How to Be Judgmental When You Enter a New Studio

Sometimes, it’s a good thing to be judgmental. Particularly when your well-being (and maybe your very life!) depends on it. The goal of this blog is to give you practical tools so that when you walk into a studio, you can make a call for yourself: Is it safe to do aerial here? Unfortunately, sometimes the answer will be NO! It pains me to say it –because I want to believe the best from every human being and every studio–but some people have starting teaching aerial before their safety wisdom has ripened. Stay away from them bad apples.

First — Look Up & Ask Questions

Whatever the rigging is attached to should be able to handle the load capacity for EVERY point that is in operation that day doing aerial things. Here’s a great video to show how a drop can generate 900 pounds in a split second!

How safe are you going to feel on a system that is designed to hold 1,000 pounds? Um, let me answer that for you: back away slowly. OSHA recommends a safety ratio of 10:1, meaning that ideally, the system should be able to handle 9,000 pounds if you are going to be putting 900 pounds on your system. Now, generally, 5,000 pounds is acceptable in the aerial world for each rig point, but hey, higher is always better and safer!!!

Look at what you are hanging from. If you are unsure about anything, ASK QUESTIONS! Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If the owner is insulted, this is a red-flag! Any studio owner who has put years of research into best practices and thousands of dollars into safety is proud to talk your ear off about why their system is super safe, and how the engineers backed up their load capacity numbers well over 5,000 pounds. They didn’t just take some shady chain and loop it around the nearest trussing. (In general, aerial riggers recommend staying far away from chain. It is unpredictable in load capacity around beams and not suitable for most aerial rigging.)

Look at the Attachments

The big beam holding all your weight should look and feel sturdy. Next, we want to draw your attention to all the attachment points. If carabineers are being used, are they closed and locked? Are carabineers turned sideways or tri-loaded? Here’s an example of a carabineers that should NOT be used EVER for aerial work:

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I have seen cases of the above being used for aerial hanging. I would use this carabineer to hang my keys in my purse, not to hang my life. It’s a fine carabineer for other uses, but NOT rated for aerial. It’s working load limit is a dinky 180 pounds.

While many aerial riggers have a preference for steel carabineers, this is not law, and aluminum is okay, as long as it’s one that is rated for a minimum of 2,000 pounds (again, higher = better). Some red flags to look for no matter what carabineer is up there is side-loading. Side-loading a carabineer is a big no-no. A carabineer has different ratings based on how it is loaded and the best (not to mention safest!) is to always double check your rigging to ensure that carabineers are in their normal vertical positions.

Another no-no when it comes to carabineers is leaving them unlocked or unscrewed. This is a no brainer, but I see it happen a lot with new/less experienced riggers! No leaves it open on purpose, everyone can be forgetful. That’s why I teach my teachers that they have to go “clickity-click-click-it” every time in an annoying — but helpful for memory — way.  Having a routine that requires you to double check everything helps to avoid simple mistakes.

Screw-gate carabineers should “screw-down so you don’t screw up!” This helps for long-term safety as gravity can unravel a carabineer.

Another no-no for carabineers is tri-loading. I see it all the time, but it’s not how a carabineer is supposed to be used. It shouldn’t be done! Here is a great video from Vertical Art Dance (highly recommend their equipment and rigging services) that discuss this topic and more:

Thank you Vertical Art Dance for spreading aerial knowledge!

Tragically, this past year, Sam Panda was in a rigging accident and broke her neck from 13 feet up. I post the following video only to encourage everyone to seriously consider the consequences of faulty rigging. Thankfully, Sam Panda was generously supported and funded by the aerial community to support life-transforming surgeries and she is recovering just fine!

Warning: The following video displays the fall and may be hard to watch.

Look at the Equipment

Recently,  I visited a studio where the fabric had a ton of holes in it.  It was a high-volume, high-use studio, so it was a natural part of the game. Thankfully, it was run by teachers who knew how to conduct proper inspections of equipment. For small holes, the holes were sown up, sealed, and marked with permanent black marker. If the holes got too big or grew, then the fabric was retired. Everything was kept track of, which is an important part of running a large operation. I’ve heard all the stories including wooden bars of a trapeze breaking when someone landed with a little extra force (wooden bars are no longer used for general aerial classes), lyra breaking, rigging splitting and coming down, ropes untying, and more. You name it, I’ve probably seen or heard of it happening. Better safe than sorry. Old equipment should be retired. New equipment should be bought from trusted vendors.

