If getting upside down in straddle X feels impossible, I think it is more likely that you are using incorrect technique than that you are not strong enough. Have a look at this video to see how hand placement, foot hight, and coordinated movement are game changers in the X!
THERE IS NO NEED TO LEARN THIS LESSON THE HARD WAY.
Many aerialists are now aware that a 14-year-old girl fell on her head (with no mat) in an attempt to execute the kamikaze drop at a competitive event called Aerialympics.
The trauma to the aerialist (who has sustained severe injuries but is expected to fully recover), her family, and the disturbance to the aerial community can not be overstated.
I have heard that the drop is now banned at the event which is good--however it never should have been allowed in the first place. I have also heard that mats will be mandatory for all youth--as they should always have been.
I wanted to take a moment to explain what makes the Kamikaze drop one of the most dangerous drops in silks to aerialists of all levels and to call for a community/cultural response to this drop..
What makes the Kamikaze drop so dangerous is not what you might expect. Without knowing about it, you might guess that maybe it is extremely complex, or requires immense strength, or even requires great height. But in reality, even an intermediate-beginner aerialist could successfully wrap this drop. It requires only the strength and coordination needed to invert, crochet, and cross fabrics behind the back.
So What Makes it Dangerous?
It is the combination of its accessibility and the likelihood of wrapping it wrong that makes it so dangerous. For example--someone might watch a youtube video of this drop and think they get the gist of it. But without understanding the nature of the drop--without understanding the theory, when they go to try it out they are risking their life without realizing it. The alarm bells that one might have when wrapping a higher-risk dropare totally absent--and therefore so are the appropriate precautions.
Easy to get into+easy to get wrong+upside down & vertical = extremely risky drop
The Theory Behind the Danger: Crossing and Uncrossing
To wrap this drop you would invert, crochet, cross the fabrics behind your back. Create slack by wrapping the knees, and then cross the fabrics again behind your back.
But which way did you cross?
One way makes a safe foundation to land into.
The other way uncrosses the first cross and leads you to a fall straight onto your head.
Even if you know which way is which, you might do something different if you are performing, because nerves. Or, you simply forget.
The drop COULD be made safe by incorporating a third crossing. According to the videos I've seen online it appears that this is not common practice.
Rebekah Leach explains it verbally and visually here.
Naturally, the recent incident has sparked outrage. One would think that anybody who knows the drop well enough to teach it would 1) NEVER teach it to children and 2) REQUIRE a double cross at the end as a safety. One would also think that the dangers of this drop would be recognized by anybody holding an aerial event and would therefore be initially banned at the event. The fact that these precautions are NOT universal practice signals to me that aerial needs to leave the drop behind forever.
Because we have proven unable to incorporate the safety measures that protect aerialists from this drop, and because the reach of careless videos is greater than our ability to educate, it needs to become taboo. It needs to evoke extreme discomfort and rejection so unanimously that the message spreads: "this drop has harmed and can easily harm again. We do not permit it in our studio or at our event, and we are outright against the digital distribution of this drop."
How can we get the word out? Explain the drop to students. Ban it at your studio. Report youtube videos that demonstrate it even if they have a warning on them. Other ideas? Please share. There is no need to learn the lesson the hard way.
Thank you for reading and supporting your aerial community.
Bicycle climb -- I am seriously in love with it. Not ONLY is it pretty, but it is also actually not particularly strenuous--once you get it down. It's a climb that can translate between rope and aerial silks. And what I SUPER love about it is that it NATURALLY changes sides. In my subjective and highly nerdy world, natural alternation is simply superior (hence why I also love opposite side inversion climb).
However, it DOES require a good deal of...er...cognition. It's a bit complex, with several things happening at once. This video breaks it down and addresses the most common mistakes I've seen students make while working on this climb.
I have also included a little-known detail for how to make it the cleanest possible (hint: how you look at the end matters!).
I have my students practice this one regularly as it is wonderful mind and body training and not overly taxing on the hands and arms. Makes a great warmup climb!
If this vid helped, tag @okayserasera on the gram so I can see!
Why are you slipping in your thigh hitch, even if you scissor your legs?
