Aerial silks and the lyra can seem incredibly intimidating. There is a common misconception that before taking class, participants must already be very strong and flexible. But that’s not the case at all. Aerial classes at Pure Pilates are suitable for anyone in good health with no major back, neck, or wrist injuries and, most importantly, a desire to work hard and give the silks or lyra a chance. Ashlyn Swafford, aerial instructor and Pure Aerial performer, shares how she was introduced to aerial and the hurdles she faced when beginning her training in the hopes of dispelling the notion that only this type of person or that type of person should try aerial yoga and encourage others to follow their dreams.
“Oh, but my darling, but what if you fly?”
Aerial arts has always intrigued me. Even when I didn’t understand really what it was, I remember seeing previews for Cirque du Soleil on the television, and being intrigued by the acrobats in the circus (sorry, elephants). As a young child, it seemed like something half a world away. I had always wanted to try it, but I could not afford classes and was not able to drive to the closest studio – about an hour and a half away – offering instruction at the time. After putting the dream on the back burner, my mom found a flyer posted at the local gymnastics center about silks lessons. Finally, the time had come to try aerial! My close friend agreed to go in on a pack of 4 duet sessions on long silks with me. Let me tell you, I could not do anything my first lesson. Literally, nothing. I kept on, however, I did my lessons before a long day at work, after work, and between classes at school. I bought a pull up bar and was determined. I learned so much in those lessons, but I was disappointed at my progress, and became discouraged. Something was still not clicking.
The aerial community on Instagram is really amazing. It is an endless world of others’ training, combinations, little bits of routines, and exercises. Discouraged by long silks, a quick search on Instagram led me to this amazing circular apparatus called the lyra, otherwise known as an aerial hoop or cerceau. An online search for lyra information was even more dismaying than my initial aerial search. There were NO lyra classes within this southern region of the United States. But I saw what others were doing in their lyra practice, and I saw myself doing it in my head. I just thought “Why not me?” After much research and consulting with professionals, I made a bold move and drained my savings to start my lyra practice.
Now that I teach aerials, my main goal is to make it accessible to as many people as possible. I remember how hard it was to start (and still is). I am not the smallest person. I do not gain muscle very easily, and I do not have any dance experience or years of related training. I was told that I was not athletic enough and could never be fit or strong. Aerial has shown me otherwise. I truly believe in working hard, living passionately, and harnessing the power of visualization to realize goals and dreams. I believe in this because it has helped me achieve my aerial dreams. I also believe in it because I have seen it come to fruition for my students. I love the look on a student’s face when he or she does something that seemed impossible at one point in time. That is the power of aerial.
I feel very grateful to my teachers who have helped me along the way to do things I never believed I could do.
Not only has aerial given me massive gains in upper body strength, core strength, and overall fitness endurance, but it is also my passion. It has pulled me out of dark places and given me self confidence. To know I can do anything I put my mind to and to know that following dreams is relatively easy; we just have to allow ourselves to see signs. R.M. Drake best explains this:
“I need to believe that only I can chase my dreams. That only I can light the fire in me. That no one can break me unless I break myself, and only someone can help me carry the pieces. I need to believe that I am different, and I am full of love. And if I live every moment believing, then the chaos in my heart will be a beautiful thing, and the world will never forget my name.”
– Ashlyn Swafford
Are you ready to light the fire within you and try aerial yoga? Sign up on MindBody now! Additionally, Ashlyn is offering a lyra workshop on April 23rd. Spaces are limited, so reserve your place today.