Look at the Mats

First of all, make sure that mats are present!!! While mats cannot guarantee protection, they are sure going to help. When it comes to mats, aerialists prefer ones that are at least 8 inches in thickness. As always, the more, the merrier. The thicker, the better. The wider, the safer. Some mats are pretty dinky, making a small target to hope that your head lands on when you are swinging around 10 feet up. Look for generous sizes and that they are used WHENEVER possible. There is no reason to leave the safety of mats when learning new moves. Some cases are exempted when the performer becomes advanced and wishes to incorporate ground choreography and the mat gets in the way. But, this is an exception. The rule should be that in all general aerial classes, especially those were the participants are learning new moves and their feet are leaving the ground, there should be mats. And not just some thin, dinky thing that does nothing. A good, sturdy, solid mat. It’s a display of caring about the students and the studio.

Look at the Teaching Methods

The big things we are looking for here is warm-ups and proper progressions. Just holding some stretches is not a warm-up. You must do something that builds heat in the body and then you must get mobility in the joints through any variety of methods. More on great warm-ups can be found on a previous blog here.

When we look at the curriculum, what we are looking for is how assessments are made, and how moves are ordered. If day 1 for a new fabric class is cross-back straddle, this is a problem. This may have been the first move 10 years ago, but there has been a ton of progress in aerial education since then! It is now understood that cross-back straddle can be a very difficult move for many beginners and that proper care must be taken to build up the strength required for its proper execution. It goes hand-in-hand with straddle inversion strength which should be assessed for before a student works at this level. (There are always exceptions. You may have a strong gymnast who can handle a cross-back straddle in a private lesson on their first day on fabric. However, even in this case, we would assume that strength was assessed and that they are skipping levels only because strength was assessed and they passed. We are addressing the general rule of thumb for classes to the general population.)

Many aerial teachers of today are aerialists who learned fast and learned many advanced moves early in their training. When they go to teach beginners to today, they often are at fault for teaching the same moves that they learned first. Many students are not ready to go that far that fast. The more that aerial grows, the more we must grow our depth of beginning programs and beginning material because we are attracted more and more people from non-gymnastics backgrounds who may take quite the journey to find their inversion strength. We must offer them the proper strength-training regime so that they are building strength safely and slowly.

If a studio lets you learn drops on day two, this is a huge red-flag!!! Drops are the candy of aerial, and some studios think that by letting people learn them, they will be a booming aerial business. I’m sure they will, but they will also have a booming business with the nearby rehabilitation center. Drops and other high-level candy of aerial must be earned through proper progressions and body awareness growth. If you go a studio and think “This is too easy and low to the ground,” you’ve probably found a SAFE studio. Don’t worry — you’ll eventually be flying. No one is out to keep your wings clipped. Safe instructors are there to prevent you from jumping out of the nest before you have strong wings period.

Trust goes both ways. A students must trust the studio and the studio must trust the student. A studio can only trust the student by giving them one small task at a time to see how they handle it. If you are flailing at 2 feet off the ground they shouldn’t trust you to go 10 feet up. You shouldn’t get to fly 10 feet up without demonstrating you are trustworthy first. You may feel like your being babied at the beginning, but as long as you see other students who are flying high at the studio, stay with them. Once you pass the assessments and show you have the proper strength and control, you will benefit from their progression training. You will soon find yourself SOARING HIGH with wings that have been molded and chiseled in a way that only diligent training time can give you.

Some things to look for: When you train too hard too fast, your elbows will start hurting you. This means that you are putting too much weight on bent arms without first building up the strength in increments. A good instructor will have the answer to this right away. If not, e-mail me and I’ll send you my program to help prevent this and heal in the next couple weeks!!!

For parents, it is important to note that your child should not be practicing footlocks without first being assessed for proper ankle strength. When a child does too many footlocks without having firmly established ankle strength, they are at risk for deforming their growing bone structures. We have seen studios break out with an epidemic of foot problems due to having young students (under 12) on footlocks, and allowing them to sickle, not watching for strength or body awareness. Anyone can teach a footlock and a basic leg roll-up. Few people know exactly when and how to properly teach it.