Being able to secure your thigh hitch is paramount to safety and successful execution of skills.
I hope this video clears up this issue for you!
I am super happy to now be stocking mugs with hand-painted designs. Free shipping for residents of the milky way.
Ever wonder why you're not becoming more flexible even though you stretch? Did you know there is mechanism in your body that detects stretching and tells the muscles to resist the stretch?
The muscle spindle stretch receptor is a cell in the heart of every skeletal muscle (i.e., NOT smooth muscle such as in your stomach). Its job is to detect stretching in the muscle. When it does, it sends a message through the spinal cord--it doesn't even reach the brain. The message reads "Hey, we're stretching now!" Upon receiving the message the spine sends instructions back to the muscle to contract.
Wait, I thought we were stretching. Why on EARTH would the muscle contract?
The purpose of this automated feedback loop, called the spinal reflex arc, is to protect you. It's a default setting to prevent injuries if something were to happen unexpectedly. If you were to fall and you braced yourself with your left hand, your shoulder may be pushed back really far really fast. The muscle of concern, which would likely be the anterior deltoid in this case, immediately receives a message of stretching and before you even know it, that muscle is resisting the stretch and pulling the shoulder forward again. Injury is mitigated, but of course not necessarily avoided. The body does its best to keep us safe.
This is really important for us when we're stretching. If your stress levels are very high or you are being too aggressive, this feedback loop is going to be harder to disarm. The muscle spindle stretch receptor can also become oversensitive and overreact, but as far as it is concerned it's responding appropriately (YES that is a life metaphor!). This can cause increased stiffness in the body and makes stretching less effective and more likely to cause injury.
The autonomic nervous system needs to believe that you are in a safe setting or it's going to be reluctant to let you stretch. But it's the autonomic nervous system--it's unconscious. We have to work through the somatic nervous system (voluntary action) to communicate with the autonomic nervous system. Buckle up buttercup!
So how do you get the nervous system to cooperate?
1. Proper warmup. A systematic warmup tells the body that we are doing intentional training. The more times you do this, the more quickly the body sets itself for the activity.
2. Massage tools. Tools like the peanut communicate with your nervous system (more on that another time). They can be used to prepare muscles for stretching. You can also use a foam roller to help release tension in the body.
3. Stress reduction. Whether through breathing, meditation, massage, spending time with animals, or being outside, frequently, intentionally reducing stress is going to be helpful for disarming this feedback loop when you want to stretch. This is part of what makes flexibility a holistic practice. It feeds into and draws from many different areas of your life.
4. PNF. Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation is the practice of gently contracting and then relaxing the muscle you want to stretch. This helps dissolve the block created by the muscle spindle stretch receptor.
5. Breathing while stretching. Lengthening and deepening the breath triggers a cascade of messages through the body and also increases blood flow and oxygen levels. It helps muscles reduce their contractile states.
6. Be intentional. Flinging your foot into your hand for 5 seconds after you run is not enough to give your quads and psoas the care they need.
A progression for gaining comfort with split fabric inversion, crocheting, and crossing fabrics behind your back in aerial silks. Includes practice in straight-arm and bent-arm inversions. The hammock knot offers additional safety while approaching these skills!
by Rosa Noreen
Originally published on Belly Dance U
Fluid arms disguise the hard work behind the beauty. While they may appear to be floaty, there is a great deal of muscular engagement through the arms, shoulders, and back.
One way we hide that work is to appear relaxed by keeping our shoulders down, letting the expressive line of our necks be as long as possible.
To keep your shoulders down, use your back muscles; specifically the lower trapezius. This muscle makes the shape of an inverted triangle between and below your shoulder blades.
The upper trapezius muscles run down your neck and over the inner top part of your shoulders. These help you shrug, pulling your shoulders up.
As you raise your arms, actively work to relax the upper trapezius, instead using the lower trapezius to keep your shoulders as far away from your ears as possible.
While we are working hard on the upper body, it’s easy to forget you hips and lower back. To keep your body happy, it is essential to protect your back. Be sure to keep your pelvis and your ribcage stabilized while being expressive with your arms.
