When I was about 9 years old I used to hang upside down from the stairs leading up to the first floor of our house.
They were the sort that had gaps in between each step, and if you walked underneath (where our kitchen was) you could use them as monkey bars and slot your legs through the gaps. I used to spend a long time just dangling upside down, or trying to move myself from step to step.
I hadn’t thought about that in a long time. That is, until last weekend – when I went to try my hand at aerial acrobatics.
When I was invited to the event by the wonderful community, Bloggers that Slay– a one hour class that combined aerial skills with fitness -there was no doubt in my mind that this was an event I would bend over backwards (literally) to attend.
Which is how I found myself tentatively walking up the stairs to Skylab studios, just off a side road right in the centre of Camden Town last Saturday.
Unsurprisingly, my inner monkey-child was in heaven.
Very exciting, if a little daunting. Skylab studios is clearly signposted and have made brilliant use of a small space. It’s homely and inviting, and not intimidating in the slightest. We all chatted for a while on some brightly coloured sofas whilst the previous session finished off. I don’t remember for the life of me what we talked about, because it’s hard not to be distracted when there are very professional-looking aerialists twirling away into splits over above your head. They’re regulars, we were told. And no, that’s not what we’d be doing.
What we did do:
It was a fast paced class, with Astra, the teacher, taking us through a warm up and some floor based body conditioning. The rest of the time was then divided into hammocks, silks and hoops. We learned the basic poses on the floor – tuck, pike, straddle and needle. All of which will be familiar if you’ve done any sort of gymnastics, trampolining or cheerleading.
We started with the hammocks- think of two silks ropes joined at the bottom to make a loop. This was the easiest of all three techniques because the hammock supports the majority of your bodyweight. Still, it was useful to work with this first, and allow yourself to get used to the feeling of tipping upside down!
Silks and hoops were a little bit harder. They both require some upper body strength, as well as quite a strong grip. You spend your time essentially practicing the positions that were taught on the floor at the beginning of the class. It sounds like it could get repetitive, but honestly it takes so much time to get it perfect (or even get it at all!) that the hour just rushed by. Plus the satisfaction that you get from achieving a particular pose or move is so satisfying that it’s worth the effort that it takes to get there!
Astra was very patient, and excellent at explaining the exercises and their progressions. I think it definitely helps if you have some sort of dance or gymnastics experience, as aerial skills require that consciousness of where your body is in space. A little bit of upper body and lots of core strength are essential. Don’t worry if you’re not used to strength training though- beginner aerial skills are more about static holds than big movements. You can generally get the basics even if you can’t do loads of push ups and pull ups! Plus there’s a knack to holding the silks that takes the strain off your grip.
I wish the class had been longer. I used to spend hours hanging upside down from the stairs, so I easily could have spent the whole afternoon practicing aerial. I reckon “all round” classes where you try a little bit of everything should be at least two hours.
Nonetheless, it was a great way to spend my Saturday. There’s something so brilliantly childlike about hanging upside down and swinging from the ceiling. It’s tough and tiring but totally worth it- although if you’re anything like me then aerial addiction is a very real side effect. I’ll be back!
If you fancy trying out your monkey skills (which I’d definitely recommend at least once!) you can find more information here.