As you can hopefully tell, I’m extremely passionate about proper teaching methods. That’s why I started the Born to Fly Teacher Trainings & Support Systems for teachers. While I do not believe that every teacher should be trained under our system, it can be a powerful tool out there to help raise the standard for aerial education. When looking for an aerial teacher, you can check on their certification at the following link: http://www.borntoflyaerial.com/certificate-holders.html

We have had people falsely claim to be Born to Fly Certified when they were not. It is always good to check on certifications. No one who is certified will mind. Quite the contrary. The will be overjoyed that you value their hard-earned certificate!

One last important note:

Our studio directory on this website does not endorse the listed studios, nor can it vouch for the safety or training methods at the various studios. Please become as educated as you can and start asking all the right questions as you enter a studio, listed in our directory or elsewhere. Be safe and happy flying!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 5 Rules for Having an Aerial Rig in Your House

For the first time in 8 years, I have a rig in my house. We just moved back to Colorado, and I picked out our house based on the fact that it had a living room with 17-foot-tall ceilings. As soon as I saw that, I was sold.

Even though I knew I was destined to rig in my house (how can you not with 17-foot-tall ceilings?!), I didn’t quite know how I was going to accomplish this goal. I have three portable rigs, but they are all like swing sets and require an exorbitant amount of space in their footprint, so I couldn’t exactly put them up even if I was desperate enough to want to try.

I have several friends who have rigs points mounted in their houses that look seamless and that’s what I originally wanted. We were going to have a general contractor around doing some work on our house (for other things), so he was the first person I asked.

“Will you put up a rig point in the ceiling for me?” At first he said yes, but as he found out more about aerial, he started getting nervous about the liability. He said that he would do it if I found a structural engineer to create plans so that way he could guarantee that it would hold the required loads.

Well, I was already working with a structural engineer for my local commercial space (AerialWorks Castle Rock), so I know exactly how much plans cost. And that made me want to search for another option….

I have been working with top-notch aerial riggers in getting my commercial space ready for use, and they suggested trussing. At first I was hesitant because at one point, I remember reading that the WLL (working load limits) on truss are low. And, sure enough, they can’t beat steel. But, turns out, they are going to be perfectly suited for all of my aerial needs. I know my loads, what I generate and what my friends and students will be doing. I’ve paired this knowledge with the span of each truss and what the WLL of each truss is, and it’s going to work!

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PLUS, the best part was working with Vertical Art Dance, which is who I ultimately ended up buying my truss system with. I had the best experience buying with them. They took time to get all the measurements of my living room and helped me design a T-shape that frames my window on one wall, and hides behind the buffet table on the other side of the room.

I really wanted adjustable points that were going to fit my budget and Vertical Art Dance even taught me new methods of rigging! For the rig in my house, I’m using a hollow block on my rope that adjusts easily and the rigging didn’t cost a fortune. (More blogs later about rigging.)

Now the truss on the other hand… I’ll admit it’s not cheap. But it’s an investment that is going to PAY OFF. I’ve already used it to prepare for several performances. I’m so happy with my investment.

My truss arrived just a few short weeks ago. My husband got right in there and started putting up the truss. We put up the first layer of the cake and then had to wait until we had a larger crew to lift up the truss for the next couple layers. Having the first layer of the truss in the living room for a day was fun. I couldn’t keep my daughter off it, for one. And secondly, I was finding new ways to incorporate a horizontal fixed bar into my aerial yoga practice. It was great fun.

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We had a team of four strong men to lift the truss all at once. In hindsight, it would have been much smarted to take the advice of Vertical Art Dance, and put up the truss at more of a rotation in the room, allowing for more of the tilting to occur, and then rotate into place when the truss was up. But we went for the brute force way. It got done.

If you do have a home rig, it’ll take your practice to the next level, but I have some words of advice to consider regarding setting up at home:

Rule #1: Home rigs = Not for beginners.

I know that you are really wanting to practice your newly learned aerial moves at home, but that’s not the place for a beginner to practice. If you are looking for ways to up your game at home, there are plenty of ways! You’d be surprised how much you can do to support your aerial that’s not directly aerial. If you have access to a pull-up bar, you should check out our latest series: NONE to ONE Pull-Up Program.

Rule #2: Never practice alone.

It can be tempting to practice on our own if the rig is right there in the middle of the room and you are in the mood to workout. If you can’t fight the temptation, then the aerial community would recommend that you don’t get a rig in your house.

Rule #3: Never attempt things from the internet that you are unfamiliar with.

