JENEÉ OSTERHELDT

Getting the hang of aerial yoga, the latest fitness craze

Updated: 2014-01-23T01:11:04Z

By JENEÉ OSTERHELDT

The Kansas City Star

Savasana has never been more relaxing than the moment I give in to the swinging, silk hammock.

Most yoga lovers look forward to Savasana, the corpse pose at the end of every class that requires total relaxation. I usually struggle to turn my brain off, to submit to the peaceful state.

Not this time. I’m spent. This isn’t your average yoga class. I’ve dared to try aerial yoga at Lucia Aerial Performing Arts.

Have you seen the lovelies of Kansas City’s Quixotic mastering the silks and trapeze? I’m not one of those sky-high dancers, but I do like to try the latest fit crazes. Last year, I experimented with Mixed Martial Arts fitness, the trampoline workout and the Bar Method.

This year, I believe I can fly. Or at least peacefully swing back and forth in the purple silky hammock that I’ve made my Savasana cocoon. I could lie here for hours.

Ashley Prohaska did this to me. She worked me out hard enough to yearn for stillness, but not in a boot camp way. She encouraged me to challenge myself. “You’re stronger than you think,” she said more than once.

Aerial yoga requires you to do three things: Trust yourself, fight your fears and find your center. The hammock, made of stretchy yet sturdy aerial silks fabric, is used to suspend the spine and other parts of the body to enhance traditonal yoga poses — even the upside down ones. Just like mat yoga, with practice, you can improve your flexibility, balance and strength.

When I walk into Lucia Aerial at Town Center Plaza in Leawood on a Thursday afternoon, I don’t know what to expect from the class. And then I see my teacher Ashley. She’s ballet dancer tiny. She smiles, but her vibe is very go-with-the-flow casual. As I take off my coat, I notice she’s listening to Madonna’s “Material Girl.”

“I hope you don’t mind ’80s and ’90s music,” she says. “And sometimes I sing.”

I love her. Instantly. She and her sister Jenny (former director at Quixotic School) opened the studio a few months ago. There, you can take lyra (aerial hoop), silk, trapeze, contortion, aerial yoga and children’s classes, too. Ashley used to teach introductory silks classes at Quixotic School but got into the aerial silks about four years ago when she and her sister took a class at Voler, another aerial academy and performance group.

“I was good at it and I really like that it isn’t competitive,” Ashley told me. “It’s fun.”

For an hour, I get to know the purple silk. Ashley has grace as she twists and bends with the silk as if it’s her favorite dance partner. She gets it. The fabric is your safety net, your stability and sometimes your cuddle buddy.

For me, it’s all of that, but it can be your torture when you’re trying to balance one leg in and one leg out.

But in those hard moments, when the blood is rushing and my arms are burning and the balance doesn’t come easy, I let the music motivate me. It’s hard not to push yourself when Janet Jackson, Prince, Michael Jackson and even Tiffany provide the soundtrack. As I try to do a push-up, with my legs hanging in the hammock, hips in the air and hands on the ground, I nearly flop on the floor like a fish.

Then a Mariah Carey song comes on, and I think about how she’s 43, gave birth to twins and still rocks a bikini. Yep, I still believe too, Mariah. I do those push-ups. Seven of them.

But as class winds down, sometime after I conquered a bit of a flying headstand (yeah baby, I got upside down), I am ready to relax. So I’m lying in my purple silk hammock, about to drift off into the swing of my Savasana, and before I clear my mind I have one last thought: Maybe I am a little ways off of from prancing around with my abs out like Mariah. But I’m certainly on my way to high-waist pants and a crop top.

For now, that’s fly enough for me.

By the way

MoonDrop Circus is hosting Circus Week at the Just Off Broadway Theatre, 3051 Central Ave. As part of it, Lucia Aerial will teach two workshops on Saturday — a children’s class from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and an adult class from 1 to 3:30 p.m. Each workshop is $25. For more details, go to LuciaAerial.com.

Jeneé Osterheldt’s column runs on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. To reach her, call 816-234-4380 or send email to josterheldt@kcstar.com. “Like” her page on Facebook and never miss a column. You also can follow her at Twitter.com/jeneeinkc.

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