Author Archive

Going for Gold – How to train to be a professional aerial artist without coming in last

April 26, 2013 Comments Off on Going for Gold – How to train to be a professional aerial artist without coming in last Ask Mama Silk, Classes, Training

woman climbing rope

Today’s question comes from a recent aerial addict. She asks, “Mama Silk, I LOVE aerial and want to become a professional. I’m going to train six days a week to get super good, super fast. What do you think?”

I love the enthusiasm. And, if you believe the adage that it takes 10,000 hours to be a master at a particular skill, then I can understand the sense of urgency in getting good fast. The thought process goes something like this: ‘Let’s see, I could train 5 hours a week from now till the end of the world, or  I could train 1000 hours a week* and be an expert by the end of the summer!’ Let’s face it, who doesn’t love a shortcut to excellent results? But are the results from super intense training all that excellent?

Sadly, no. And overtraining can actually set you back instead of helping you reach your goal faster. That sentence bears repeating. In bold. Overtraining can actually set you back instead of helping you reach your goal faster.

It’s important to take good care of your body and to pace yourself if you want to have a career of any longevity. The impatience and exuberance of youth can lead to over doing it. Injuries stink, slow down your training, and are often with you forever…

‘But it won’t happen to me. I’m super fit already’.

You may be. But ask yourself if your current stability and strength lie in the key body areas we use in aerial.  Many times I have cautioned eager new students to take it slow and easy. They groan when I start class with warming up shoulders, back and lower abs, and when we end class with conditioning. They just want to get right to the drops.  There are places that ‘teach’ like that, but I don’t recommend them. The risk of injury is far greater.

image icining knee

What is overtraining?

Overtraining means that the volume and intensity of your training exceed your capacity for recovery. Listen to your body. When you overtrain, you can actually lose strength and be more prone to injury.

Signs of overtraining:

-constant muscle soreness

-more injuries


-weight loss

-more frequent colds/flus


Prevention is key.

Increase the intensity and frequency of your workouts gradually. Allow for adequate rest between workouts. Focus on stability first, then on increasing strength and endurance.  Remember that training volume should be inversely proportional to intensity. The higher the physical intensity of a particular skill, the less frequently it should be done in a workout.

Your training plan should contain adequate rest periods and vary the amount of stress placed on the each part of the body to build strength and prevent injury.  There’s a reason those bodybuilder guys don’t train chest and back 6 days a week. Their muscles, and yours, need a rest in between. Consider keeping a training log and consulting a skilled teacher who can help you build a training program that will help you meet your goals while keeping you as healthy and injury free as possible.

Stay safe – Train Smart.


Mama Silk


*Yes, Mama Silk knows there are really only 168 hours in a given week. I took artistic licence with the math to make a point.

Heather Accepting BizBash’s “Entertainment Act of the Year Award”

April 25, 2013 Comments Off on Heather Accepting BizBash’s “Entertainment Act of the Year Award” Biz Bash Readers Choice Awards, In the News

Heather Winner's BizBash Readers Choice Awards Entertainment Act of the Year

Just came across this video with a quick glimpse of Heather accepting BizBash’s “Entertainment Act of the Year Award”. Check us out at 2:00. BizBash 2012 Review – Entertainment Act of the Year at 2:00

We are SO honored to receive this award!


Voler jusqu’a ses reves / Let Your Dreams Fly!

March 26, 2013 Comments Off on Voler jusqu’a ses reves / Let Your Dreams Fly! In the News, Uncategorized

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Heather is honored to be featured in the March 2013 issue of  ‘L’Actualite pharmaceutique’, the Quebec Pharmacy News journal distributed to all pharmacists in Quebec.  Some of you may not know that Heather is also a pharmacist, with a Master’s Degree in Pharmacology (get the reference to ‘Helium’ now?  Originally licensed in Quebec, Heather now maintains her Ontario pharmacy license by practicing there 5 weeks a year.

Read full article (in French) here: LAP03_026

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In Our Circles, In Our Circles: How to Spin Without Losing Your Lunch

March 9, 2013 Comments Off on In Our Circles, In Our Circles: How to Spin Without Losing Your Lunch Ask Mama Silk, Classes, Performance Tips, Training

A concerned lyra student asks:  Mama Silk, how can I not toss my cookies when I start spinning? I almost threw up on the subway platform after lyra class last week. Help!