We have over 550 moves in our video library, but hopefully you’ve noticed, we don’t advertise our site as “Learn Aerial Online.” No one should be advertising that to the aerial community. It’s not safe.   You should always learn new things from someone who knows the move. Then they can tell you what wrong thing will happen if you hook this way instead of that way, etc. Then, use a resource like AerialDancing.com’s crazy library to review moves, or find new variations to moves that you are already familiar with.

Rule #4: Don’t do drops without a trained aerialist spotting your wrap.

The second rule–about not practicing along–is in case something happens, you have someone who can call 911 or somehow help you down. THIS rule is to prevent something from going wrong in the first place. Only another trained eye can spot what’s right/wrong in a wrap, so get with them when you are going over drops. Heck, I’ve wrapped wrong for drops I’ve done a 1,000 times. It happens. I was in an open gym, but no one was watching me, and I missed half a wrap. Thankfully the fabric caught me 10 feet later, but it wasn’t comfortable. It could have been prevented had someone been eye-spotting my wraps.

Rule #5: Warning -everyone will want a piece of that.

You have an indoor rig in your house. You’re probably the only house in your entire neighborhood that has such awesomeness. Have a good time with it. Just please don’t start giving private lessons to every friend who wants to learn unless you are ready to go into teaching. In that case, get properly trained and then use your friend-teaching hours as part of your training process under guidance of a mentor. Check out a program like Born to Fly Teacher Training Programs & Support for more.

If you have kids, those kids will bring around other kids who will all want to go on your rig. Set boundaries about what you will allow and won’t allow. The most important thing is that you are looking out for everyone’s safety.  Kids are quick to climb fast and say that they are being careful, but they don’t always think about how they are going to come down, and they love jumping down. Perhaps you set a limit on how high kids can climb, if you let anyone else on your equipment at all. (And remember that adults are just big kids.) You are liable, after all.

Hope this has helped you think about your home-rigging situation. I’ve survived with my pull-up bar and resistance bands for the past 8 years, so if that’s all you can afford right now, don’t be discouraged! It took me 10 years to get to the point of not only being able to afford this rig system, but also how to use it to its full potential and most importantly, safely.

 

VAD-Logo-webFor more information on truss systems for aerial rigging, please visit VerticalArtDance.com.

 

 

 

New Studio Coming to Texas!

This past month, I got to interview Anne McCarthy, who is taking a journey that many across the country are also trekking upon this decade and many more are dreaming of: opening an aerial yoga studio.   Anne is leading a team of yoga teachers as they embark on creating a place for aerial yoga in the South Texas area. Here’s a view into her journey.

Rebekah: How did you get into aerial yoga?

Anne: I started dance in high school and danced through college. In 2002, I tried yoga for the first time. In 2010, I started to study yoga more seriously. It allowed me to find stillness for the first time. After my mom passed away from brain cancer in 2012, I went to my first aerial silks class and have been practicing ever since. When I went to yoga teacher training, I began to combine the two art forms. I remember the first time I did downward facing dog in an aerial hammock. My back felt free and my heart softened. A light turned on within me and I knew that I needed to share aerial yoga in San Antonio.

R: What made you decide to open a studio?

A: I began teaching aerial yoga workshops in 2014. It was really hard to find spaces that would be safe and could accommodate aerial classes. I found one studio and we sold out every class. I knew I wanted to be able to teach more than twice a week. The only way to do that was to open a studio for myself.

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R: It’s always hard to find a space for aerial. How did you go about finding the right space?

A: After looking at many spaces over the last year, I was starting to get discouraged. It is so incredibly difficult to find a place with height and an amazing ceiling.  I kept teaching a workshop series twice a week.  Then in March, things just lined up. I serve on a board for a non-profit yoga school that was starting a capital campaign. One of the other board members brought up an existing yoga studio for sale.  I had been once and remembered a big i-beam that I thought could be perfect for aerial yoga. The space had this wonderful quality to it, truly something special. There is just this amazing energy to it.    Another board member, Desiree, lived nearby and was also interested in the studio.  We met and within 3 weeks made an offer on the studio.

R: How did you go about making sure that your space is ready to handle aerial loading?

