Aerial yoga is a hot fitness trend right now and today we continue our exercise series with Jen Livengood of A-WOL Dance Collective here in Portland, OR to inspire you to get up in the silks!
Jen is kind enough to join us on the Podcast today and first we want to hear a little bit more about Jen’s studio in Portland, Oregon.
Jen explains that she is the director of a nonprofit arts directive that is called A-WOL Dance Collective. They have a studio in Portland’s Lloyd district with three teaching spaces. They offer classes to almost every age. Their classes start at age 4 (they even have some tiny tot classes for the 2-3 year olds now and then). They have aerial fitness classes and aerial skills classes. The fitness classes are things like aerial yoga, a flying fit class with trapeze bars, and various other conditioning classes to help more experienced movers target their workouts with silks and trapeze. The skills classes include mostly focus on building skills and vocabulary on the different types of equipment such as silks, trapeze, and lyra (hoops).
Some fun details about their studio:
-Raised ceilings (the highest is 28 ft)
-Sprung floors (for extra bounce and safety)
-Props: Silks (floor to ceiling lengths of stretchy fabric in a loop or strand)
-Props: Trapeze (various kinds)
-Props: Lyra (hoops)
Jen explains how silks are incredibly valuable in yoga. Not only do they act as a support and prop throughout the class, but they specifically offer beautiful spine stretching abilities that regular yoga can’t.
Who is aerial for? Who should avoid it, if anyone?
Jen explains that if you are nervous about aerial, try aerial yoga first. This is done at a very low to the grown height and the entire class is designed to help meet people where they are. For the most part, aerial is a great option to help people learn more about the practice and to make it their own.
How did Jen get into Aerial?
Jen found out about aerial when it was still very uncommon. She grew up dancing her entire life and when she was back home after college a woman approached her and said they were looking for dancers for their trapeze work. She auditioned and completely believed she was horrible at aerial but she LOVED the challenge. She was invited to be a part of Pendulum Company for quite awhile and through that experience, she met the other co-founders of A-WOL. They went on exploring themselves and without intending it to be a business, A-WOL was born.
The first year, they performed 31 times anywhere they could, just as aerial began to grow in popularity all over the world. They found rehearsal spaces and producing shows and finally people began asking for classes.
They first used an old warehouse in NE Portland to get started and eventually opened a more consistent space as their student interest grew.
Why is aerial such a good workout?
It’s playful and fun but also requires a great deal of core strength, upper body strength, and coordination, so it is a great way for people to get moving and growing while still having fun. Without realizing it, aerial is also a wonderful lower body exercise as well. It is a great option for those who have not found joy in the old school forms of working out. It’s a beautiful way to use your own body weight for a natural workout.
Two other things that make aerial awesome:
- Aerial is extremely expressive, so it is an extremely artistic exercise experience.
- Aerial creates a beautiful community of people growing and connecting.
Types of Aerial classes:
Aerial Yoga: Yoga with silks as supports for movement and stretching.
FlyFit: Workout using trapeze bars for both upper and lower body strength
Conditioning: Fitness strength class using many props and pushing flexibility
Fly: Strength class divided by age group that focuses on the use of silks
Rope: Strength class using a rope in the style of a silk
Lyra: Strength classes using hoops to increase flexibility and strength
Trapeze: Many different styles of trapeze arts for strength
Flexibility: Trains in flexibility for all with a strength-based approach
Floor Movement: Dance based classes put on by the founders
Workshops: Different creative/combination workshops and classes offered throughout the year
Teacher Trainings (Soulaira): Weekend workshops put on by two of the experienced aerial teachers. For those who want to learn to teach aerial and be certified.
How to find a great aerial studio for you?
- Know who did their rigging (professional?).
- Know how often equipment is inspected for safety.
- Look at teacher bios to see how long they’ve been teaching (suggest at least 3 years).
- Do they talk about safety and really highlight it?
- Avoid home-based classes or outdoor (tree) classes.
Jen’s final tip.
If aerial sounds even just a little bit interesting to you but you are feeling hesitant, just go for it! I’ve known so many people who have been empowered by aerial fitness and have seen it change lives and I encourage you to give it a try!
If you want to learn more about Jen and the A-WOL Dance Collective or about the classes they offer (almost 50 a week!), check out their website and be sure to follow both Jen and the collective on Facebook and Instagram. If you want to learn more about the Soulaira Teacher Training, check out that website, too.