Good question, concerned student!  The short answer regardless of apparatus is: build up slowly, and practice till you get your sea legs (I mean your air legs). But let’s investigate the spin phenomenon a little closer:


Your brain gets information on its position in space from visual (eyes), kinesthetic (touch) and vestibular (inner ear) sources. When conflict arises from what you see, what you feel and what your brain perceives, you end up feeling crappy.

With respect to your ears, there are three semi-circular canals in each ear, one for each plane of movement (up/down, left/right, front/back).  These fluid-filled canals in your head tell you which way is up and which way is left and right so you know if you’re standing up or lying down.

Semi-Circular Ear Canals

When you spin, the fluid in these canals will spin around.  If you stop suddenly, your body stops, but the fluid in your ears is still going.   You think you’re still spinning, but your eyes are telling you that you’re not spinning. Your brain gets very confused and you feel sick. And, the ’tilt and rotate’ combination frequently used in aerial choreography is extremely challenging for the brain’s processing systems.  The scientists call it ‘aberrant  vestibular inputs’. Tourists call it “Stop slamming on the brake, cabbie!” Aerialists call it ‘Oh, my God! I’m so barfy!”

south park queasy

Scientists think some of these phenomena may harken back to our caveman days.  The same inner ear balance mechanism that is responsible for seasickness also handles the body’s ability to detect ingested poison; the signals sent to the brain when a person is spinning or seasick are the same as those sent when a person has eaten something dangerous, and the body’s protective response to poison is vomiting. Therefore, when you’re seasick, you vomit. Same goes for smells. I always feel worse at shows with lots of sensory overload: flashing lights, loud music, food odors (or worse, somebody else’s body odor), diesel fumes from generators, etc, are likely to make me feel more barfy.


  • Freshen your breath.

I got this tip from an old boyfriend who was a bosun with the Canadian Navy.  If it works for the sailors, it can work for us aerial beauties.

Keep a small travel toothbrush in your training bag, or some sugarless gum so you’re all minty before you spin.  [Remember to spit the gum out BEFORE class or performing.]

  • Smell something pleasant.

Keep a small handkerchief that’s been scented with lavender oil, or some other smell you associate with comfort. Breathe in the scent to help clear your channels.  Move away from strong odors. [Or nicely tell your classmate to please go buy some anti-perspirant].

  • Train yourself to ignore your brain.

With repeated practice, you can train your brain to ignore the conflicting input it’s getting from your fabulous aerial gyrations.   Astronauts do it, and so can you.

Start by spinning slowly, right side up, then upside down, WITH YOUR HEAD IN A FIXED POSITION. Look at something stationary, like your hand, or the lyra.

Then repeat, with a soft focus, and then with roving eyes, right side up and upside down. Add  head tilts, and finally head rotations while you’re spinning.

With repeated practice, you’ll find the method that works best for you. Some people swear by staring at a fixed point. Others prefer a soft focus, or even closing their eyes. I have a straps routine that involves orbiting and spinning and inversions and head tilts all at the same time.  When I haven’t done the routine in a while, I always feel a little off the first few times I rehearse until I get my sea legs again.

  • Stay hydrated

Keep your fluid intake high. Water is best.  Avoid de-hydrating drinks like coffee, and Red Bull.

porcelain god toilet barf Don’t come to class, rehearsal or performance hung over.  It’s unprofessional and dangerous.

  • Eat Right and Light

Eat light, easily digestible food before rehearsal or performance. Time it so you’ve digested before turning upside down. Avoid fatty, spicy stuff, unless you’re OK with the consequences.

  • Spin at the end of class or rehearsal

Save the spinning until the end of class or rehearsal. This way if you do get naseous, you’ve already worked on stuff.


Prevention is really the best medicine. Once you feel like crap, it can take a while to come back to normal.

  • Candied ginger

candied ginger

Delicious and nutritious (except for all that sugar). Keep a bag handy, and indulge as needed.

  • ‘Unspin’

When you touch ground, step off the mat and away from the apparatus and turn in the opposite direction to unwind. Or spin slowly a couple of times in the reverse direction.

  • Hop

Hop up and down while staring a fixed spot on the wall.  This may settle the liquid in your ears, and align the physical and visual input.

  •  Lie down

Sometimes I just like to lie down on my back, with my knees bent and my feet flat on the floor.

  • Dramamine

Spinning stimulates the cholinergic system,  producing: sweating, increased stomach acid, a desire to, um, ‘go’.