A: My aerial teachers, Julia Langenberg and Laura DiPasquale, put a huge emphasis on safety and taught me to ask lots of questions about structures. Julia put me in touch with an engineer that she had used for her aerial studio.   I had the engineer out to the studio and learned that it was a prefabricated metal building with z-purlins off the ibeam.   I learned that these metal buildings are not built to support extra weight besides the roof and the required safety factor.   I thought we were going to be able to it, until the engineer recommended a free standing structure inside the space.   Then we started the next part, trying to get it right.

From my teachers, I knew that in aerial the standard is a 10:1 safety factor and requires at least 2,000 pounds of dynamic weight per student.  With aerial yoga, I believe a lot of people think you can lower that standard.  However, in my classes, I know we swing and flip into the hammocks.  That is a lot of movement for many people all at once.   I wanted to maintain that level of safety for my students.

We ended up with an engineer that had been a performer at SeaWorld and worked for SRO Associates, a theatre production company who builds the sets and designs shows for many places.   So when we began, everyone had some understanding of the unique needs and types of dynamic movement produced by aerialists and aerial yogis.   I worked with them to come up with good spacing and layout for our studio and then had the engineer run the numbers and create the official design.   SRO has a metal shop and was able to build it off sight.   It was amazing to watch them load in 500 pound i-beams and see the structure go up.   We have 18 student hammocks and an instructor hammock.   The engineer designed it so that everyone can be swinging and flipping at the same time.  It is such a great feeling teaching in a space where I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the rigging is all held to that standard of 2,000 lbs of dynamic movement.

The following is a time-lapse video of the internal rigging being installed. (Aerial teachers everywhere share your excitement!)

 

R: What sorts of surprises have you encountered in the process of opening a studio?

A: It has been an amazing learning experience. I looked at spaces with wood beams and talked to engineers and knew it wasn’t possible to rig that many students safely from wood. Before this, I never would have questioned rigging off an i-beam. I thought all i-beams were created equal. I have learned that there are so many elements to look into. (When the building was designed, what safety load for the roof was included – did they just meet the basic safety requirements or go above, does it snow and add more weight to the structure.) Now that we have a freestanding rig in the space, I feel like this is a wonderful way to rig. It allows everyone to see the structure and understand what they are hanging from.

R: Tell us more about your team.

A: We have an amazing team. Besides myself, my partner Desiree Whitney is also a certified yoga teacher and did aerial yoga training this summer. The yoga school we studied at (the Esther Vexler Yoga School) focuses on Iyengar style yoga with lots of props and modifications.  So for our style of yoga, the aerial hammock is another prop and makes yoga so much fun! We also have an amazing group of traditional yoga teachers: Michelle Bowles, a yoga therapist, Debbie Pedersen, a certified Iyengar yoga instructor, Tricia Messinger, a thai massage yoga teacher, Donna Foster, a power yoga instructor, and Cathy West, a vinyasa teacher.

R: What is the name of your studio and how did you decide on the name?

A: Aerial Yoga Boerne. We really debated over several variations. Boerne is a small town 15 minutes north of San Antonio where the studio is located. We are the only full yoga studio in the area. While we have many styles of yoga, we know aerial yoga is rare and wanted to highlight it. In the end, we kept it simple to describe what we do and where we do it.

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R: What do you love about the aerial arts?

A: I love the way aerial arts focuses me. When you climb the silks, it’s the only thing you can think about. I found it to be a form of mediation, keeping me fully present in every moment.  In aerial arts, you must fully focus your attention to keep you safe. I also have never had strength. Through training, I see myself become stronger.  I love that aerial arts blend together dance, strength, and grace.

R: Who are you most excited to teach?

A: I love teaching students who are new to yoga and aerial. The feeling of flipping upside down for the first time is incredible and I love sharing that with people who don’t think they can. I love watching the growth as they find strength.

R: What is one thing that’s got everybody talking about your studio?

A: Besides the fact that we have an amazing rig for 18 students?! We also have yoga rope walls, tons of props, amazing teachers, and a beautiful space. There is something special here. When you walk in, you know you are in a warm and welcoming space.
 
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Anne, thank you so much for the interview! Aerial Yoga Boerne will have their official ribbon cutting on October 22, 2015. We wish them the best of luck. To find out more about how you can “build your yoga practice from the ground up,” visit www.aerialyogaboerne.com.

Not sure what to expect in an aerial yoga class? Watch this time-lapse of a class at Aerial Yoga Boerne:

Ways to connect with Aerial Yoga Boerne:
Instagram: @aerialyogaboerne
Twitter: @yogaboerne