Time Flies When You’re Suspended

The Voice-Tribune's Ben Gierhart.

The Voice-Tribune’s Ben Gierhart.

Let me be the first to tell you that when it comes to anything requiring even the smallest amount of physical proficiency, I’m not your guy. I’m a hard worker, so when my parents enrolled me in taekwondo, cross country and basketball classes and teams as a child, I was able to avoid making a complete embarrassment of myself most of the time through sheer force of will. How quickly things change, however. I’ve only recently taken up running again. The last pick-up game of basketball I played was a couple years ago, and I cannot remember the last time I threw a punch or broke a board. I’m not hopelessly out of shape or anything, but I’m just a little short of what one might describe as dexterous.

Imagine my surprise when I was assigned the task of taking a class at Suspend, Louisville’s first and only facility dedicated exclusively to aerial arts and cirque fitness. For those of you who don’t understand what that means or think that it couldn’t possibly mean what it seems to mean, I’ll help you out: It’s yoga. In the air. You’re suspended – hence the name! – performing all kinds of complicated poses and maneuvers. It’s exactly what it sounds like. I would be lying if I said images of my death by falling off brightly colored silks in a similarly styled costume didn’t flash before my eyes.

The Voice-Tribune's Ben Gierhart.

The Voice-Tribune’s Ben Gierhart.

I’ve not been one to let fear stop me before, however, and I didn’t intend to start. I dutifully showed up to my class and met the infinitely patient Courtney who, right away, put me at ease. “Our number one priority here is to make sure you feel safe,” she says reassuringly while referring to the silks. “Everything here hangs with at least two stress points and can hold up to 2,000 pounds of force. These things can hold an elephant.” While guiding me through some stretches, Courtney even goes so far as to regale me with a story of a time when one of the instructors measured the force generated by a full drop while on the silks – a whopping 900 pounds! Looks like I’m in the clear. Gulp.

We begin things simply enough. Courtney instructs me in the anatomy of the silks. There are two long strips of material that fall from the ceiling. An intricate knot is made at the point where the individual feels comfortable being suspended. The length above the knot is called the pull and the length below is the tail. My knot is appropriately low to the ground.

12980890_504310999761180_894655098_oOn the silks, I learn to balance myself on the knot and perform a rudimentary pose called “Archer’s Pose.” It involves balancing yourself on one foot, leaning most of your weight against one length of silks and extending your remaining leg to create tension on the other silk, similar to a drawstring on a bow. I tried other poses as well, even going so far as to suspend myself while upside down and spinning myself!

As I became more comfortable and confident, I found myself burning through exercises on a number of different apparatuses. I learned how to mount a trapeze – yes, trapeze, like in the circus – as well as a lyra, basically a large steel ring. Mounting the lyra was especially taxing as it is made of solid steel, and even all the cushioning in the world can only do so much for my un-calloused hands. Ironically, however, it was the lyra that I picked up the easiest. “The lyra loves you!” exclaimed Courtney after I successfully performed a pose called “Man on the Moon,” which involves contorting your body into a shape reminiscent of a Mockingjay pin from “The Hunger Games.”

12980894_504310973094516_104032348_oAfter somewhat gracefully getting myself to the ground – “More gracefully than you think!” – my instructor informed me that we’ve gone through all the exercises that she had planned for me today. She had scheduled an hour, but in a turn of events that surprised no one more than me, I was able to pick up on things relatively quickly. For the remaining time, I learned the basics of acro-balancing, an activity that involves balancing the weight or being balanced by another person.

“You did really well today. You mounted a lot, and I’m proud of you,” said Courtney, pretty much the world’s greatest and most sincere cheerleader. As she leads me in a series of cool-down stretches, I was able to think back on my brief but jam-packed time at Suspend: I liked it. I really liked it. Never before had I felt like I had utilized more of my body than I had in that one session, and most importantly, it didn’t feel like a workout. It was just fun. I’m thinking of taking some more classes (listing at suspendlouisville.com), and if I, of all people, can do that, you can too. VT