Turn That Frown Upside Down…….Adventures In Aerial Fitness

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By Kim Evans

arielfitnessI am an upbeat person who is usually in a good mood, but I did something that really made my day. On a recent visit to the Phoenix area, I took an aerial fitness class at Tough Lotus in Chandler AZ. According to owner instructor Marnie Valliere the class is a combination of yoga, Pilates, suspension training moves done using an aerial silk or hammock suspended from the ceiling. You will work your entire body in the 3-D space across all planes of motion, upper and lower body strength will increase, you can stretch a little deeper and have better balance.

Walking into the space you see a dozen or more hammocks suspended from the ceiling over a cheerful black and white checkered floor. Each person is instructed how to sit in the hammock to get used to being airborne. Marnie explains the philosophy behind the class, how you will benefit by lengthening your body, how you can move through a range of motion stretch better or further when you are not attached to the floor. She talked about spinal decompression, the vestibular system and how aerial fitness can benefit your balance and sense of motion. And so the class started.

In addition to the large hammock, there are loops of varying lengths to use with your feet or hands. We sat in the swing and put one foot in a sling and one two three we were off! It was important that we all lifted up at the same time so that we didn’t crash into each other. It was exhilarating to have all of the swings moving to and fro, creating a slight breeze. It was hard not to say “Wheee!”

Marnie guided us through many moves, some with one foot on the ground, some up off the ground. It was so relaxing and freeing. Finally we moved to inverting in the swing. Wow…..that was fun, and a bit nauseating! We hung upside down for a while with our legs wrapped around the sling. We put our hands on the ground to stretch out. At the end of class we pulled the hammock from tip to toe and stretched out in the cocoon for quiet time. We all got out of our silks smiling.

As I went through the day, I realized that I felt pretty awesome.

As I went through the day, I realized that I felt pretty awesome. I felt loose, no pain and relaxed. Being in the swing was akin to swimming for me, another space where you can move freely and with ease. No wonder I enjoyed it.

I think this is a great complimentary training for stand up paddling. I confess, I have some issues with getting sea sick, and anything that I can do to help to acclimate my vestibular system and be more comfortable is something that I will continue doing. I was fine inverting, but shutting my eyes was not comfortable. I plan on taking aerial fitness classes again, and even buying a system to use at home. I also liked how my spine felt afterwards…..long and strong.

NOTE: It has been four days since I took the aerial fitness class at Tough Lotus. I was a little bit sore on Monday, but that is all gone today. And when I went to the pool for my swim I realized that I was loose and pain free. My swim was focused and strong. I think that aerial fitness got me back in alignment and worked out any kinks that I may have had. And that is even after sitting on a cramped airplane for four hours on Sunday. I found a place in the Grand Rapids area that has aerial yoga, and I am going to try that soon.

– Guest Author, Kim Evans, Tough Lotus