Cheryl Joins the Circus

For more than a year now I’ve been intending to take a circus class, so when my friend Steph (who attends circus classes regularly) told me that there was going to be an Intro to Aerial Class offered at Cirque-ability in March, I decided that it was time to take the leap.

I was nervous and excited, and feeling glad that the other folks there would be beginners too, rather than starting in a multi-level class where I thought I might feel inadequate or intimidated by other people’s skills. I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Exercises to help us get in shape for aerial? Trying a few things out on the apparatuses? Surely we wouldn’t be going upside down on the first night of an intro class, right? (wrong)

A photo of Cheryl hanging upside down in aerial silks in a circus studio.

Including me, there were 5 people in the class. I’d guess that two were in their 20s, two in their 30s, and then me at 46. The teacher was very supportive and encouraging right from the start, while also still challenging us to try things that we weren’t sure we could do.

We began with a warm up of stretching and then 25 jumping jacks. I’m not very flexible but am used to that from yoga, so I did the stretches in ways that worked for me. Jumping jacks are not ideal for my bladder, but I managed.

We started with silks – putting the two strands on like a backpack and then lifting our legs to let our upper bodies hold us up. I could really feel where the silks were pressing into my rather soft and squishy torso, but it wasn’t painful – just kind of uncomfortable and new. The next thing was to flip upside down in the silks. What? I wasn’t expecting this! I watched the teacher do it, and a few of the other students, and I decided to try it. It went better than I expected – I didn’t freak out or throw up. It was actually pretty cool and I did it a few more times.

Next up was the trapeze. This one was tough for me. The instructor showed us how to mount, get up to standing, and then dismount. She made it look easy and the first two students seemed to have no problem. Then it was my turn. Oof! My arms, abs and upper body as a whole were not quite up for this. The teacher helped me through all the steps, making things easier for me or helping lift me through some stages. It felt hard and uncomfortable. I made it to standing, but by then I felt anxious and just really wanted to be done. I made it most of the way down but then got my legs separated in some kind of disarray near the end and said to the teacher “This isn’t feeling ok, this is hurting me” and she told me to just let go and fall, which I did. The trapeze was close to the floor so I just fell a few inches and got both my legs on the ground.

The final apparatus we tried was hoop. This was fun and what we did felt pretty easy for me – we sat in the hoop, then brought our legs up inside and stretched our arms down to do “Man in the Moon” (or “Person in the Moon” as we called it).

The class ended with a chance for everyone to try one of the apparatuses a final time. I went back to the silks and hung upside down again, as it turns out that was what I liked best. Then we stretched and the class was over.

I enjoyed the class and appreciated how supportive the instructor and the other students were. When we were doing trapeze one by one, we all clapped and called out encouraging things to each other. So even though I felt pretty awkward on the trapeze I felt good about the overall experience of the class. My body got a good workout and I was feeling it for a few days afterwards. I plan to go back and do some more with silks soon, to see what it’s like.

In this, and in most of the other fitness activities I’ve been trying in the last 8 months, I’m working on getting past worrying about not being good at whatever it is I’m trying. At my current level of fitness, I’m not likely to try something new and instantly be good at it. It’s just not realistic. So I need to be ok with being not very good at something, and then perhaps getting to mediocre, and with some things I may eventually become “good” at them. But it’s ok if I don’t, as long as I’m having fun or otherwise meeting my fitness goals. So here’s to being not very good at things and doing them anyway!About me: Feminist, bisexual, LGBTQ health researcher, book lover, drummer, introvert.