Flying Fantastic has me wrapped in large loops of fabric while swinging, spinning and flying through the air. Its glorious and exhilarating
It is weird how the little mermaid is called Ariel, isnt it? She has access to water and a bit of land, but definitely not the sky. No wonder she is frustrated. I have many thoughts like this as I hang upside down, blood rushing to my brain. Despite the fact I am wrapped in and suspended by the thinnest material, I feel safe and my mind is free to roam. Such is the paradox of aerial yoga (Flying Fantastic, three classes for 45,flyingfantastic.co.uk/buy-credits). Restorative and beginner-friendly, it is suitable for people with mobility issues, and also me; it would not be unfair to describe this as yoga in hammocks.
Iyengar yoga has long made use of slings to push positions further, but aerial yoga is different derived as much from the circus as the subcontinent. Tutor Edel Wigan shows us how to wrap ourselves in large loops of fabric suspended from a rig, and trust them with our weight. It is a bit like trapeze. (Wigan devised her company, Flying Fantastic, with her husband, Chris, when they lived in Argentina where circus schools are 10 a penny.) The class starts gently, leaning on ropes, swaying in circles to learn to trust them with our weight. We jump inside and expand the cloth. Farcically, my fabric keeps swinging around so I am facing the back of the class. I have to crane my neck to see the teacher, flailing to spin back around. I look like a buffoon. But I feel incredible.
The loops of red fabric act as a hanging seat, hammock and harness, offering the chance to swing, spin or fly. Its exhilarating. As well as freedom, there is a security to aerialism. Whether looped around ones arms, or enveloping us completely, the fabric has always got you, as Wigan says. One can do yoga poses that would be too challenging for a novice in another setting, pulling oneself up into a vertical sit-up, or being gathered into an assisted toe-touch, or back-bend. A weightless shoulder-stand is relatively easy, especially with ones entire body supported. It feels glorious, too, akin to being a silkworm in its cocoon. Isnt this what we all want? A chance to let go of adult cares and simply pupate? When we come to the shavasana, lying horizontal and completely enveloped in material, it is the most peaceful floating experience imaginable outside of a Trainspotting heroin sequence.
Speaking of which, my experience isnt all nirvana. After the class, I feel ropey. I mumble an excuse and make my way downstairs, past people I barely see. My brain is on rollerskates. I kneel down at the nearest bin and vomit copiously. A roaring rain dance of half-digested banana, in front of a waiting class of trapeze students. As I upchuck my guts, one of the students sadly remarks: Its my birthday. I attempt to wish her the best, but all that leaves my moaning hole is a fleck of quiche.
I cant really blame the class. Taking pictures for this column requires me to swing around upside down for inadvisably large amounts of time. (In the class, everyone works to their ability, taking breaks whenever needed.) I didnt eat a proper breakfast, and am still recovering from a cold. I also hate to get up before 7am. And to be honest, my pants were too tight. So: the media, physical frailty and bad pants. Its a perfect storm.
Recovering at home, I stop thinking about the tsunami of vomit and remember the joy of the silken cocoon. The class was thrilling: a way of moving I had never known, or known I could try. (UK circus schools are geared to professional qualifications more than recreation, which seems ironic.) For me, the yoga element was neither here nor there. And anyone of delicate constitution should swing with caution. But how often do our bodies get to experience a different relationship to gravity? I felt sick watching the film Gravity, too, but it was still an amazing experience. I feel leaden on the ground perhaps its time to fly again. Darling, it is better, flying unfettered! But I might eat two bananas next time.
Birthday blues. And yellows
Apologies to the student whose joyeux anniversaire I ruined. Given a choice, Id rather have vomited in the recycling bin proof we dont always get what we want.
Wellness or hellness?
Wellness, hellness, wellness again? Swings and roundabouts. 4/5