Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Ready... HUP!!

In case anybody was wondering what I have been up to lately, I have a new addiction.


I took my first class at the end of January, for my birthday, as a one-time adventure experience kind of a thing. I used to watch the people doing trapeze lessons on the Santa Monica pier back in California, and it was always something that I wanted to try!

Of course, after your first class they offer you a buy-one, get-one-free deal, which was just too good to pass up, especially since I had some extra birthday cash burning a hole in my pocket. So I went back twice in February (once for trapeze and once for aerial silks), and then I went 3 times this month (the past 3 weeks in a row), and it is pretty safe to say that I am hooked.

Symptoms of this addiction include: bookmarking online trapeze trick databases, reading whole articles on the physics of flying trapeze, spending hours watching trapeze videos on YouTube, and measuring time in "number of days until next trapeze class."

Unfortunately this addiction is a liiiittle bit expensive and time-consuming (especially since the trapeze place is north of Boston, an hour away from where I live), but I am totally making it work. Did the special, got the Groupon. I practice yoga for free, so it's not like I've been spending money on any other activities. I am planning to sign up for the next session of their Intensive Flying Workshop (which starts in May), and my rationale for this decision included the thought: "I'm sure I can look for a cheaper apartment." (I am, in fact, on the market for a new apartment in June.) Once I realized what I had just thought, I laughed for about 5 minutes - but I am still serious!

What is so great about the flying trapeze? Well I'll tell you....

For starters, it's a great way to look fear in the face. The first time you climb up on that platform and get ready to jump off, it is scary as shit! Looking over the edge is the scariest part, even if you're not afraid of heights. The ground seems pretty far away, and standing at the edge seems like a Bad Idea. The first time I got up on the platform, it went something like this:

Instructor: Okay, come stand at the edge.
Me: Okay! *steps right up*
Instructor: No.... the edge.
I look down. There is still a 2- or 3-inch gap between the tips of my toes and the end of the plaform.
Me: Oh.... *shuffles forward* Eek.

So you stand there at the edge of the platform (in full safety harness, I must add, and with the instructor holding onto the back of your safety belt), and you get your both hands on the trapeze bar - which requires leaning forward so that you're dangling over this big empty space. (Ooh, I get butterflies even typing this.) Then the instructor says "READY," and you bend your knees. Then they say "HUP!" and you... hop. Not terribly gracefully or stylishly at first, but you hop off the platform, they let go of your belt, and you go swinging into the air.


Flying is great, and not really scary at all. The hardest part is just the anticipation - getting ready to take the plunge. (There's an obvious metaphor there and I am not going to beat it to death.) Once you get going, you just have to follow the calls and do exactly what the instructor says, exactly when he says it. (I feel that my yoga training has prepared me for this quite well.) As long as you keep listening (and don't try to skip ahead or second guess), most of the tricks are much easier than they look. You don't even need upper body strength (which I sorely lack) - it's all about timing. In the first lesson, my friend Eleanor and I both caught our knee hangs - which means we got our knees up on the bar, hung by our knees, reached out our hands, and got caught in the air by another trapeze person. Awesome!! I can't remember the last time I felt so accomplished and bad-ass at the same time.

The trapeze has been great for my yoga practice. It's actually started opening up my shoulders quite a lot, which is an unexpected bonus. But mainly, it's given me back more confidence and fearlessness in the hot room. Like - if I can do that, then of course I can do this. Standing head to knee? Cheesecake! No room for hesitation, no room for doubt.

Because of course, in the trapeze, you can't hesitate. When you're working on a catch, timing is everything. If you don't jump/let go on the HUP, then you're too late, it's over, you miss it! So you can't think too much. You just have to listen, react, and have some faith.

It's also helped with my teaching, I think, because it's making me go through this huge "beginner experience" all over again. The fear, the confusion, the frustration, the understanding, the success... the obsession... all that stuff. It helps me relate to my students better. It reminds me of how exciting it is to start something new, and how much it matters to have an instructor who cares about you and knows your name. It reminds me how much of a Big Deal it feels like when you're new at something - for the guys and girls who work at the trapeze school, this stuff is their bread and butter, but for me, it's the highlight of the month! I have to remember that this applies to my students, too. They don't spend their whole day at the yoga studio - their class might just be the highlight of their week, so I'd better bring them my best stuff.

I've been impressed with all the staff at the trapeze school. The instruction is all verbal (very similar to Bikram), and it is one-on-one (which is different). I like how their commands are simple, clear, comprehensible, and always appropriate to the level of the student. They don't try to tell you everything at once - they just tell you one thing to do on your next swing that will help you improve. This is a great rule of thumb for teaching.

I love watching my own learning curve. I can really only process one thing at a time. (At least in the beginning, this was very obviously true.) My most difficult lesson was the one where I had just learned the one-handed take-off. (A great skill, which I now love - far superior to the two-handed bunny hop.) I kept messing up the trick, because I was thinking so much about the take-off. I was getting instructions on the take-off (remember to swing the bar down) and on the trick (remember to pick your head up at the end), and I just could not do both those things at the same time. Sequential processing - one thing at a time! But the next week, I did way better and had my best lesson yet. So this is helpful to remember - there is often a delay in processing new information. This helps me understand how my students feel when I tell them to do something - lock your knee! - and they don't get it. Sometimes, they just can't get it yet. It needs to sink in.

Meanwhile, I think I nailed the new skill that I learned on Monday. ("Nailed it" for a beginner, at least.) I have just started to learn how to swing. Which sounds like nothing - like, you're hanging off a bar and flying through the air, you are going to swing where you want to or not! - but it actually refers to something specific. Swinging is the technique where you swing your legs back and forth (in a specific way, at a specific moment) to make you swing higher, and BOY is it fun! I actually managed to catch the correct rhythm almost every time - there are those listening skills again - so by the end of the lesson I was doing the full swing and then dropping down to land on my back. It's my favorite thing since the knee hang - partly because I know it will lead to a whole realm of much more exciting tricks, but partly because I just LIKE it.

Here is a really cute promotional video from TSNY:

Forget Fear, Worry about the Addiction: Most accurate slogan ever! I want to steal this slogan and use it for Bikram yoga.

Next lesson in 12 days. :( 


Updated for accuracy on 3/29: Next lesson in FOUR days because I have recruited a newbie to go with me. I didn't really need that week off.  :)

Note for any trapeze folks who may read this: I know that it is technically "HEP" and not "HUP", but I am still a newbie and to me it SOUNDS like "hup." In my head, it is totally "hup."