Fitness From The Field: Berkcirque Circus School
The Rural Intelligence region offers a plethora of fitness and healing modalities, but it can be hard to know which is the one that fits your needs, your body type and your schedule. Enter Paula Boyajian, a yoga instructor certified in Interdisciplinary Yoga and Yoga for the Special Child, who has taken on the role of RI’s fitness contributor to sleuth out the details of the many health and wellness options in our area.
Writing about my experience at Berkcirque: Circus School of the Berkshires, I am tempted to quote “The Man on the Flying Trapeze.” Putting aside how corny and lazy that would be, it would also be inaccurate. The lyrics tell a sad tale of someone losing his love to a daring gent, but at the Great Barrington location there is not an ounce of melancholy. Instead, as co-owner and yoga instructor Jill Fleming says, “We want to share the joy of movement — there’s not enough joy out there!”
What Is It?
Intro to Aerial is a 75-minute class offered on Wednesday evenings. There’s a cardio and stretching warmup before you attempt the trapeze, aerial hoop and silks — enormous pieces of fabric that hang from the ceiling. As the classes progress, so does the complexity of the moves. So you may start with simply sitting on the trapeze, then progress to hanging upside down and holding a split.
In Aerial Yoga, held Tuesday evenings and Thursday afternoons, the silks are called hammocks or slings and provide support that help deepen both your practice and relaxation. Despite the unconventional prop, the class follows a traditional sequence, starting with centering, then moving into active postures and ending with relaxation done right in the hammock that envelops you like a big cocoon.
Intermediate. Aerial classes can be intimidating, but with an instructor’s constant spotting, the silks’ varying levels of flexibility and the trapeze and rings’ adjustable height, you can rise above your fear. I would recommend being comfortable with exercise and movement though, since a moderate degree of strength and coordination is necessary just to get on and off the equipment. The Intro class is limited to ten people and the yoga class to six, so everyone receives individualized attention, support and a bit of rest between moves.
I attended an open house where I enjoyed watching several people sit, flip and balance on the trapeze, silks and hammocks. Yet in truth, perhaps being an audience member helped me procrastinate; I was a bit nervous. After my turn — which I not only survived but truly enjoyed — the next gal said, “I’m so afraid.” I resisted preaching because it’s only through direct experience that you realize leaving your comfort zone allows you to enjoy a full physical workout and a carefree, victorious feeling. However, I would be amiss if I didn’t list its many physical benefits. Core muscles, flexibility, body awareness, balance, upper body strength and coordination all are increased. Intro instructor Annie Macrae Rosenberg recounted that some folks think they can’t try aerial classes because they lack upper body strength but says that’s exactly why you should do it. “Every time you get on the trapeze you do a pull up!”
In addition to holding a BA in Special Ed. and an MS in Exercise Physiology and Phys. Ed., Fleming (center photo) is a Kripalu-trained yoga instructor and certified personal trainer. For more than 20 years she has been taught PE, acrobatics and aerial arts to children of all ages and produced 10 youth circus performances. She hopes that BerkCirque is a place where everyone of every age and body type can interact in a positive, healthy way.
Rosenberg (near right) began flying trapeze at the wee age of four and has trained at places such as Circus Smirkus, Trapeze School of NY and Aircraft Aerial Arts. She’s living proof of aerial arts’ physical and emotional benefits; as she moves on and between the trapeze and silks with strength, grace and joy it’s difficult to believe she had her baby girl Dylan just four months ago.
The atmosphere is fun and lively, with the trapeze, aerial hoop and brightly colored silks and hammocks filling the large, open space. You can try these and other circus art props like unicycles and a low tightrope during the next open house on Saturday, June 13. It’s helpful to wear fitted clothing and tie up long hair with a band.
Intro to Aerial: $185/10 weeks or $25/class
Aerial Yoga: $24/class
115 Gas House Lane, Great Barrington, MA
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