New Level System on the Hoop Cards

hoop cards levels

Our hoop/lyra cards have been newly revised to include colored triangles in the color denoting levels for the moves. So, I wanted to take a moment to talk about the level system. You can get totally nerdy with us regarding what goes in what level at our teacher trainings. Check out the schedule here. 

Green = Level 1

Now, just because it’s Level 1 does not mean it’s the easy for everyone. There are things that are considered aerial basics like holding yourself in a bent arm position that some people might take years to work up towards. Everyone starts at such different places of strength that it’s important to allow for a great variety of expectations. To help cater to populations that will take more time to get to inversions, I included a subset of beginning moves that are shaded light green. These are Level 0. The moves in Level 0 should be presented first to all students; these moves may be staple moves for the curriculum of students who come in with more weight, weaker arms, lower body awareness, etc. Other students are going to zip right through Level 0 and will be eager for everything in Level 1.

Here’s an example of a move in Level 0:

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Here are hoop moves in Level 1:

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Level 1 is designed to prepare students for inversions which make up the bulk of Level 2. Anything that can be done to help build grip strength, pull-up strength, hamstring strength and core strength while not requiring too much of it are the moves to expect in Level 1. As well as any pretty shapes performed from sitting and standing in the hoop.

Blue = Level 2

Level 2 is when students start working on inversion strength. They should come in ready for the skill by being decent at the froggie invert under the bar (Level 1), and show that they have sufficiently developed their grip and core strength. By the end of Level 2, students should be experts at inversions. They should be able to invert anywhere, under the hoop, in the hoop, in the ropes on top of the hoop, etc. They should be able to do various shapes in those inversions: ball, pike, straddle, splits, arched arrow, and many more.

While inversions define Level 2, that is not all that is in Level 2. Once a student starts to master inversions, it demonstrates that they have necessary strength for other moves and transitions for harder moves. One example is a transition around the outside of the bar called “around the world.” In order to do this move, a student has to fully trust their grip strength and have the body awareness to make the journey around the outside of the hoop. Even though this isn’t an inversion, it requires the skill set of inversions: strong grip that you can trust with all your weight, body awareness, and core control. So these are the kinds of moves you’ll see in Level 2.

Here are some examples of hoop moves in Level 2:

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Purple = Level 3

Level 3 moves are the moves that have a higher degree of complexity to them. They might require a combination of both strength and flexibility. The danger level might be higher than that of Level 2; they might have little room for error. They might require all the core control of inversions plus the ability to find a point of balance on the lyra bar.

You’ll see a great variety of moves in Level 3, everything from moves that depend on the hook of the knee to moves that depend on the hook of the elbow. You’ll see tons of ways to do splits and other ways to show off flexibility.

Here are some examples of hoop Level 3 moves:

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Red = Level 4

Level 4 moves are just plain hard. (They are moves that I am still working on myself!) They are the moves require extreme something whether it be extreme strength, extreme flexibility or extreme pain tolerance. Moves such as lion rolls require a very high level of shoulder flexibility and body awareness and control to execute. That’s a move I actually am finding easy these days, but I don’t know a lot of people who can do them. That’s how I knew to put them in Level 4.

If it’s hard to find an aerialist who can do a particular move, it’s a Level 4 move (when looking at the average aerial student population). You’ll find toe hangs, heel hangs, y-scale, and more all here.

Here are some examples of Level 4 hoop moves:

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Rebekah Leach loves talking all about curriculum at teacher trainings. Check out her teaching schedule at

Find out more about the lyra/hoop cards here. 


Balancing Teaching and Self Part II: Your Own Training Time

If you are an aerial teacher, there comes a point where your priorities shift from your own development to that of developing other people. But, most of us always have a higher place we want to be when it comes to our bodies. Just because you are a teacher does not mean the work of your own body is done. This is not ballet where the teacher is assumed retired and done dancing now that they teach. A circus life never ends. Never retires. You will forever have a higher vision of where your body could take you. It’s why you started this journey in the first place, right?