We all have different shapes, and we need to take into consideration the difference between flesh shape and bone structure when talking about posture.
The first goal is to find and maintain a neutral pelvis. We are not trying to achieve a fully flat back. For most people this is impossible as we have a natural curve in our spines and muscles and flesh behind. We don’t want to eliminate the spine curve entirely; instead we want to elongate, dropping the tailbone, it so that the lower back muscles are not actively engaging to lift your behind.
The second goal is to engage your upper abs to stabilize your ribcage. Think of a zipper running from your pubic bone (front of pelvis) to your solar plexus (where your ribcage comes together just below the bust). The lower part will keep your pelvis in neutral. The upper part will keep your ribcage stabilized.
Gently put one or more fingers between your ribs in your solar plexus. Loudly say, “ha!” to find the muscle engagement needed to pinch your fingers with your ribs. Then, try to find that same muscle engagement without the exclamation. Holding these muscles strong while working with your arms will help to protect your back, keeping your body happy and healthy!
The appearance of fluidity is dependent on smooth transitions. If you simply stop and robotically go to the next position, fluidity is lost.
Don’t just throw away the old movement. Finish the old movement by allowing its momentum to travel all the way through your fingertips before (or while) you begin the new movement. Give each movement space to breathe and to be itself.
As you change direction or texture, acknowledge and finish the original movement. Don’t cut corners. You can round the corners, certainly, but do so deliberately, following a path.You can stop the movement or you can flow into the next one, depending on your musical, stylistic, and aesthetic wishes; do so deliberately.
Hands and fingers
While your fingers may feel like the last thing you think about, they are actually one of the most visible parts of your body since they are furthest away from your core.
If they are listless, they will take away from the effect of your dance. If they are fluid and strong, they will project your energy well beyond your physical sphere.
Many of us have tight muscles in our hands from typing or other daily tasks. It can be a challenge to elongate the hands.
Rather than pinching the middle finger and thumb into a tented hand, try keeping a long line from your shoulder all the way through the tip of your middle finger. Don’t let the middle finger droop, breaking that line. From there, lift your other fingers, so there is a slight upturn to your hands.
Be sure to put energy into your knuckles. Gently lift your fingertips and press the base of your fingers down, opening your palm and the undersides of your fingers.
Lift the top of your wrist, reversing this movement, and then press again through your knuckles, continually imagining that you are creating more space between your bones.
Modulate smooth movements
When moving your arms slowly from one position to another, we sometimes get to the next position too soon.
To avoid this, link your arm positions to your body movements or to the counts in the music.
For instance, if you wish to take 8 counts to smoothly move one arm in a half circle from a position above your head to a position framing your hips, cut that path into sections. After 2 counts you need your arm to be at an upward diagonal. After 4 counts it should be out to the side. After 6 counts, it should be at a low diagonal. Finally, after 8 counts, it arrives at the low position.
Be sure that all arm movements are anchored in your center. Use your muscles to move your arms, rather than flinging them up, down, or out.
You can layer the arm movement over body movements like hip drops or traveling steps. At first your movements may be choppy. But with deliberate and continued practice they will smooth out.
Last but not least, remember to breathe! This truly helps with your fluidity.
Since we are using a lot of muscle to move our arms, we need to avoid stiffness. Training yourself to keep your breath flowing will open up many options.
Breath can convey relaxation, excitement, anticipation, drama, and power. If your dance needs a relaxed and happy feeling, you will breath differently than you would when your dance is dark or dramatic. But both require deliberate airflow.
Allow yourself to breathe deeply into your belly, connecting with that spot where you feel butterflies.
When moving your arms on a slow path, use deep breaths that last for all or half of that path. To acknowledge a transition, change your breath from in to out, or vice versa. To flow smoothly into the next path, continue with the same breath.
Keeping the oxygen flowing helps to give your muscles what they need to keep working. Help your body out!
Photo by Shawn Reeder.
