Why I Love Lyra (Aerial Hoop)

Crucifix on the lyra...one of my favorite moves

Crucifix on the lyra…one of my favorite moves

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.

Aerial 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!

straddle mount

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).

Russian Splits:

russian splits on lyra

Yoga Cat On Top Strop:

Yoga cat 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!

How To Bling Out Your Own Suit

Originally published on RxGirl on Saturday, 25 August 2012. The original post was published with white text on white background, so the only way to read it on the site is to highlight the text. To make things easier for everyone, I have copied and pasted the article here for you to read.


How to Bling Out Your Own Suit

Most of us ladies love the dazzle of crystals and sequins when seen on competition suits, but such embellishments can be pretty expensive, especially when suits are custom made and crystallized by a professional suitmaker. However, it is possible to bling out your own suit at home as long as you have a somewhat creative hand and a lot of patience. I have endured the laborious process of applying crystals by hand on three suits. Despite the fact that this was very time-consuming, it was well worth it considering the fact that I saved hundreds of dollars by crystallizing the suits myself.

You may be wondering where to purchase a plain competition suit. Good sources are eBay, Jagware, Suits You Swimwear and Chynna Dolls, or you can have a suit made by a professional suit designer (examples are Passion Fruit, CJ’s Elite, TameeMarie) and then apply the crystals yourself. Once you have your suit, you can determine what design you would like to apply on the fabric. You can get ideas from looking at competition images of ladies in suits you like, or you can go to a site like http://www.Dreamstime.com and select a clip art image. After this is done you need to make a copy of the design so that it is the appropriate size for your suit, and also make copies of the mirror image so that your suit design is symmetrical. These prints will serve as templates when you are ready to start mapping out the design. If you are very artistic, you can sketch a freehand design.

The next step in the process is determining the colors, sizes and quantities of the crystals, beads or sequins you want to purchase for your suit design. Rhinestone Depot is an excellent wholesale online site for crystals. I also like Artbeads but the prices are higher. Make sure when you place your order that you order extra materials just in case some of the crystals pop off. Generally speaking, you should only purchase flat-backed stones as they are much easier to glue onto fabric and much less likely to pop off.

There are two options available to you with Swarovski crystals when you are trying to decide how to affix the stones to your suit. Swarovski crystals come in a “Hotfix” variety which already has adhesive on the back, but you will need to purchase the application tool (which looks like a soldering iron) in order to apply the stones. The other option is to get the regular flat-backed crystals and use a fabric glue such as E6000 or Aleene’s Flexible Stretchable Fabric Glue. If you are using very small stones, you should have a pair of small angled tweezers on hand to pick up the crystals. Other supplies to have on hand are toothpicks (for setting a crystal in the exact spot where you want it and for cleaning off excess glue) and a piece of sturdy cardboard large enough to stretch out the fabric in your suit while you are working on it.

To begin the process, line up the crystals on the design which you have printed out. This will give you a familiarity with the design and also ensure that you have enough crystals to create the design. You can also place marks on the fabric with a washable marker so you have some guidelines. Put your suit on the cardboard in such a way that the fabric is completely stretched out. KEEP FABRIC STRETCHED WHILE YOU GLUE RHINESTONES AND ALLOW GLUE TO DRY! If not, the crystals will pop off.

Start at one end of the design, placing a small amount of glue on the back of the crystal and then pressing into place. For smaller crystals, you can use angled tweezers and toothpicks to move the crystals into their exact spots. It is a good idea to switch back and forth from one side to another to ensure your pattern remains symmetrical.

Peacock Suit I Blinged Out!

Most importantly, TAKE YOUR TIME! This will take HOURS and HOURS to do. Trust me, it really takes a while. When I crystallized the peacock feathers on the suit I wore in 2011 (pictured above at the IFBB North American, where I took a First Place finish in Open and Second Place in Masters), it took me a total of 38 hours to complete the work. I had no choice but to keep returning to the project over a number of sessions until it was completed. Then again, there were over 3,000 crystals, so I created quite a challenge for myself.

Once you are finished, you can celebrate your creativity and rest in the knowledge that you have a one-of-a-kind suit!

Wood Working In Bali

I recently was blessed enough to go to Bali for several days, and was able to visit Seminyak and Ubud for a number of shopping excursions. Ubud is known for its wood working factories and silver factories, so it was a dream come true for a wood carving and silver jewelry freak like me to visit. There are factories all over Ubud, most of which not only display the finished works of the artisans, but also feature the artisans at work on pieces.

One thing I did NOT like was how much the salespeople would hover over me as I walked through the stores. The best thing to do is to walk through a store without indicating interest in any of the pieces until you have determined which ones you are truly interested in purchasing, otherwise you will be asked incessantly, “You like this one? Give good price, not final price!” until you walk out of the store. The majority of stores will have what is called first price, which is the price they quote, but you are expected to haggle with the salesperson until you arrive at a price which is usually about 25% to 40% of the first price. Even so, whenever I would hear “6 million rupiah” ($500 US) for a 20 inch Buddha carving, I would think it was way too expensive and walk on.

One salesperson took the time to educate me on the different types of wood commonly used in Balinese carvings. I learned how to distinguish between hibiscus (which is always two-toned and has a slight reddish hue), coconut (a lighter, greenish, variegated wood), ebony, and mahogany.

Hibiscus wood

Hibiscus wood

Coconut wood carvings are in foreground here

Coconut wood carvings are in foreground here

Ebony wood carving

Ebony wood carving

He also informed me that there were three different levels of wood carvers: Student, Teacher and Master. Master carvings command the highest prices since the skill level of the artisan is the highest, followed by the Teacher and then the Student. I was thankful for the information because I discovered that a 24 inch Balinese Buddha wood carving which I have had for about 7 years was created by a Master out of a beautiful piece of hibiscus wood. Later in the day, I saw strikingly beautiful and ornate carvings like this life-sized horse:
Life-size horse carving

When I saw the gorgeous woodwork in Bali, it me wish I had a huge home with a real need for wooden sculptures and furnishings. If you love hand carved wooden sculptures and furniture with an ethnic flavor, you really should visit Bali.