Dramamine is now available in two forms: dimenhydrinate and meclizine. Both are anti-histamines that help reduce the cholinergic reaction. Take as directed on the package – they can cause drowsiness, so don’t down it for the first time before driving to your gig, or right before you perform. See how you do on it in an un-pressured setting, first. And no post-ingestion imbibing, unless you’re taking the subway home.

  • Antacids

Keep a roll of Tums or Rolaids in your bag. Zantac and Pepcid are other good choices.

What works for you?

Mama Silk is always looking for new tips and tricks. Let us know what works best for you, so we can share it!

So spin, my darlings, spin. And create many beautiful things.


Mama Silk (and Lyra)




Refinery29 Names Heliummm in Best & Coolest Classes of NYC!

September 24, 2012 Comments Off on Refinery29 Names Heliummm in Best & Coolest Classes of NYC! Classes, In the News, Student Showcase

We are super stoked to have Refinery29 name us one of their Best & Coolest Classes of NYC!

Click here to read the full article of how reporter Alison Matheny made out in our silks classes. And Click here to sign up for a few!

Daily Candy names Heliummm’s Classes in its ‘Best of NYC’!

July 11, 2012 Comments Off on Daily Candy names Heliummm’s Classes in its ‘Best of NYC’! Classes, In the News, Training

We’re delighted Daily Candy has named our aerial silks classes in their Best of NYC! Wanna get really good at aerial silks? Train with the best!

Read full article here.

Register for classes here.


What do I Want: Answers! And When do I Want Them: Now!

June 14, 2012 Comments Off on What do I Want: Answers! And When do I Want Them: Now! Classes, Uncategorized

Dear Silkies,

This week’s post is all about patience. Patience is a required quality for life in general and especially for aerial silks. Read on, dear friends, read on. Remember, patience is required here, too.

Mama Silk chose this week’s topic based on a comment she received to her “Where Can I Buy My Own Silk?” post. I’ll refer to my correspondent as “E”.

E writes: June 8, 5:10pm

“I really would love to buy one. I’ve been looking into these for a couple of months now! How and what do I have to do in order to purchase one?”

Doing her due diligence to make sure E is a qualified aerialist ready to work on her own, within a few hours, Mama Silk replies,
“Hi E, Thanks for your interest. Who do you train with and how long have you been training? Let me know!
Thanks, ~Heather”

To which E replies:
“Do you have to be training with one to own one? I’ve never actually trained I’ve just played on one before?”

Mama Silk doesn’t immediately reply to this question because:
a) she’s at a big gig out-of-state gig on June 9 and attends a once-in-a-lifetime ceremony for her beloved on June 10th
b) the answer to this question is in the original post

Then Mama Silk gets two spam emails from E, and decides the whole thing is a bust.

Until Mama Silk gets this BLAST in large font and all caps:
E, June 12:
“umm hello , were you ever going to respond its so totally rude, i emailed you and yo emailed me hours later! COME ON NOW!”

Mama Silk can see that E needs more advice than just where to buy a silk…
Mama Silk, June 12:
My dear, E. Easy does it, please. My experience is that I draw more bees with honey than with impatience. When I give someone the benefit of the doubt, things usually work better for me and the other person.

My 4-day response time is not based in rudeness. Rather, I had a huge out-of-state performance I was preparing for with six performers, and an important family occasion to attend. I did not see any indication from your initial email that an urgent response was required. I have also since received some spam from your email address and thought perhaps the request wasn’t genuine. It appears, however, you are quite alive and well.

I will give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that your abrupt tone is due to your eagerness to learn silks and your inexperience in professional business communications, rather than any rudeness on your part.

That said, the quickest response to your question can be found in the blog post you responded to. I’ll repeat the gist of it here: Aerial silks is an incredibly beautiful and an incredibly dangerous art form. Only those students who have proven themselves to be responsible, reliable, strong and mature enough in their training get the answer to the question ‘where can I buy my own silk’.

Since you indicated you are not training with a qualified instructor and have only ‘played around a bit’, I am not comfortable providing you with the information. Safety is paramount when it comes to aerial silks, and based on what you told me (and how you said it) my professional opinion is that you are not ready to train on your own.

My apologies, E. Mama Silk says, ‘request denied’, for your protection and mine.

Get yourself to some classes with an experienced qualified instructor, and perhaps after a couple of years of dedicated training, you’ll be ready.

