I fell in love with the lyra, also known as the aerial hoop, from the moment I first mounted one. I remember not being quite sure if I would enjoy lyra, since I had spent several months experimenting with different aerial disciplines, and was still finding my way among them. Here is a summary of the different aerial arts which I had tried, and my impressions of each one.
Pole – I took two pole classes several years ago, and though I was sore in places I didn’t think I would ever be sore in (mostly groin and lower back), I really didn’t enjoy the movements. In addition, the connotation of pole dancing is indelible in my brain, and I just couldn’t get past the feeling that I was a dirty girl for even taking a couple of classes. Both instructors I got were incredibly self-absorbed, and I found them irritating to no end. I also found it humorous that the students were encouraged to explore their sexual energy in the class, because at no point did I feel sexy. If anything, I felt completely foolish and awkward, and basically counted the minutes until class would be over. Yes, it was that bad for me.
Flying Trapeze – Last summer I signed up for a Groupon deal for a flying trapeze class at TSNY-LA on the Santa Monica Boardwalk, and moments after I did so, I had a split second of panic. I remember thinking, oh crap, what have I gotten myself into? Then I took that class in August 2015, and found the experience exhilarating. Once I was on the trapeze, I truly enjoyed swinging and challenging my body to move in new ways. It was the compromise I was looking for, since I had been unable to find adult gymnastics classes to accommodate my desire to return to the gymnastics moves I had learned as a child. I signed up for two more classes at Richie Gaona’s school because I wanted to gain more experience on the trapeze. Unfortunately, my nerves always got rattled whenever I was up on the board, on deck to fly, because that board was so narrow and so high off the ground. I just couldn’t get over being 20 feet up on the air, leaning far forward into the trapeze, while trusting someone to hold me and keep me from slipping off the board. It began to overshadow the joy of flying, so I gave it up.
Silks – I took one class at Aerial Physique, a nice facility in Brentwood which focuses on silks for its aerial offerings. The instructor was a sweetheart, and the class was fun, but my poor ankles did not enjoy the sensation of being wrapped in fabric as my body weight sank upon them for the foot locks I performed. My elbows and hands screamed in agony over the torsion which occurred when I set up for a trick which required me to grip the massive swaths of fabric. Though I enjoyed the beauty of the apparatus, I didn’t like what the fabric was doing to my poor joints, and I also couldn’t remember the complicated trick sequence the instructor wanted the other student and me to learn. This was the first experience I had with instructors who just assumed that you would pick up all the specific vocabulary for all the tricks you were learning, and it irked me. Why on earth would I know these terms if it was my first time taking silks? Grrrrr.
Static Trapeze – I took a class in static trapeze after falling in love with the lyra, so I expected that I would enjoy the experience. What I discovered was that for as much as I loved being on the lyra, I absolutely hated the static trapeze. The ropes were extremely rough and painful to negotiate during some of the tricks we learned, yet they were flexible enough to make me feel quite unstable while up in the apparatus. I did not enjoy the experience of twisting the rope around my thighs and risking significant rope burn and bruising, and my grip strength was definitely challenged by the gauge of the ropes. I didn’t click with the instructor at all either, so I scratched this apparatus off my list very quickly.
Aerial Cube – Now THIS is a fun apparatus, and I definitely intend to take more classes using this. Imagine an open cube, consisting of bars around which you can wrap your body and hang from. It was like being on the monkey bars at the park, and incredibly fun. The only caveat is that since there is a lot of metal, you are basically in a suspended cage, and if you don’t time certain moves properly, body parts like shins can collide with those bars and leave nasty reminders of your time on the cube.
Lyra – Love at first knee hang. Truly. There is something about the simplicity and symbolism of the perfect circle which has a strong appeal for me. The lyra also seems to be incredibly accommodating to many different body types and sizes, because I have seen people of all shapes and heights manage to wrap their bodies around this sturdy apparatus with more ease than some of the other aerial equipment. However, don’t be fooled into thinking that performing on a lyra is easy! In order to properly mount a lyra (or any other aerial apparatus, for that matter), you must have strong abdominal muscles and decent upper body strength. It took me three classes before I was able to properly do a straddle mount without cheating!
I took my first lyra class at the beginning of May at Aeriform Arts in Hollywood, and am still taking classes, though I have switched for the time being to a facility near my home. I have in fact lost count of how many classes I have taken so far, but it’s been more than a dozen now. Once or twice a week, you will find me swinging from a suspended hoop, enjoying the challenge and not minding the calluses which have taken up permanent residence on the palms of my hands. My back is wider and has more detail as a result of lyra, and my shoulders are also more developed. I don’t mind the fact that my elbows scream from the tendinitis which flares up more often now, nor do I mind the deep ache from my lats which asserts itself if I resume lyra practice full force after a few days of rest. It’s also incredibly empowering to find a new form of creative expression at the half century mark of my life, one which most people my age would be terrified of. I have learned many new tricks, including the Russian splits and Yoga Cat pictured below (no, that isn’t me, but I have performed these moves successfully a number of times).
Yoga Cat On Top Strop:
There is a good reason why the time spent on aerial equipment is referred to as flying, because I really do feel like I am flying when I am in class, free as a bird. I intend to continue this love affair for quite a while!