(This article first appeared in the June 14, 2017 issue of The Independent Newspaper)
Aerial silks have captivated millions in the form of productions like Cirque du Soleil. Watching performers climb to the sky with such agility, flexibility, and strength is awe-inspiring; so inspiring, in fact, that I decided to go from spectator to participant. Suddenly, I found myself hanging upside down trying my first silks class.
Aerial Fitness and Hot Yoga Studio, founded by April Yakaboski, is located on 38 and 40 West Main Street in Riverhead. They hold their aerial silk tricks and conditioning class at CrossFit Impervious, located on 121 Main Road, due to 20-25 foot ceilings that provide an ideal setting for such “high” expectations.
Oftentimes confused with aerial yoga, which is a hammock, aerial silks are two separate nylon silks attached atop. With two sets of these silks, one for the more experienced participants and one for the newbies, instructor Candyce Paparo began to teach me the basics. Splits, potato tuck, pencil, pike, climb, and the much-anticipated straddle inversion.
Expectation versus reality?
I expected myself to be fearless. After all, what’s a few feet off the ground? I expected it to be mostly leg work. That’s where the silks seem to hold on. I expected to be contorting above with the greatest of ease. No.
Wrapping the dual silks around my wrists, lifting myself up, I wished I didn’t skip that gym class where they made you climb rope. Steadying between the swaying cloths, doing my best to stiffen my body for sturdiness, my arms and abdominals did all the work. From climbing a few feet into the air to inverting mere inches off the ground, the entire hour-long class targeted my core. Also, I quickly realized flipping upside down at any height is mildly nerve-wracking. Don’t try that at home, kids!
“You target core the most, which is hard with other classes. Climbing is typically hard for people to do their first few times. And to be able to get height takes several classes,” Paparo explained. Silk training for seven years, with four as an instructor, she recommends four to six classes as a gauge to see progression.
Beyond eye-catching, aerial fitness benefits both physically and mentally since it doesn’t feel like a workout. Being so preoccupied by the excitement of what I could do next left little room to think about if I was getting in a good sweat.
Nora Catlin, one of experienced participants in my class, has been practicing for seven years. “I took other classes so I could get stronger so I could do more stuff on the silks. It’s a moving target, because you do one trick and then you aim for another.”
Newer to the group, Kaitlin Watkins has been attending weekly for about six months. “Every class there’s an improvement,” she said.
Before the class let out, Paparo allowed for one more trick of my choice. A few inches higher, I thought, for a few seconds longer. Straddle inversion. My new favorite way to hang out!
Though it may take a while before I audition for the next Cirque du Soleil, for an hour I felt like a star.