Archive for Training

Baby, It’s Cold Outside – Tips for warming up in winter.

January 24, 2014 Comments Off on Baby, It’s Cold Outside – Tips for warming up in winter. Ask Mama Silk, Training

Yup. It’s cold out. As a Canadian, Mama Silks says, “Stop your grumbling, get out your tuque and your down coat and get your behind to class.”
Many of my American students may not understand my ‘Canadian’, so here’s an image of the ‘tuque’ our Canadian athletes will be wearing at the upcoming Sochi Olympics.
Canadian Tuque.
You should get one and wear one to class.

Just as it’s important to dress properly for the outdoors, it’s also important to dress smartly for the studio. Let’s face it: many aerial studios are big drafty spaces that are hard to heat.

Here are some tips for staying warm, before, during and after class.

1. Wear layers
We love layers! Choose merino wool. It wicks moisture away from the skin, keeping you warm and dry. Different weights are available for different seasons and uses. Cotton gets wet and stays wet. Yuck.
The experts at outdoor outfitters are a great resource. Here’s a link to REI’s Layering Basics.
Don’t worry – no one will see your long johns underneath your leggings.

2. Warm up from the inside out
Arrive a few minutes early and do some jumping jacks or other cardio to get your blood pumping. While layers are great, clothes are not a substitute for getting your blood coursing through your veins.

snow angels
This is the best way to do jumping jacks in the snow.

When you start to break a sweat and want to take a layer off, you know your muscles are getting warm.

3. Warm up your hands
Make sure your hands are ready for gripping your apparatus. Stick them in your armpits or between your legs. Or, rub them together quickly like you’re trying to start a fire.

4. The harimaki
My wife introduced me to the Japanese harimaki. It’s a wool band than keeps your waist and lower back super warm. Yum! I got mine at UniQlo last year. You can also wrap a nice warm scarf around your waist.


5. Do dynamic rather than passive stretching.
Dynamic stretching involves active stretches while moving the muscles through movement patterns that mimic those you’re about to do. Save the passive stretching for the end of class.

Active stretching should not be confused with old-fashioned ‘ballistic’ stretching where you bounce in a stretch beyond your normal range of motion. This ballistic stretching is dangerous and can lead to pulled muscles.

6. Socks
Socks can do more than keep your tootsies warm. They are a great training tool for intermediate and advanced students. Once you’ve got a nice secure foot grip, try climbing with your socks on. It’s much more slippery than climbing barefoot. But that’s exactly why it’s a good training tool – you have to develop your foot grip even more. Try your non-dominant side, too!
Here’s a pair of my favorite Icebreaker socks. Note the helpful ‘L’ and ‘R’ to help know which foot is which for those advanced moves.

7. Don’t forget to cool down
After a great class, the last thing you want is to cramp up on the way home when you head back out into the cold. Remember to end class with a cool down to bring your heart rate back down. Do some stretching of your hands, forearms, shoulders, back and legs. Change the layer closest to your skin if it’s wet and non-wicking – otherwise you’ll turn into an icicle!
icicle woman
What are your favorite ways to warm up your body in frigid weather? Send Mama Silk a message and let us all know!

Stay warm and train safe.


Mama Silk

Se, mor! Vi er i Danmark Juicy Magazine = Look, Mom! We’re in Denmark’s Juicy Magazine!

September 19, 2013 Comments Off on Se, mor! Vi er i Danmark Juicy Magazine = Look, Mom! We’re in Denmark’s Juicy Magazine! Classes, In the News, Training, Uncategorized

It was a delight to have Danish journalist Maria Kehlet drop by one of our Brooklyn classes this summer. Her article, “3 Trends in NYC Fitness” has just been published in the September 2013 issue of Denmark’s Juicy Magazine.

Pictures and full article are below. Link to Google Translate here.

Juicy Cover Upright 3trends_article-page-0013trends_article-page-002Juicy Aerial Part Upright 3trends_article-page-0033trends_article-page-004

Pop Quiz: Creative, Controversial, or Clueless?

May 30, 2013 Comments Off on Pop Quiz: Creative, Controversial, or Clueless? Ask Mama Silk, Performances, The Business of Aerials, Training, Uncategorized

What makes an artist creative, commercial, controversial or clueless? What kind of artist are you? There’s an interactive Pop Quiz at the end, so read on, and please answer honestly, so we can have a fruitful discussion.

Today’s post is inspired by a recent article in the NY Times about the controversial Chinese artist and social activist, Ai WeiWei’s latest work. In this video called “Dumbass”, he graphically recreates scenes from his illegal detention, set to heavy metal music.


Love it or hate it, Mr. Ai’s work usually provokes some kind of emotion. His work is often a staunch commentary on the Chinese government, which has landed him in jail on more than one occasion. So there’s definitely some ‘juice’ to his opinion, that seriously rocks the status quo in his environment.

So it got me thinking about what it means to be a controversial artist, and what’s controversial in the aerial arts world these days.

What’s controversy anyways? According to Merriam-Webster:
con·tro·ver·sy — noun
1: a discussion marked especially by the expression of opposing views : dispute
2: quarrel, strife

I used to shy away from controversy. I was too afraid to be on the ‘wrong’ end of a discussion, to be disliked or to be ridiculed. I’ve grown to learn, however, that controversy is positive. In fact, it’s a key component to the entire democratic system. Discuss, listen, agree to disagree, and perhaps change your mind or someone else’s. Controversy shakes us out of our complacency and helps us to evolve, personally, professionally, artistically, however painful that may be.