I’d be pleased to recommend some great places to train. Where are you located?

Yours in pull ups and aerial love,
Mama Silk.”

Mama Silk had her flak jacket at the ready the next time she opened her email. And was pleasantly surprised by this:
E, June 13, 1:04pm
“Thank you, Mama Silk! I am located in Johnson County Kansas! Do yo have any ideas where I couls start training! Tecnicully I have been training for tree years. But due to my leg injury I hadnt been on silks for about a month now! I train with Joe B. (last named edited out) downtown at the Plaza. Now that I’ve provided you with my information, now could you tell me where I could purchase some ! ? ! ?”

Mama Silk, June 13, 10pm
I will put up a post to see about teachers in your area. I will get back to you in about a week.

E, June 14, 8:21 am
“NVM you don’t have to help ! Do waste your breathe. I don’t need you . I’ll find someone else who can help me!”

Is there really a reply Mama Silk could give E at this point that would satisfy her? Will it make a difference to E that posts to the Yahoo trapeze group sometimes take a day or two to get to, and then sometimes it takes people a couple of days to answer? Mama Silk thinks not.

So what is the moral of this story, my dear silkies?

A proper attitude towards life and your aerial training will make a big difference in not only how pleasant each day is, but in the types of relationships and experiences you cultivate along the way. And ultimately, your patience, respect of others and yourself, and your diligence will pay off big time. Remember, how you behave in the studio or over email is probably a reflection of who you are in your life. What kind of life do you want? What kind of person do you want to be? Mama Silk learned some of these lessons the hard way. And she hopes you don’t have to.

What to we want: Answers! And, all we have is: NOW! Make your NOW the best it can be!

Yours in love, life and aerial flight.

Mama Silk

Heliummm Student Showcase April 28, 2012

April 29, 2012 Comments Off on Heliummm Student Showcase April 28, 2012 Performances, Student Showcase

Once again the Heliummm Student Showcase was PACKED with friends and admirers.  We definitely need a bigger space for our fall show!

Our performers did an outstanding job. It’s amazing to see how much progress was made from November’s performance. All those pull-ups and classes are paying off! Jack, Kealani, Laura, Lauren were our most excellent veterans. And, we welcomed a few first-timers: Dan, Erin, Heather, Jamie, Julie, Michelle, Tatiana.

And, thanks to all those who helped us raise money for the Reciprocity Foundation, a world-class, nonprofit organization that helps homeless, runaway, and foster care youth from all five NYC boroughs to realize their full potential.
Click on an image to enlarge.

Additional thanks to:

Jeep Ries (set up, box office, clean up, and general awesomeness)
Susan Quinn (photographs)
Dan Croft (video camera and editing)
Cierra Martinez (filming)
Kealani Tosh (rigging)
Wes Krygsman (black drape wrangling)
Julie Krygsman (set up)
Jack Crawford (mat washing)
Dariyya (rhythmic performance)
Jacob Robinette (space rental)




Heliummm on Law & Order: SVU!!

April 27, 2012 Comments Off on Heliummm on Law & Order: SVU!! In the News, Performances

Heliummm aerialists Heather and Cody were delighted to be hired as Stunt Principals to film an episode of Law & Order: SVU!

We had our very own dressing room in the honeycomb, I mean the honey wagon (I’m so unhip it hurts).  Though our trailer wasn’t as big as Ice-T’s, we did get to meet him (and his new dog), and co-star Kelli Giddish (all very nice).

We spun and spun on our lyra in sequined blue tops at the Coney Island Museum, for an intriguing episode called, ‘Strange Beauty’.  And, no the title is not a reference to our hair and make-up! We were well taken-care of by Emmy-award winning make up artist Nicole, and the key hairdresser, Brian. (We wanted to bring them home with us, but they film SVU 10 months a year).

It was fun to have the camera pan by us on its smooth track as we were spinning about. Talk about needing to smile at all times! We got right into it, calling ‘Rolling!’ and ‘Cut!’ with the crew like the TV veterans we are (alas, veterans from the other side of the screen).  And, what better compliment than to have Director Alex Chapple tell us we were doing such a good job up there it was hard to get people watch him!

For Law & Order junkies, our vic has a strange body modification that requires some serious investigation by Fin and Amanda. No spoiler here — you’ll have to watch the episode for yourself to see us and see how it ends.

Thanks, Law & Order!