FAQ to Flying : Aerial Silks

There is no question, at first glance the aerial arts is an intimidating sport. Once you step into the studio, you'll see aerialists wrapped in fabric 20 feet in the air, plummeting to the ground as s/he unhooks her inside leg from the silks, gracefully ending her descent in a hip lock without a single scream *cue confetti*. Your heart skips a beat as you have just witnessed what seems to be an act from Cirque du Soleil. As a beginner this either makes you excited, or nauseous. You feel your stomach turn, scared that you might end up in the hospital before you even make it to the end of the 60min class. To be completely honest to everyone reading this post, I am not here to say that aerial silks is easy. In fact, given all the things that I've tried in the world of fitness and performance (and believe me when I say, I have tried A LOT). This bags the number one spot as the most difficult sport I've ever done in my life. But still, I find myself completely in love with it. The mastery of it requires grace and strength, and a lifetime worth of practice. Something that even I am still in the process of learning. This article is for the aspiring silks aerialist. The daring ones that are looking for more. To answer some of the questions that stand between you, and your circus dreams. Here's a quick rundown of what to expect on the first day of aerial training.

Photo by Sprooscreatives

Photo by Sprooscreatives

Q: I am not strong enough to carry my own body weight. Do I need to have a pull up before I take my first class?
A: Not at all. I get this question the most. Even more than "Will I die?" LOL. Remember that everyone has to start somewhere. Even the most experienced aerialist started their aerial journey standing in the same position you're in right now, asking the same question. Your job is to make that decision to start. And it is your instructor's job to teach you how to do a proper pull up. Lifting your body weight for a beginner will take time, some pick it up faster than others. But eventually, given practice and proper training we will all get there. Having a pull up is NOT a requirement before taking class. 

Q: I don't have a split. Am I allowed to take class?
A: Yes! When I started I did not have a split, nor was I even remotely close to being flexible. Everything is practice. Everything is training. So don't worry about it and just enjoy the process. Each class will start with a warm up to prepare the muscles for the work to be done in the air. Your instructor will lead you through a series of stretches to warm up the hamstrings, hip flexors, arms, back, and joints. If anything hurts or is too much for you, stop and take it a notch back. At my studio, Polecats Manila we love beginners so we always make sure to keep them in the front of the class, especially if it's their first day. This allows the instructor to check your form, and to correct any bad habits during stretching or conditioning. 

Photo by Sprooscreatives

Photo by Sprooscreatives

Q: What do I wear?
A: The best thing to wear would be cotton fabric leggings. Slippery material like spandex will compromise your grip on the silks, therefore is a safety risk. I would also discourage wearing pole shorts to class. The friction caused by contact on the silks might cause burns on exposed skin. Since you'll be wrapping the fabric around your body a lot, it would be better to stay covered. So, wear cotton leggings and a tight fit cotton top. 

Q: I don't have any gymnastics background or dance background. Can I take the class?
A: Most of the students that come through the studio have no previous training in dance or gymnastics. I think that's what adds to the beauty of the sport. Everyone is welcome no matter if you've had previous training or not. I've had students in their 60's with no dance or gymnastics background, still able to do the same tricks a 20 year old in the same class would do. For as long as you're willing to learn, you can take this class. It is a plus, but never a requirement.

Q: Will I fall?
There is always a risk in any sport or activity, but if you do it right and listen to your teacher, you will not fall. For beginners in aerial silks, all of the tricks you will learn on the first day will be in an egg knot. Meaning, the silks will be knotted much like how a hammock works. This gives the student maximum support when they are on the apparatus. I can guarantee that there will be no flips, or drops on the first day of class (we will get to that in due time). Keywords : Listen to your teacher. It’s so easy to get overly excited, so make sure that you still listen and follow instructions and all will be well. Also, most studios have crash mats. If you're unsure about yourself, or trying something for the first time, it's always better to have a crash mat ready.  

Q: What should I bring to class?
A: Aside from cotton clothing. Make sure to bring a water container and a towel for when you sweat. It's going to be one tough workout make sure to keep yourself hydrated. Take of all your jewelry and accessories, or leave them at home. Lastly, no shoes in class. 

Q: How do I know if I'm in the right studio?
A: Choosing a studio is all a matter of preference. Ask yourself some quick questions. Do you like the people in the studio? Are you comfortable with your teacher? Are the teachers knowledgeable? Other things I usually look out for when I chose a studio are the following: (1) Are the instructors certified? (2) How's the equipment? (3) Location. Is it near your home or office?

This question is not black and white and there are many factors. To answer this, you just have to take class and see for yourself and experience it. Hint: Go to Polecats Manila.

Q: I'm scared. Is that normal?
Yes. Most of the things you do in life for the first time are scary. It’s a feeling not exclusive to aerial. But aside from fear, the experience is also exciting. We were not built to fly. Our bodies are designed to stay on the ground. Yet here we are.

Behind the fear, is the badassery of the fact that you are defying human anatomy. So yes it is scary. But it’s also rock n roll.

Q: I'm a first timer and I'm alone, is that okay?
It’s always nice to meet new friends. I say this seeing all the people that have walked though our studio doors, and observing their experience. The people you meet in pole class will be the best set of friends you will ever have. It’s a community unlike any other, especially if you literally trust each other with your life (Note: spotting is an important skill). You will grow together, you will love each other fiercely. I have seen this happen on countless occasions. No fail.

So yes. You can come by yourself. That’s all you really need. Also, yes first timers are always welcome to class.

Q: I'm afraid I might be too heavy. Am I still welcome?

The best part about aerial arts is that it is body positive. A quick look at the hashtag #moveallways #poledancenation or #aerialarts. You’ll see people of all shapes and sizes. People of all ages, and backgrounds. All colors, all gender. One love — flight. There is no body goal in pole, and believe me I’ve done all kinds of workouts. There is no judgement in this community, and in the event that there is from the outside, expect that this army will rally for you. It’s something we believe in. A creed of sorts. That no matter who you are. Regardless of shape, size, religion, race, gender or past — YOU ARE WELCOME HERE.

Photo by Sprooscreatives

Photo by Sprooscreatives

Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments! I hope this gives you an idea about what to expect in class. I teach at Polecats Manila. Our main studio is located at the 22nd floor of Strata 100, F Ortigas Jr Road Pasig. Message our hotline 0917 700 7653 for inquiries on rates.

See you in silks class! :)