While my art is still far from controversial, I’m OK with that. I’m not ‘the disturber’, nor do I wish to be. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) But as I’ve found my creative voice, I contribute to my art form in the realm of fusing aerial and dance and character for the WOW factor with beautiful lines and pointed toes for my corporate gigs, and emotion and humanness expressed inventively for my more artistic gigs. I’m creative and I’m commercial – a combination that keeps me busily employed at a high level and providing work for other artists.

Many aerialists are intensely creative and are really moving the art form along by fusing diverse art forms, media, props, incredible virtuosity, new apparatus, costuming and music. But how many of us are truly controversial, with a capital ‘C’? I’d love to hear from you about who you think is controversial in the aerial world, and what discussion or opposing views that artist brings forth with their work.

As a point of comparison, I found this list of 10 Controversial Artists of the last Century by Annemarie Dooling (God, I love the internet, sometimes). The list includes artists like:
-Georgia O’Keefe, who painted nature is ways that were interpreted at the time to be racy representations of the female anatomy,
-Pablo Picasso, who once stated, “For me there are only two kinds of women: goddesses and doormats.”, and
-Christo Javachev, whose work “The Gates” covered part of Central Park with orange banners. Art to some, a waste of fabric to others.

So, aerialists, do you have to get yourself arrested like Ai Weiwei to be a controversial artist? No. Does getting arrested mean you’re controversial? Not necessarily. Did your act lead people to consider the world differently? Were you challenging existing norms, commenting on the current state of society, the government or it’s people? Or did you just want to create a stir on Facebook, and gain some notoriety?

The aerial controversies I’ve come across lately have more to do with whether aerial instructors should be insured, and whether teacher certification is good for the industry or is elitist. But these are controversies for a subsequent post. And is bad rigging controversial, or is it simply bad?

I’m not suggesting you have to be controversial to be a respected artist. But I am suggesting that if you want to call yourself a ‘controversial aerialist’ you probably want to challenge the status quo in more ways than safety and creative costuming.

Here’s our Pop Quiz to keep the conversation going: We will tabulate all results.

1. NY Times Article “Prison Was Awful, but He Likes the Video Version”, page C1, May 22, 2013. Full article here
2. Ai Weiwei website: (accessed May 22, 2013)

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.

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)




Heliummm’s Lyra in Time Out New York

September 11, 2012 Comments Off on Heliummm’s Lyra in Time Out New York Classes, In the News, Training

Press, press and more press! We’re delighted to have our lyra classes featured in Time Out New York’s ‘Get Fit’ edition. Click here for full article.

Come on out and get your spin on. Click here to register for classes.




Sore Biceps – Help!

July 29, 2012 Comments Off on Sore Biceps – Help! Ask Mama Silk, Training

Today’s “Ask Mama Silk” question comes from Rosemarie M. in Edmonton, Canada.

She writes:
“I have been using my arms a lot (chin ups, pole tricks) and one of my biceps got irritated… now after swimming this morning, the other is irritated. Have you had this before? If so, how did you take care of it? THANKS!”

Mama Silk says: Rest, rest, rest. Chin ups, pole, and swimming are all heavy upper body activities. You may be experiencing Pattern Overload, which results from consistently repeating the same motion patterns, thus placing abnormal stresses on the body.

Pattern Overload is bad, as it may lead to the Cumulative Injury Cycle.

Tissue trauma —> Inflammation —> Muscle Spasm —> Adhesions —> Altered Neuromuscular Control —> Muscle Imbalance —> Cumulative Injury Cycle —> Tissue trauma and on and on and on…

So take 2 Advil, and call me in the morning. And don’t forget to ice, 20 mins on, 20 mins off (never put ice directly on your skin, unless it’s in a refreshing beverage on your tongue).

When you’re adequately healed, evaluate both your training and cross-training:

1. Choose activities that aren’t all ‘upper-body-all-the-time’.

At the pool? Use the flutterboard – rest your arms and work out those legs.
At the gym? Lower body and legs can get neglected in aerial class. Get on the treadmill, or do some leg presses.
At the park? Hop up on the bench (preferably when there’s no one sitting on it) for some plyometric exercises.

2. Concentrate on using your back and lats when you climb and when you are holding yourself up.
How is your technique? Are your shoulders up? Are you using your biceps when you should be using your back and lats? God gave you lots of muscles. Use them all. Your biceps were not meant to hold your entire body weight.

Biceps strain is frequently seen in new aerialists who overtrain without proper technique. Consult your professional aerial instructor!

3. Cycle your training to rest muscle groups
Pace yourself. Muscles can actually get weaker if they are trained every day. Break up your training to give muscle groups a rest.

4. Stretch
Use a combination of self-myofascial release (e.g. foam roller), static stretching, active-isolated stretching and dynamic stretching. Again, ask your experienced aerial instructor or personal trainer for help. A good class will include a variety of stretching.

5. Drink lots of water, eat your vegetables and get lots of rest.
Lights out, cub scout! Aim for 8 hours of sleep. Your body needs repair and rejuvenation. You need to be well-hydrated and nourished for your body to withstand the rigors of aerial arts, both in the short and long term.

Sending lots of aerial love and healing vibes.

~Mama Silk

Sources: NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training
Photos:,, Mama Silk

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.