You may have noticed that the aerial arts are becoming culturally popular. What used to be restricted to the Big Top is now seen on awards shows, on stage in musicals and at concerts regularly. When I try to explain what I teach, usually I say “like Cirque Du Soleil” or “what Pink does” because the average person now understands those references. The aerial arts have become mainstream! And they are becoming a popular option for the average person to have a fun fitness workout.
The aerial arts include apparatus that you can leave the ground when using. Silks is one of the most recognized aerial arts with two strands of fabric hanging from one attachment point where the dancer wraps the fabric around them to create gorgeous shapes. Hammock is the same fabric as silks but is hung in a sling (two attachment points up top with a “loop” at the bottom) and can be used for a passive aerial yoga stretch or a strenuous in-air tricks sequence. The less known hoop is a steel metal circle that is extremely popular because gorgeous shapes can be created with less skill and as skills grow the level of trick also increases to drops and rolls. Pole is a vertical spinning dance pole where the dancer can defy gravity and perform gymnastic acrobatic feats.
So why are women flocking to aerial studios around the world instead of traditional gyms for their workouts? These apparatus have a few traits in common that make them an empowering fitness tool:
- Thrill of a challenge. Yes, all of the apparatus have “beginner” level moves but if your idea of a fitness workout is running on a treadmill the aerial arts give you a much bigger learning curve and much more possibility for growth. You already are able to walk so running on a treadmill is a natural progression. However, when was the last time you had to control use of both arms and both legs with all four appendages doing different things? The aerial arts gives you a physical and mental challenge because they are inherently more complicated than most fitness workouts.
- Joy of accomplishment. If you ran on a treadmill you may feel really good that you ran farther than yesterday. If you’ve been building strength for 3 months and today is the first time you lifted your bodyweight off the ground, it is exhilarating. We hear all the time, “I could never do that” in the first couple classes, then a few weeks later we get to point out that she is in fact doing “that” and she radiates with joy in her accomplishment.
- Conquering fear. Doing something new is scary. Doing something that your friends don’t do routinely is scary. Learning to trust yourself is scary. Hanging upside down for the first time is scary. The aerial arts make you push past your fears. The aerial arts give you the opportunity to overcome your fears and the look on a woman’s face when she does her first silks drop is one of awe and adrenaline. It becomes addictive to feel mentally stronger and more resilient when you leave the studio.
- Increases strength. If you are in a well-written aerial program you will increase your strength. Body exercises are all the rage and the aerial arts are the ultimate bodyweight exercise program. Even when you aren’t able — yet — to lift your entire bodyweight there are a ton of moves that will start to build the strength so that someday you can. The great thing about the aerial arts is it builds all the stabilizing muscles and functional use muscles while also building big muscle groups.
- Builds confidence. Your body is beautiful. You are amazing. When you push through your fears and accomplish things you never thought possible you become more confident in yourself. The word aerial artists use to describe their craft most frequently is empowering. The aerial arts give you a positive interpretation of yourself and that newfound confidence will permeate all areas of your life.
- Need for play. “Adult-ing” is hard. The aerial arts give you the chance to feel like a kid. I call my studio a playground for adult women because, yes we do fitness, but more importantly we have fun. We describe moves like a double knee hang on hoop as “like you did on the playground” because it is extremely similar. As adults we need to take advantage of the times that just bring FUN into our lives.
These are just a few of the reasons the aerial arts are so popular. Curious? Come fly yourself to see how much being in the air can improve your health and life!