I am propped on pillows in my bed in a small room in the corner of the house. The ceiling fan circulates slowly and drifts a breeze across my face. Darkness rests itself upon the cricket-heavy yard, barely visible now behind the half-closed blinds. Pretty voices create a calm and expansive feeling in my body, and the scent of wild orange twists around me. I intermittently scrawl some words into the soft brown journal in my hands but mostly I just lay here, absorbing, listening, processing the newest upheavals of life simply by allowing thoughts to flow. I look like I'm doing nothing, but I feel something taking place. Something returning to equilibrium. Clearing, becoming spacious. It's as poignant a feeling as putting your feet up after pulling espresso shots and making smoothies for six hours.
I'm not really thinking about my creative projects--I'm just connecting in. Some evenings I'm struck with a flow of insight; my pen reflects the conclusions and instructions from a higher witness self--the self intimate with my everyday experiences and yet devoid of attachment to them. She points out where I've been having false perception, and directs me back to a better, clearer mode. Other evenings I jot down a few notes that come to mind. Sometimes I roll around on the floor, stretching. Sometimes I tidy. Every time I feel immense appreciation, restoration, and even disbelief that I can have something so crucial, right here, in my own room.
It has become apparent to me that these are times that allow us to come to terms with ourselves wherever we are, and consequently, enables the emergence of new thoughts and actions. Space opens to develop visions--to see clearly what doesn't yet exist. And these evening sessions, which come on naturally when my energy and schedule are just so, are important signposts on these miles and miles of the lifelong interstate. They are signs of retaining connection to something deeper in, something fundamental about life. They've been happening since adolescence, and sometimes with longer intervals in between--times of loosening connection. Those times are important too.
And let me connect this with the contemporary problem of the commercialization of spirituality. Amidst a barrage of self-proclaimed gurus, voices amplified because of money and strategic marketing arrangements, the interweave of products and spirituality, it is easy to become disenchanted. I feel a growing distaste for everything I used to hold so dear, for traditions like yoga that have been utterly corrupted and gutted by competing industries, competing "gurus." I saw a flyer for a retreat "for the generation that woke up." The delusion is as vivid as the irony.
Overkill leads to abandonment. Today, I attempt to not give up completely, instead to continue to develop my relationship with yoga, whose meanings have been usurped by women wearing bright pants, and at the same time I dread a similar corruption of the acrobatic disciplines I hold dear (the retreat flyer was an early warning). I fear the consequence of these escalations, the clamor for attention, for fame, for profit, for spiritual authority--I fear the landscape my practices and teachings and art may necessarily become a part of. I fear being one more pitiful echo in an overcrowded chamber. Needless, overdone, unoriginal, irritating.
But if I enter that genuine space, where the soul no longer skips a beat, where there is no image and no persona to create, where there is no observer to evaluate my worth, this decline and this oversaturation will not be my fate. And I know the death of art by marketing is not our fate because I still watch performances and I hear music and I read books that take me out of the overcrowded echo chamber and place me in a shared mind space that intelligently engages our emotional body. It will always be possible to create art that deals with--that is, neutralizes the problems of its frame--the values and foci of the culture it both emerges from and lands in, and then proceeds to unfold in its own nature. A bird must hatch from an egg in a nest but after that she can go anywhere.
To achieve certain practical artistic outcomes, we have to participate to some extent in the clamor. So be it--that clamor is often interesting after all. But how much? How deeply? How far do we have to wade in?
Sometimes it's a plea and sometimes it's a nudge that comes with a smile and a wink, it depends on the context: enter into that creative mind space. It isn't a space you create in. It is a space where the mind has a chance to unwind from the trellises of our society so that later it can envision and revise and construct.
And please--don't hype it. Don't monetize it. Don't teach it. Don't talk about it incessantly. There isn't anything to learn to do beyond put on calm music, take solitude, and don't force anything. No secret magic here, no online course. Just open the space for yourself.
This is one of many ways to approach splits and oversplits. It's also a helpful video to just target hamstring flexibility--you can skip the splits part if you like.
What's happening in splits?
This video emphasizes hamstrings more than hip flexors so feel free to add in hip flexor stretches if you feel the need.
Remember to approach your splits in a healthy fashion. Take your time, practice patience, respect your limits as you inquire into them, and enjoy your developing body awareness :)
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