Returning to Aerial Practice Part 1: Accepting Change

You don’t need me to write an involved intro about how everyone’s life will at times get in the way of training because you already know that, but you might need to hear this: time off training, as frustrating as it can be, is a good thing.

Time off training gives your body a chance to have an extended recovery from the patterned motions of your aerial practice. It gives your brain a mental break from some of the more strenuous tasks like assessing risk, maintaining safety, and configuring body position, grip intensity, etc.

Breaks from training aerial arts can actually result in some pleasant surprises; many-a-time when I have returned to training after a break, I find myself magically better at certain elements compared to where I left off! So if life has required you to place your attention and energy elsewhere, remember that there’s a lot of benefit to you in doing so.


of course…

then you have to…


get back to the strength, flexibility, and stamina you were at before.

And here’s a tough pill to swallow:

you might not.

You very well might get right back to where you were, but there’s also a chance that your practice will permanently change after a break, especially after a very long one or one prompted by an injury, illness, or major life event. This shift can be upsetting, if you frame it as a kind of loss – e.g., “I’ll never be that strong again,” “I’ll never be the aerialist I once was,” etc.

The pain of that shift can be greatly soothed if you see it as an opportunity to adjust your intentions, style, and goals as an aerialist. I’m not saying it will be easy, but it will certainly be easier.

Because here are your choices: you can either fight change, or flow with it. You can cling to the past, or you can recognize the pathway of growth that lies before you. The faster you can do the latter, the less you will push yourself unreasonably, the less you will fight with your apparatus, the less time you will waste working on skills that are no longer meant for you.

Here are a few ways an aerial practice could shift after injury, illness, a major life event, or simply getting older.

Strength –> Precision & Grace

Power Moves –> Nuanced Transitions

Speed Spinning –> Languid Rotations

Classic Tricks –> Innovative Creations

I’m of course not saying the left column has to exist to the exclusion of the right column. I’m saying that these are plausible ways for your focus and energy to transition.

The beauty of aerial arts is that the apparatuses are so versatile. You can use them in so many different ways. When strength, power moves, fast spinning, and big tricks are no longer accessible to you or serving you, there are still whole worlds to explore. The journeys of precision and grace, smooth transitions, gentle spins and innovative creations are wide open territories. They can be lifelong journeys.

Recently, a friend of mine sent me a video of her on aerial hoop at 33 weeks pregnant. She has found herself unable to practice aerial without pain during her pregnancy, so this video featured her sitting in a low hoop and spinning gently. She made very small positional transitions, moved her arms and legs gracefully, and found beautiful expression through her neck and hands.

That is a *full* aerial practice. The practice does not need to have inversions, or a high heart rate, or any particular trick. Aerial means in the air, and that is all.

There are undoubtedly opportunities to enter flow state without engaging any powerful moves. There are ways to fill your heart and mind with joy while moving in very simple ways. This is essential to remember – the aerial practice can still serve you even if your body has changed.

So maybe the goal isn’t to be strong anymore – maybe it’s to be fluid. Maybe instead of trying to create something impressive, you work toward creating something that fulfills you and makes you happy. Maybe even, you shift from becoming the best aerialist you can be to becoming a mentor for other aerialists.

Explore how life is asking you to relate to your aerial practice. Get really honest. Finding out what is the right way for you to engage in your aerial practice is going to make way for a lot of beauty and satisfaction.

In part 2, I will outline practical tips for re-entering an aerial practice after time away. This post is basically the prep-work, the ground zero for that next stage. First, cultivate the mindset that will support you in embracing your practice as it needs to be. Then, we’ll talk details of a healthy and gratifying return.

For a total master plan for returning to training, check out my 90-day program