Class 1: Aerial Silk Take 1
Over the last couple of years, it seems like an increasing number of people have started to ditch closed off, sterile gym environments in favor of physical activities that require a little bit more human interaction, play, and which push the body to achieve a tad bit more than just large bulging muscles and the ability to lift big blocks of 50 lb weights. .
The mind immediately goes to yoga – there really is no better exercise to build strength in a manner that does not neglect your breathing, mind and muscle limits. One of its fundamental pillars is of course, to listen to your body, to help it gain in movement capabilities and accomplish extraordinary feats of core strength through a mindful, meaningful approach based on a set of various still poses.
It’s a fundamental pillar of most oriental physical arts such as Qi Gong, and for good reason: attacking the body in a borderline punishing manner may well bring you quick results, but it does so at the expense of cartilage, joints and other crucial elements of the human biological structure that, unfortunately, are not invulnerable. Needless to say, overdosing on fitness also really does nothing to help the nerves – and I think we’re all stressed out enough without pouring additional pressure into our ‘me’ time.
Enter stage right, aerial silk. Come as close to flying as you’ve ever been …
If you’re feeling you need a little bit more oomph that your weekly yoga practice can’t provide you with, there are a whole array of performance arts that have become steadily more available at local studios worldwide. In physical education programs in schools, circus activities are being lauded for being challenging, engaging, and nurturing a love for movement through play. For the adults, trapeze, balancing exercises involving yoga balls, aerial silks, hoop, pole and the kind of deep stretching you’d expect to find in a gymnastics class have come back with a bang.
Among the new favorites there’s a few who’ve caught the fascination of many: aerial silk and aerial hoop – and it’s pretty clear why; what’s more fun than creating beautiful formations with your body whilst hanging upside down?
I find aerial silk particularly enchanting; it’s not only a work out – it’s incredibly fun, boosts confidence as you brave your fears and dive into poses hovering halfway between the floor and the ceiling, and best of all, it provides the benefits of multiple sports all rolled into one.
It greatly develops upper body and core strength utilizing your natural body weight, dramatically improves flexibility and increases body and mind coordination by having to constantly think of and arrange the two separate silks between your legs and over your body. Plus, as a long time dancer who’s given up dancing for a while, I can tell you that performing is one of those things that changes your presence forever, beyond the burst of endorphins you’ve become accustomed to from your regular exercise routine. Creating art with your body is intoxicating, it makes you feel powerful and alive: a winning spirit and mindset that accompany you through life in everything else that you do.
As other dancers will certainly understand, the urge to move will never die, but instead of going back to what I know best, I thought I’d give aerial silks a whirl – and perhaps demonstrate what it can bring to your body and life along the way.
I wanted to post my progress over the course of a couple of lessons at Pole Fit Dubai, a charming studio by the sea on the Dubai Marina where I can slowly train my body to get back to what it used to be capable of doing. With a little sweat and loads of help from their friendly teachers, perhaps I’ll get into a split again without breaking both my legs. One day I hope to achieve this kind of graceful flow …
The first few tricks they teach you center on learning to climb the silk in the first place (staying on the ground really defeats the purpose) and on safety: movements with the silk that lock your body in place, allowing you to shift your weight support from your arms to the loops you create over your feet with the fabric. My favorite though is the hip lock – I got to relax my body and slump over when my arms felt tired and wobbly, which, spoiler: happened a LOT – and hang like a monkey.
Of course, at some point the urge kicked in and I just couldn’t resist trying a pose! Generally, one should look quite graceful (note video above) while manipulating the silks and winding into position, but thankfully there isn’t a video to prove I was just struggling in a tangled mess before I finally got into it. Also, my hands felt like claws after only ten minutes but classmates told me I should be expecting that for a long while.
Stay tuned for round 2, and if you’re feeling inspired, check out their class schedule here, at Dubai Pole Fit studio.