I couldn't believe what I was feeling.
I hung upside down from a big metal hoop. My muscles quivered; we were about thirty minutes into class and my upper body strength (or lack thereof) was dwindling, but I carried on. "Do it for the gram. Do it for the gram," was my twisted mantra. I knew I looked really cool. I mean, awkward, but really cool. I was contorting my body around a giant metal hoop after all.
I first became interested in aerial arts in high school at State Drama Competition. An aerial arts gym would come to the convention and do a workshop with aspiring performers. The majority of the workshop was just partner work on the floor, but if you were lucky enough to get selected to work on the hoop or on aerial silks, you got to fly high. I never got to try it, because time always ran out, but I promised myself that I'd learn someday. For my high school senior project, I wanted to learn, but again it seemed like aerial arts were inaccessible to me. The closest gym was an hour away and classes were too expensive to afford regularly on a Starbucks barista salary. It wasn't until I moved to NYC and discovered Crunch Gym that I got to try it out and now I'm hooked.
Not going to lie, I was pretty confident going in. Other than the nerves of trying something new, this was not uncharted territory. "I'm a dancer after all," I thought haughtily. I expected a good workout, but not much difficulty executing the moves, I was in for a surprise.
Warm Up | 1. The Grip
The warm up was mellow, but effective. A few pull ups to engage the core and get our arm muscles warm and we were good to go; however, that's when it dawned on me that lyra is about upper body strength something I severely lacked. "Here we go," I thought.
Warm Up | 2. The Tuck
The instructor Brookelyn, told me that contrary to what you'd think, the majority of the work is done with your upper back muscles instead of your arms. The warm up was meant to teach us to engage those muscles instead of totally depending on our arms.
Delilah | 1. The Grip
The Delilah is one of the most basic skills in lyra. Here's the play-by-play: Here you'll see the basic grip. 9/10 you'll use this grip, one hand over the other, to get up into the hoop.
Delilah | 2. Kick Up
Brookelyn encouraged me to roll my shoulders back and engage my back muscles and core muscles to make it easier for me to hop up! To get up, you simply kick your leg up into the hoop. To begin, I was nervous to just go for it, but I found the more momentum, the easier it is to get into position. You will be sore after regardless, so may as well go for it!
Delilah | 3. Positioning
When I got into the hoop, I was a little awkward. Two things that Brookelyn pointed out were 1) To get my hip snug with the hoop and use pressure against my hip to help stabilize myself in the hoop. 2) In the Delilah, straighten my arms and allow myself to give into gravity, so I'm not overworking my upper body here. It also creates a prettier line for a nice photo opp!
Delilah | 4. Poses
Once you're secure in the hoop, you can try a bunch of different poses. The easiest for me as a rookie was releasing one arm and stretching it down! Get a better look in the video below!
Delilah | 5. Hop Down
What surprised me is that the most intimidating part of lyra was getting down from the hoop. I look at Brookelyn uncertainly like, "what now?" The trick is to climb your hands up into that original grip and to simply kick out of the hoop and hop back down. If you're not a big upper body strength person, here is where you'll really start to feel the burn.
Birdy Roll | 1. The Climb
Instead of hanging low, for the birdy roll, for newbies it's encouraged to climb your hands to the top of the hoop.
Birdy Roll | 2. Positioning
Once you're up there, it's important to sit one thigh on the hoop and put pressure against the hoop with your other thigh. The most important thing is that you're using your arms to stabilize yourself but still have a loose enough grip to make the big swing.
Birdy Roll | 3. Roll
This was the fun part that I half-expected to be terrifying. Lucky for me I had a spotter, which you really need the first time you try lyra. Maintaining a relaxed but secure grip on the hoop, I leaned forward and let gravity to the work. I engaged my core to help me end the spin. Afterward I just kicked out of the hoop like the way I did for the Delilah.
After learning a few basics, Brookelyn taught me a little combination that you can check out in this video along with a step by step and demo of all of the basics.
Brookelyn is an amazing instructor and encourages all of her students to start by walking in the door. She says that if you show up, you're already going to accomplish something. I definitely felt that. While I was in no way a pro at my first shot, I felt accomplished even getting up into the hoop!
I have always loathed the gym and classic workout routines. Desperate for some toning and strength, I tried to get myself into the swing of going, but since I've discovered lyra, I'm excited to workout because it's fun. I was astonished by how empowered it felt to use my own strength to create beautiful shapes and choreography in the hoop. I felt sexy, strong, and motivated to make it a habit.
Brookelyn, an advocate for out-of-the-box fitness remedies, has tried them all. From aerial arts to pole dancing, to dance classes Crunch makes these niche fitness classes available to the public for an affordable price. Check out everything they have to offer at crunch.com.