this after my first attempt at aerial conditioning which involves clenching silk fabric for dear life.

I didn’t enter the Blue Lapis Light studio expecting an easy workout. I know enough to know that core-focused workouts are a bitch.  But as someone with a few marathons and triathlons under my belt, I thought I at least stood a chance. 

That was a silly thought.

If you’ve ever been to a Blue Lapis Light performance or any other aerial show involving silks you’ve probably noticed the muscles of those swinging, twisting, and flying through the suspended fabric, are bulging out of their tights. Aerial conditioning is hard-core.

 

 

 “The only way you can fall and hurt yourself is if you just let go” 

“Everything you do targets your entire body and not just your big muscles,” said Alicia Carlin.

Carlin is an instructor at Blue Lapis Light and she can climb a silk with the ease of a monkey and the grace of gazelle. She won my respect after doing an upside down split several feet off the ground while tangled in the cloth.

“It’s just so fun,” she said. “It’s one of few exercises that requires your entire body and mind to connect.”

It certainly took my entire body and mind to climb a few inches up the silk while doing some twisty wrap thing with my foot – a beginners move.

“It’s not easy, but if you have a positive attitude you will get off the ground,” Carlin said.

My positive attitude took a nosedive the second Carlin started shouting out instructions that involved a flip in mid-air. I’m always up for a challenge but not when it involves setting myself up for a face plant. She quelled my fears, sort of.

“The only way you can fall and hurt yourself is if you just let go,” she said. “That won’t happen because when you are in the air your brain goes into survival mode and you hang on for dear life.”

Not exactly the best pep talk.

Truth be told, aerial conditioning is safe when guided by professionals like Carlin. My experience was pain free. In fact, I managed to avoid the number one injury – silk burn.

The idea of one day being strong enough to dance in the air with such finesse does leave me itching for another class. I can certainly see why silks and other acrobatic conditioning courses are growing in popularity – enough to sustain two organizations in Austin.

Blue Lapis Light and Sky Candy in East Austin both offer aerial conditioning courses for about the same price - $20 a class.

The major difference? Sky Candy offers you the opportunity to get down-right crazy and experiment with all sorts of apparatus including trapeze and rope. Winnie Hsia is one of the founders.

“We are more circus and theatre-centic than Blue Lapis Light,” Hsia said. “ We have the utmost respect for Blue Lapis as performers and teachers and love that Austin has multiple aerial communities.”

Once my fingers stop hurting I think I'll make my way east for an attempt at the trapeze. I’m not usually this adventurous but I have a newfound desire to see what I’m capable of doing.

I think Hsia said it best.

“We love those “ah-ha” moments when we find we can do something we previously thought impossible for our own bodies.”