If you’ve ever been mesmerized by the sight of circus folks performing an aerial ballet, maybe you’ve wondered if you, too, could grab hold of a length of silk, pull yourself gracefully toward the ceiling and discover what it’s like to exercise up in the air.
“I really feel it in my forearms,” said Kelsey Maas, a 20-year-old exercise buff from Dallas who just started taking aerial fitness classes with Kayla Dyches at the Riot Hooping studio in Kingston.
“This is harder than other stuff I do,” said Amy Wolf, a 40-year-old triathlete from West Pittston.
“You guys do this for an hour? Holy crap!” said Lance Andersen, 41, of Exeter, a Crossfit athlete and veteran of “Tough Mudder” obstacle races who accompanied his wife, Susan, to a recent aerial class to experience it for himself.
Because Susan Anderson has been taking lessons for more than a year, she was able to climb two silk “tails” until she was close to the studio’s 14-foot ceiling and do some exercises there. Beginners, meanwhile, kept their feet on the ground for a good deal of the class — and that was hard enough.
“I am planning on taking a long, hot shower for about an hour when I get home,” Maas said after a routine called “table tops.”
For that exercise, she kept her feet on the floor, wrapped the silk “tails” around her wrists and leaned backward until her back and hips were parallel to the floor. From that position, in which the human body does resemble a flat table, she used her arms to pull herself up, without bending her elbows.
“There’s a little muscle here that you use,” Dyches said, pointing to the area below her shoulder blade.
Nobody denies aerial exercises are difficult, but the rewards include increased strength and agility, a greater awareness of the way the body moves and that confidence boost you get after trying something new.
“My goal is to do a handstand by the end of the year,” Maas said.
Another benefit to aerial fitness classes is the chance to combine athleticism with artistry.
“I saw a picture of Kayla on Facebook, and it was so beautiful,” Wolf said, explaining why she wanted to learn.
Besides all that, it’s just plain fun. Don’t believe it? Just watch people “invert” for the first time, squealing with the joy of accomplishment as they hang upside down and use gravity to help themselves stretch.
While some of her students simply want to increase their overall fitness, others might aspire to perform the way Dyches does. A former gymnast who studied at Sky Gym in Atlanta, the Hanover Township resident performs at corporate events, shows and weddings. Last weekend, she was booked to perform during a wedding reception at The Plaza Hotel in New York City.