By Chantal Brocca
Forget sweaty gym environments full of people full of themselves – the latest fitness trend involves much more grace, fun and work than you could ever get by lifting big blocks of 50 lb weights. .
And no, it’s not yoga – though that’s great. This exercise demands even more attention to your body, core strength and focus on mindful, meaningful poses: I’m talking the aerial silk fitness trend
This is the closest you may ever get to actually flying – or it least it will look that way. But like the swan gliding swiftly through the water, the surface appearance belies a lot of hard work going on behind the scenes.
I find aerial silk particularly enchanting; it’s not only a workout – it’s incredibly fun, boosts body confidence hugely, 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.
For example, it develops some seriously upper body and core strength, using only the natural weight of your body, and demands (and improves!) flexibility and body/mind coordination by having to constantly think of how to arrange the two separate silks between your legs and over your body without falling.
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.
The equipment and teachers may not be completely ubiquitous yet, but as popularity for the sport grows, so do they. I personally take my 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. But I know people in London, Paris and even remote, rural Peru taking classes – and loving it!
“Aerial silk has helped me become braver by having to face the shakiness and anxiety of being really high up on a fine string of silk,”says enthusiast Paradise Harirchian. “It makes me feel really strong and invincible, and even after 1 month of taking classes, my core is stronger, my legs are stronger and my arms are twice the size…I just feel really strong right now.”
So how do you get to that point? The first few tricks they teach you center on learning to climb the silk in the first place, and on safety. You’ll learn 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 move is the hip lock – I got to relax my body and slump over like a monkey when my arms felt tired and wobbly, which happened a LOT, by the way.
Of course, at some point the urge kicked in and I just couldn’t resist trying a seriously fancy pose! Generally, one should look quite graceful 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. But once the pose was achieved…well, you can see the smile on my face in the second image here!
Combining the grace of dance, the mindfulness of yoga and the strength training of Pilates, aerial silks is a great exercise for both men and women aiming to improve their flexibility and strength – and best of all? It’s the closest thing you’ll probably come to flying. Let’s get high!
Chantal Brocca blogs at Underneath My Silk.
First two images: Chantal Brocca. All other images: Jesus Alphides Ruphay