2016 saw a growing trend emerge of circus-like acts becoming ‘mainstream’ as young enthusiasts found more creative ways to get fit and tone. Examples include trapeze and aerial hoop, and it was using my classpass membership that I booked a beginner session of the latter at Kentish Town’s Ecole de Pole.
Standing opposite a hoop on a rope, I never expected that the hardest part of the class would be getting in the damn thing. Playground days seem far away when walking up to a hoop dangling above your head.
The most common way into a hoop is called a ‘pike mount‘ and involves gripping the ring with both hands (palms down), pulling yourself up into a ball and pushing your legs over your head and straight out between your arms under the base of the hoop, then flopping them over the ring at the knees. From there it’s easy to transition to the ‘hocks hang‘ which many of us mastered as kids on a swing hanging upside down as pictured.
This is far easier said than done. After a few goes I realised my arm strength wouldn’t allow me the gift of grace. Launching from a crash matt, using the pendulum principle of swinging my leg behind me then forward with some welly, I still fell a foot short (haha, unintentional) of catching the lip of the hoop with my toes. Repeated motions got me both closer to the hoop as well as a blister, and I must say with some embarrassment that the first time I climbed into the hoop would likely not have happened without my friend getting my back (or more correctly my behind), and giving it a good shove.
From hocks hang to a basic seat takes some arm strength and abs, both of which I was sorely lacking so this took a few goes. Once in the hoop I wouldn’t call it plain sailing, but it’s a lot more reward-for-work here.
The first thing we did was sit side-saddle with arms out in hooray-fashion and was the introduction to letting go of the hoop.
Man in the moon (pictured) is comparatively easy and once in the right position is surprisingly secure.
Next was a ‘standing lean out‘ – essentially grabbing the ring like a steering wheel, and pushing the whole thing away from you with arms and feet.
The ‘I think that’s enough for one day’ finisher was ‘the gazelle‘ – a beautiful shape in a hoop but one that does test the shaky boundaries of a first go confidence.
On finishing I had two raw blisters and a very strained body. This was nothing to the pain I felt in the two days following, from the backs of my knees to sides of my neck. I’ll be honest, it’s a tough beginner class and you are likely to walk (stumble) away in some discomfort. That said, its combination of challenging and different make me want to give it another go, although I would suggest being able to do a pull-up would put you in good stead. And maybe the splits.
Other spots in London that offer Aerial Hoop classes;