No sooner had OCJOG (Organising Committee for the Jen Olympic Games) Chair, Maya, casually suggested that I try all the Olympic sports and write a blog about them, than she had promptly effed off to Australia for a sabbatical. So when she returned to London, post-JenOlympics, I was keen to drag her along to some activities, for Maya was a sport hater, too. But a strange thing had happened to Maya during her year abroad, and like all of us who let the mystical force of physical recreation into our lives: it seemed to be growing on her.
Maya returned from Australia, her head full of odd sounding activities like 5k runs where you lob dye at each other and, in this, case yoga which is conducted whilst hanging upside down in a silk hammock. Or, as Maya wisely put it – exercise that doesn’t feel like exercise! Well, that was enough for me. I’d actually already seen Binky and Cheska having a go at aerial yoga in an episode of Made in Chelsea. On this basis I had suspected it was something daft, rich people did because it was a. new and consequently a bit exclusive and b. wasn’t particularly hard work, so I was sold on both counts.
But it’s not a gimmick, I’m told. The point of all this is apparently that the hammock supports you in achieving a deeper stretch (because you can stretch further without falling over). Surely that’s just cheating at yoga? Sounds like guff to me, but by all means’ I’ll give it a try. I’m alright at yoga and I quite like it as a form of exercise, though they lose me at the “Om”s and the “Third Eye” shiz, if I’m honest. What is a third eye, anyway? I ask my pal Nicola, a keen yogi. It’s basically the eye of the tiger, she tells me, which feels instantly less sinister. Eye of the Tiger, incidentally, was number one in the charts when I was born *fistpumps*.
We rock up at the London Academy of Poledancing for our Aerial Yoga class where, once in the studio, we’re promptly fitted to our hammocks, which hang from the ceiling and need to be adjusted roughly to arse-height so you can sit in the fabric. The hammock feels a bit unstable to begin with; you wonder how robust it can really be. But, it’s constructed out of a ginormous fold of silk, big enough for you to literally wrap your whole body in, which is what we start off doing, in a pose called “womb”. Strangely, I quite like being in enclosed spaces, which is good to know, lest I ever be forced into captivity, so I feel pretty relaxed cocooned in the fabric. But this is just the opening sequence, and there’s plenty more to be getting on with.
The “poses”, which are referred to, slightly creepily, as “inversions”, are influenced by yoga, pilates and gymnastics. They have brilliant names, like the totally legitimate dance moves of Dancing on Ice, which any returning followers will know, I’m obsessed with. You’ve got your “Booty wrap”, for example, which involves wrapping your hammock round your bum and flipping yourself over, the “vampire” and it’s rabid friend, the “bat”.
The moves are all quite different, though, which makes the class pretty varied. You’ve got some where you basically lie in the hammock and “fly” which, as you would imagine, is awesome. You’ve got slightly terrifying inversions where you hang upside down, which despite the terror, is still awesome and apparently pretty good for your upper body strength. There are others which are more like hammocky adaptations of classic yoga poses like the Warrior, which involves sticking your heel in the hammock and standing on one leg. It is at this point I realise the hammock is not a gimmick. This is because I am “achieving a deeper stretch”, which is evident by the pain and the fact that I am sort of falling over, hammock or not. We finish with a little lie down in our hammocks and I could honestly have a little nap at this stage.
My new sense that the hammock might not be a gimmick after all is confirmed the next day, when I feel as if I’ve been run over by a bus. But regardless of the intense pain I experience in pretty much every fabric of my being, I had a brilliant time at aerial yoga. It’s not a coincidence that all yoga teachers are ridiculously buff – it’s a brilliant strengthening exercise, so a bit of pain is par for the course. Anyway, I’m mad keen on the pain – it means I’m on the way to having a better arse, right? With aerial yoga, you leave feeling all elongated and light, and it’s so much more fun than normal yoga, because where else do you get to hang upside down like a bat?
Drop-in Aerial Yoga classes at the London Poledancing Academy cost £25, alternatively, six week courses cost £99.