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.



Balancing Teaching and Self Part I: Scheduling – Less is More!

“Hey I have a question about training and teaching. I find myself becoming physically over tired and over exerting myself. I’m having trouble finding balance in my mind and body — balancing teaching with my own personal practice and workouts, along with conditioning training. Do you have any words of wisdom or advice??” – KF

“Dear KF,   I just love your question! I want to address this topic because I feel that as an aerial teacher, it is the unavoidable struggle. It is important to reach for a solution rather than let yourself be drowned and lose the passion you started with. Thank you for caring about yourself and your own training; you will be a better and stronger teacher the more you can find a balance between the pulls of the strings in every direction. I’m extremely passionate about finding balance in life, and I hope you enjoy my three-part response. I know that it goes above and beyond what you asked for, but I have a lot to say surrounding the topic. :) ”  – Rebekah

As you know, I opened a new aerial studio this past year. It’s been a lot. I balance being a stay-at-home-mom, running this website here, working part time in the Navy Reserves, writing books, running the studio and then finding time to be the aerialist I want to be.

Over my journey, I have had a great many lessons-learned-in-the-fire, so to speak.  I have broken down my ramblings in a three-part series that focuses on creating your teaching schedule, cultivating your own training time, and increasing the value of your time.  You can and should take care of yourself so that you have the capacity to continually give.  It’s not easy!! In order to continue to produce the same high-quality work, you must not spread yourself so thin.  I’ve learned much of this the hard way because I always want to do it all.  :)

In this first part, I’m going to detail out the philosophy behind my weekly schedule.


When I sat down and planned out my teaching schedule at the opening of my studio, I asked myself, “If I could have any schedule in the world, what would it be?”   I have learned how to pack more work into less time in order to have more needed rest and recuperation.

Keeping as much free time as you can afford is also an invitation for creativity into your life.  Creativity easily comes to those who have the luxury of being bored and have energy.  If your schedule is overbooked, you will never have free-time and simultaneously have energy. To match up energy and free-time, you must fight with everything in you to keep your regular work to a minimum that meets your financial obligations. First, decide exactly how much money you need to make to meet your minimum bills.  Now, squeeze making that into as little hours as possible.

I also find that scheduling less means there is more free time to schedule special events which sometimes end up making surprising amounts of money.  I wouldn’t be able to do that if I was overbooked with a regular schedule.

For myself, I decided that I want to teach 4 days of the week and no more. (For me, this is Mon-Thurs).  I love teaching, but the fifth day is where I start to feel drained and tired, so four days it is.  When I want to run a new class, I squeeze it into the time that I have already dedicated to being at the studio.  In addition, all my training time must go into these four days. (more on that in the next blog)

This means my studio is closed Fri-Sun.  This sometimes shocks people.  They often tell me how much more money I would make if I ran Friday night open gym times and Saturday classes, etc.  I totally get it, and as soon as I find new teachers to hire, you can bet that’s exactly the assignments I am giving them!  However, making more money is less important than me having balance in my life. 

You can only declare that last line when you have found a way to make all necessary income in your designated schedule.  And it can be done!  My studio is only open for 16 hours each week and we have been making rent and paying all bills on the space every month so far (and Castle Rock rent is not cheap!).  Now, I haven’t made any money above that yet but, of course, we are still growing, and there’s plenty of time to figure out how that will happen.  I’m not depending on the income for now, so I refuse to push myself into making more money at the sacrifice of my set-schedule. dollar-1362244_640I find great joy in what I do, and my only financial requirement is that the studio bills are paid.  I have to repeat that line to myself about 10 times a week in order to fight the temptation to break-down my established boundaries.  I’m always on the brink of “making more money but really tired doing so!”

I sometimes get bitter that I don’t get paid to teach since 100% goes to studio bills.  So I have to remind myself “I love what I do.”  I set up my schedule, and even though it’s tight, I know that I can grow even within that schedule.  More money will come; it will just take time.  Like growing flowers, it cannot be rushed.  I love having a studio space to use, play, create, love on people, jump for joy in (recently got a trampoline to help me “jump”-start my self-training time- haha!), dance in, etc.  Taking care of yourself means constantly reminding yourself WHY you do what you do.  It’s important to meet financial obligations, and then resist the greed to push past that in order to make more, more, more.  If my financial obligation was to make $1000/month off my studio, I could do it, but I would not have the time to do other things like write this blog.  :)

Now let me tell you about what I do with the other 3 days of the week (Fri-Sun) because these are the secret to my happiness!


wellness-285587_640 It’s important for me to take one day of rest just to pamper my body. I don’t plan a single class or (aerial specific) training on that this first free day.   It’s really important to take time away from hanging from your grip in order to avoid overuse injuries.  If you have the energy, this would be a great day to cross-train with something else.  Taking a dance class, Pilates class, going swimming or hiking would all be perfect for this day.  Because I play mom all week, I have very little energy left by Friday.  If I went out and took a class, it would be yoga.  But I also might spend my off-day vegging out in front of the TV while rolling around on my massage balls and foam roller.  Many times, we make dinner and watch a movie as a family.  When I can, I get massages on this day. (Hint: Find a masseuse who wants to learn aerial and get that trade going).  I also love taking a pampering bath, giving myself a facial, all that good stuff.  Never underestimate the power of constructive rest.