As for fitting in your own training time, it must be done! And it can be HARD. In fact, I am writing this to preach to myself because I am currently skipping my own training time to write this article. I was simply demotivated to work out, and I felt like writing instead. I am hoping to uncover some hidden secrets as I write out my thoughts. If nothing else, I’ll feel like a total hypocrite if I don’t take my own advice. So telling you to work out will make me work out.  haha!

First, decide which camp you are in: Do you need a separate day for your own training apart from your teaching days OR do you need to stay late and bust out a workout after your teaching hours? If you want to optimize the time in your life, it makes sense to workout on the days that you are already at the studio, plus warm from teaching class (or at least, quazi-warm). If you feel too tired or demotivated after teaching to do your own workouts, either push through anyway (you’ll get that second wind!) or come back another day.

For myself, I find that my need for days away from the studio supersedes my need for days devoted to my own training, so I have decided that I will self-train on my teaching days. That means I have 4 days of the week that I need to make it happen.

Now, you need a plan. If you don’t have a plan, guess what? You do have one — You have planned to fail. Pro-wrestlers and body-builders have a plan. They focus on a different muscle group each day. Personally, I like to set goals for aerial skills I’d like to achieve. I work on a different skill each day which ends up working a different part of my body each day. Here is a sample of my plan:

Mondays: I start with the weakest part of my body–my hamstrings. My goal is to be able to get a single knee hang on my left side. I can fake one, but I can’t do a real one with solid technique right now. I would also love to be able to do heel hangs on the trapeze or lyra. This takes a ton of hamstring strength. Even if I just do a few hamstring pulls on a resistance band, I feel like I’ve met my Monday training goal. Sometimes having a way to just do the minimum and go home is a way to make it work when you don’t feel like it.

Tuesdays: This is a day I focus on my grip. I already have hand-over-hand climbs, but I don’t yet have enough strength to simply hang on one arm with strong technique. Again, I can fake it, but it’s not safe. I want to be able to stay engaged in all the right ways while only holding with one hand. So on Tuesdays, I work on rope, doing a lot of momentum exercises and drills for grip strength.

Wednesdays: This is a day I like to focus on flexibility. After the birth of my second child two years ago, I completely lost my splits. It takes so much soak time to get more flexible; since I have the biggest time-block on Wednesdays, this is the day that I stretch. I use aerial yoga to incorporate the core and other strength exercises into my flexibility, so it’s not just passive stretching. It’s very active stretching for functional flexibility.

Thursdays:  Thursdays is the day that I teach some really fun choreography classes, so this is the day that my creative juices tend to be flowing a little bit more. I use this day to focus on creativity. Right now, I am working on a trapeze piece. It’s not my home-apparatus and so I’m not as comfortable on it, but it’s fun nevertheless. I have put some hard moves in the piece that I would like to work on (can anyone say elbow circles?!) and I’ve been having a fun time putting this together. If I don’t get enough time on Thursdays to work on my piece, then I will occasionally come in over the weekend so that I can keep up my work on the piece. Having a show to work towards always helps. That’s why I have shows at my studio every 3 months. It’s very motivating for me to continuously work on new work. :)

All the other days: One of the keys to flexibility is self-massage. This is one of the things I very much enjoy on my days off from aerial. I love rolling on foam rollers, sitting on heating pads while in a relaxing stretch, stretching out my hamstrings with lacrosse balls, etc. This kind of time is easy for me to get done. That’s why I’ve got my splits back on at least one side. Now if only my right leg would cooperate and my right splits would come back…

Keep in mind that sometimes you can accomplish your daily goals in bits & pieces. Maybe you don’t have a full hour to devote to your training. Maybe it’s only 15 minutes between classes. That is plenty of time to burn out your hamstrings in a quick knee hang drill. Or whatever the case may be for your body and the things you are working on. Your muscle can get worked in a matter of seconds, so take advantage of any time you have and push through.

“You will get where you are headed unless you do something different.” – No idea who said this quote, but I’ve always liked it. Where are you headed? Where are your habits taking you? Is it to the place you want your body to be? If not, change what you are doing. Make it so that what you are doing leads you to where you want to be. You will magically wake up one day more flexible and stronger…if the preceding 100 days were spent working for it.