A few weeks ago, Will and Aaron took us on a team training excursion: aerial yoga in Campbell. I envisioned Cirque du Soleil type trapeze stuff, I was all about it. The second we arrived in the studio, Stasha and I just started playing... getting a running start, we'd swing in the hammocks, flip ourselves upside down, and take boat pose just inches off the ground. It was SUPER fun.
Once class started, we all felt pretty awesome. Like, even though we've never done this before, we can totally do aerial. We're yogis. We can pretty much do anything. When the instructor complimented our bulldog-style breathing ("I love a class that can breathe!") we felt pretty confident. We used the hammock like a strap to open our shoulders, which felt amazing. We did chaturangas with our feet in the hammocks, which made them infinitely harder. I, being the accidental-yoga-slacker that I am (I always forget to engage SOMETHING that should be engaged, even when I focus), felt my core fire up way more than normal. Perhaps this is what it should always feel like? Hmmm. What a thought.
After warming up, it became clear that aerial yoga is not just fun, it's HARD. We started doing the upside down stuff. This is where it got a little difficult for me. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE going upside down, but I hardly ever do it for more than a minute at a time. In aerial, we spent a lot of time upside down, and it was significantly more than I was used to. I'd have to come up and let the blood drain back into my body, I'd have to shimmy around and get the hammock to sit more comfortably on my hips, I'd have to raise my hands above my head to get them to stop feeling so puffy. I turned red as a tomato, and sometimes forgot to breathe, and wondered if I was the only one in the room who felt like my head was possibly going to explode.
Then I saw Stasha totally rocking her upside-down-dancer's pose. It was beautiful, she was hanging upside down, her face calm, both feet gripping her foot behind her, letting the motions of the hammock twirl her gently in the sunlight. It was just stunning.
"Wow," I said, "That looks awesome. How can you even do that?"
"You can do it too," she said, "Your foot is right there, just grab it."
I flailed my fingers around a little, felt something warm and chubby, and felt a tingling sensation somewhere just above my head.
"Holy shit," I said, "There's my foot!"
And right then, I felt like I "got" it.
Maybe I had to give up my dream of Cirque du Soleil (s'ok, Loran's going to go represent us all) but I did learn something from my afternoon upside down. Literally, it came in the form of my foot: I can never quite reach my foot in eka pada rajakapotasana, but for some reason, I could when I was inverted. More importantly, it was fun to play around, and to step outside my comfort zone, push the boundaries of the familiar. It gave me a sense of heightened awareness, a freedom to fool around, and permission to say Umm, that feels weird.
So. Would I trade my vinyasa flow for aerial? Probably not. Would I do it again? Definitely. Was it awesome to bond with the very people who make Yoga Belly the amazing, quirky studio that it is? Umm, yeah, because anytime your ass is spinning around upside down offering all your neighbors a panoramic view, it, well, builds some trust. Did I learn that defamiliarizing something you love can open up possibilities that you didn't know existed? Absolutely.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why it's important to, on occasion, step outside of your comfort zone. Even if it's just with a baby toe. Like, a baby toe, in your hand, right above your head, which is upside down.
Let's just all pretend that made sense.
Oh, and savasana in a giant hammock-cocoon thing? Best. Thing. Ever.