If you enjoy a challenging full body workout that feels more like play than going to the gym, then you need to check out aerial fitness classes at Brass Vixens in downtown Toronto. After an hour of flinging your body around a synthetic silk hammock, your forearms, abs and muscles-you-didn’t-even-know you had will all be screaming for mercy. But you’ll have a smile on your face because, well, it’s fun!
The Sunday class I was invited to was taught by Melissa G. whose teaching style I can best describe as straightforward, supportive and friendly. With my extensive experience in aerial fitness (one single class several years ago!), I may or may not have needed Melissa to both help me into... and out of... some upside down poses. There may also have been a couple of fleeting moments of panic where I tried to figure out how exactly to unwrap my ankles from the silks without throwing out my back or landing on my head.
I’ve done a lot of yoga, and even more dance training - but when you try doing all of the poses and moves you’re used to while swinging from a piece of (sturdy) cloth and metal hooks, those familiar poses don't feel familiar at all. But don’t let my description turn you off; even if your last workout was more of a lazy saunter over to your local cafe for a latte - you’ll be fine. Aerial fitness is for all fitness levels. If you can handle a light workout and you’re under 250 lbs (that’s the max the hammocks are certified to hold), you can handle an aerial fitness class. Every pose, every move, can always be modified.
You may even find, as I did, that using the hammock allows you to stretch muscles that you otherwise have trouble loosening up. For example, elegantly wrapped up in the silks I was able to ease myself into what Melissa refers to as the “ultimate downward dog.” It felt amazing.
My biggest barrier lay in trusting the equipment. Halfway through the class, I watched for a few minutes as my fellow aerialists stepped up into a standing position with both feet supported only by the hammock. It took me a little longer to get up the nerve and reassure myself that I both had the core muscles to hold myself up like that, and that the parachute I was stepping into was a stable enough platform to balance myself on.
Like any new sport or physical art, it takes awhile to get the hang of it - literally in this case. While some of my fellow classmates clasped their hands in a serene prayer position in front of their chests, I found myself mostly assuming what I like to call the “death grip hold” - i.e. squeezing the silks or the handles so tightly that my knuckles went white.
The class concluded with a few minutes of shavasana-like rest which Melissa describes as “everyone’s favourite part of class.” After pushing your muscles to exhaustion and stretching as much as you can stretch, it feels great to lie back into the hammock and gently swing - just like you would on the beach in some tropical locale.
The final verdict: after the hour-long class, my joints felt looser, I felt like I had better blood flow to my face (from the inversions, I can only assume), and I felt my usual sore-but-satisfied post-workout sensations.
About Brass Vixens: With three spacious studios in downtown Toronto, Brass Vixens offers pole dance, aerial fitness, twerking, burlesque, hula hooping and more. Follow them on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest, and like their Facebook page.
Katrina McKay is a serial entrepreneur and business coach, who very occasionally, acts as a freelance writer to highlight small business and brands she loves. She is best known as the CEO of Uplevel Solutions, Ohhh Canada, and the co-founder of Uplevel PR. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram for insights into lifestyle design and entrepreneurship.