Also, GET OUTSIDE.  Being inside of a studio can make you feel gloomy because you haven’t seen enough sky lately.  Take more walks.  Spread these throughout the week if you can.


My second day off from regularly-scheduled teaching that is my “surprise-me” day.  This is the day I leave open for special events.  That might be private lessons (that are not weekly), workshops, performances, gaf_014311or photoshoots.  I end up making a good deal of income on this day because it is generally open and I only book it when it is something that is very concentrated in pay.  Because my free time and family time is so valuable, it helps me keep my prices high.  During the week with regularly-scheduled classes, I’ll find myself giving out ridiculously good deals because I want everyone to be able to access aerial; but on my “day-off,” it’s going to be full-price and I don’t feel at all guilty for charging top-of-line prices.

I have a rule that if I travel, I must make minimum of $X-amount.  If it includes staying overnight, the minimum is higher since it takes me away from my family.  I also build in rules for breaking rules.  For example, I can and will travel for a good cause, but not more than a certain number of times per year.  All these rules have come about in the necessity of fighting for boundaries.  I have turned down work and opportunities, and honestly, it’s been hard to do, but I have found these decisions a necessary part of the successful life.  If I am offered a weekend gig that make $1000 in a weekend, I can take one of those every two months rather than working eight weekends for $100/weekend and I end up making the same!  It’s all about finding ways to concentrate your pay, which is why professionals are so expensive to hire.

I try to plan it so that some (in fact, many!) weekends don’t include any aerial at all.  Having this extra time off always help me to feel refreshed when coming back to teaching the following week.  I also feel like I have free time to do fun projects, work more on more books, etc.


Now, the third day off is my family day.  It’s not about me recuperating from aerial.  I’m not handing my family a me that is tired from teaching all week.  I’m giving them a me that has had at least one day off from aerial, and is now ready to spend an energetic day with my family and my God.

The hardest thing for me to do is to turn off the computer, not check e-mail and resist all screens for the day, but that is pretty much my life every Sunday.  I have to repeat to myself all-day that “there is no e-mail that can’t wait till Monday.”

The secret to having discipline is practice.  You must create the habit of discipline in your life in order to have any.  Calming the distractions of this life is the key to connecting to the Holy Spirit.  “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Gal. 5:22.  The Holy Spirit can help you with discipline if you will calm your heart enough to listen.

The first day-off rests my body.  The second day-off is a grab-bag day. This third day-off is the secret to why I feel like I can recharge not just my body or my mind but my spirit as well.  The most important element to recharging the spirit is meditating on scripture.  “Man does not live on socket-1794616_640bread alone, but on the Word of God.” – Jesus (Luke 4:4).  Your soul will feel drained until it is nourished by truth.  There are weeks where I lose hope, I get discouraged, and I skip on my scripture readings.  Those weeks are not as productive; they don’t feel as good; I feel like I’m just going through the motions.  You have to plug in to get recharged and you will feel a difference.  The weeks I plug in to the Word, I feel supercharged.  I have a greater capacity for love, patience, and everything else I want and need to effectively teach and be who I want to be in life.

And Back to Work!

My husband says that since I work so passionately, I need more time than most to recharge.  I don’t think 3 days off are the magic formula for everyone, but it has been what is required for me to feel like I have enough space/time to fully rest on a weekly basis.  After 3 days of taking care of myself, my body, and my family, I head back into teaching each Monday ready to give each student my undivided attention, heart and soul.  I don’t teach to make a living – in fact, I don’t do that at all.  I want to teach because it makes me happy.  And it can only make me happy if I’m effective in my giving.  And I’m only effective in my giving when I come from a place of peace, of love, of refreshing self-care.  Ah, and thus we have the cycle.


Rebekah Leach teaches at AerialWorks, an amazing studio in Castle Rock, CO. AerialWorks offers high-quality classes to adults, kids, and teens, as well as producing shows every three months for the public to enjoy. When Rebekah is not running an aerial production, she enjoys learning and playing violin with her daughter who is currently in kindergarten.