{January 31, 2013}   Namaste? Nuh-uh. Namago home.

I’d admired an aerial silks performer at the Bristol Renaissance Faire last summer and later became intrigued with an aerial silks class offered at Milwaukee Community Circus after interviewing founder Geoff Marsh for a magazine story. The classes are held in Walker’s Point, which is a bit of a hike from our house, so I couldn’t see how to fit the class into my schedule.

Then I came across a beginner aerial yoga class at Reaching Treetops Yoga in Waukesha, much closer to home. Aerial yoga is not the same as aerial silks, but it has similarities. Students use silk hammocks (instead of silk ribbons) hung from the ceiling as they work their way through a routine of yoga poses (rather than artistic poses.)

On the yoga studio’s website, I found this quote about aerial yoga from a student: “Not only is it fun, it feels good! My body doesn’t bend like this on the floor, but it’s a whole other story in the air. Surprisingly (I) didn’t feel dizzy but did get some color into my face after this pose.”

I’m not particularly flexible, so the woman’s experience alleviated one of my concerns. Plus, she said it would be fun and feel good. Why not?

Well, let me count the ways why aerial yoga is not for me. (It may not be for me, but, like pizza with anchovies, plenty of people enjoy it. The studio has a waiting list for this class. So don’t take my experience as condemnation of the class, instructor or yoga in general.)

Reason 1: It’s easier said than done. Of the six women in the hour-long session, two of us were first-timers. The instructor sometimes used Sanskrit (?) terms to refer to particular poses. Instead of trying to understand what she was saying, I watched other students and tried to duplicate their moves. I could do some of the simpler poses. But the more complicated ones had me shaking my head and laughing. (At one point I asked, “Are you sure this is a beginner class?”)

The instructor checked each student’s pose, offering suggestions and encouragement. “You can do this. Just roll your hip,” she told me. It sounded easy, but there was a lot more involved than a mere hip roll. I eventually got that pose, but it wasn’t pretty. My progress was slow, but I wasn’t ready to give up. That is until I tried the pose I’m calling the “inversion.”

Reason 2: I don’t like being upside down and never have. As a kid, I didn’t hang from the monkey bars by my knees like my friends. I couldn’t do cartwheels, handstands or back bends. As I got older, I quickly discovered I hated amusement rides that “looped the loop” and despised those that would pause the car at the top, hanging it upside down for a few moments before continuing on. Too bad I didn’t remember that when I signed up for this class.

The instructor talked us through the “inversion.” For this pose, the hammock is placed low on the back with a hand gripping each side of the hammock near the hips. One leans back so one’s head nears the floor with one leg stretched behind. The other leg is brought forward with knee bent and that ankle is wrapped around the silk. For someone with my lack of coordination, this is a feat in itself.

But we were not finished with this pose yet. Next, the instructor said, “Now take your hands and place them on the mat.” WHAT? I thought, “No way!” (Apparently I didn’t think it; I said it out loud.)

Hearing me, the instructor came over and steadied me, and at her urging, I reluctantly released my white-knuckle grip on the fabric and put my hands on the mat. I was hanging upside down…on purpose. I didn’t feel euphoric or relaxed or Zen-like, but I did it and didn’t die. That’s a major accomplishment in my book.

When we switched to perform the same pose with the opposite leg, I waited for the instructor to tell me to move my hands to the mat. But I think she was waiting for me to do it by myself. So it didn’t happen. And I’m fine with that.

Reason 3: It made me light-headed and nauseous. The class started at 6 p.m., and I chose not to eat dinner beforehand. It was a good move. The woman next to me, who said she had eaten at 5 p.m., had to stop after the “inversion” because she felt she was going to vomit.

I wore long sleeves as recommended, but the exertion (and fear?) had cranked up my body temperature. When I became light-headed, I took a quick break to grab my water bottle. The light-headedness, accompanied by nausea, persisted through our cool-down. I don’t know if it was my empty stomach, getting overheated, hanging up-side down or a combination of those things, but it took a few hours for my stomach to get back to normal.

Reason 4: It did not feel good. As we were leaving class, a fellow student who had finished her third lesson told me she didn’t feel well after any of the sessions. But she was looking forward to her next one. Perhaps four is the charm?

Unfortunately for me, the rest of my body was not as quick to recover as my stomach. For the next few days, I had pain in places I’ve never felt before. I Googled muscle anatomy diagrams to try to identify some of the sore spots. Was the pain along the top of my shoulder joint my rotator cuff? Were the tender areas between my lower ribs the intercostals or obliques? I don’t know.

Although the pain in my body diminished as the week wore on, my feeling of dread increased as the next aerial yoga session approached. Did I want to be a trouper and try again? Would it “click” for me after another lesson? Or three? Or 12?

Namaste, schnamaste. I decided I didn’t want to find out. I canceled reservations for the half dozen sessions I’d scheduled before my first lesson. I’m happy I tried it, but happier I’ll never have to do it again.

Is there an experience you’re glad you had but never want to repeat? I’d love to hear about it.


momtuft says:

You are so honest and so funny! I wonder if you will be glad when this year of madness will be over? Have I ever done anything I never want to repeat…. oh yes! 5 days on the Colorado river in a raft, on rapids and in heat. That was when I was young but even then I knew one time was enough! Perhaps you’d like to try? Sue

Thanks, Sue! Not sure about me, but I think my family and friends will be glad when this project is over…LOL. I’ll still have a bucket list to tackle no matter what. And “no, thank you” to the 5-day trip on the Colorado River. I white-water rafted in Colorado in ’96 and in Costa Rica in ’97. My clearest memory is wedging my foot under the side of the raft to keep myself from flying out. Five days of that sounds like cruel and unusual punishment! But try aerial yoga…it might not be so different. 😉

ellen says:

Ohhhhhhh Julie! I wanna be just like you when I grow up! or throw up! haaa!

Haaa! Then be like me and join me in the Polar Plunge! Swimsuits and icy water…what’s more fun than that? (OK, pretty much anything. But join me anyway.)

Dan Hounsell says:

Jeez, the Sirk duh Solay people make all that stuff look easy … Kidding. I wouldn’t and couldn’t even try this. (Bad knee, you know.) But you’re brave and open-minded enough to do it and share, so bully for you! What’s next? Ballroom dancing? Riding an elephant? Meditation? Make dim sum? Can’t wait!

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