Class review: Beginner silks at Aspen Aerials

Happy Saturday! I’m about to walk out the door to teach BODYATTACK and go directly down to San Mateo for a pre- and post-natal personal trainer certification workshop, but I wanted to share an experience I had just a couple of days ago before I hit the road. It’s Saturday, you’ve got time, and this one has some pictures worth scrolling through.

I have a whole new respect and amazement for circus performers and those who do anything that requires climbing up a rope or fabric. It ain’t easy. Not at all.

This week, my work buddy Lauren and I, booked a mid-afternoon Beginner Aerial class at Aspen Aerials. The studio is located in an office building in the Mid-Market neighborhood of San Francisco, which is an up-and-coming area home to a lot of tech companies. We were pretty surprised to find a huge open space on the third floor of the building where Aspen operates.

Aspen Aerials studio entrance

Aspen Aerials studio space

But you may be wondering, what exactly are aerials?

What to expect in an aerials class

I’ll leave it to the pros at Aspen Aerials to describe what we were in for:

Aerial Silks is a circus apparatus that consists of hanging strips of 2-way stretch polyester lycra. This fabric is used in a series of tricks and climbs to develop strength and flexibility. Classes consist of warm-up and stretching flowed by guided technique instruction and a brief cool down. Tricks taught are tailored to strength and capability of individual students and all levels are welcome.

There you go. That pretty much sums it up.

Even though I’ve had to sign participation waivers at nearly every class that I’ve attended as of late, I actually read through the one at Aspen Aerials before signing it. Knowing that I would be leaving the floor had me a little nervous.

Aspen Aerials waiver

I had no idea what to expect from this experience. I’ve certainly never tried anything like this before, and it was much harder than it looked. Every single time my body left the ground to hang on the aerials, it took all the strength I had.

The informal Aspen Aerials class experience

Our instructor of the day was the very talented Anastasia, and she lead us through the warm-up, individualized aerial practice and the cool-down. She didn’t have any easy job, because there were five people total in class, and we were all at different levels of beginner.

The warm-up began on yoga mats on the ground. We did 30 jumping jacks, high-knees, some yoga stretching, mobility work, core work and moves designed to prepare our wrists, grip, shoulders and body for the skills on the silks ahead. It’s a good thing we had that warm-up, because we needed all the prep we could get.

After our bodies were ready, it was time to move to the fabrics. Being completely new to the activity, Lauren and I were paired together on one set of set-ups and had our own space to practice.

Anastasia explained to us that the top of the fabric is called the head and the bottom is the tail. You can grasp both pieces together or separate them to climb and move around. We worked from a cushy pad for safety and went through some of the basics of aerial work.

It was a great time to take pictures, so please enjoy the rest …

Learning the aerial moves

First, we learned the climb. This was incredibly hard. I got about three quarters of the way up the fabric and was totally huffing and puffing and using all my might. It requires a lot of flexibility and skill to wrap your feet and reach up, because you have to shoot your leg out to the side (like you’re kicking a hacky sack) and re-wrap it in the fabric so you can stand on it and pull up again. My grip was dead tired after just one climb. And it took a couple of attempts to get going. Here’s the start of it … if you follow me on Instagram, you’ve seen this little gem already.

Ashley climbing at Aspen Aerials

The next thing we learned was the foot-hold, which is a necessary technique that serves as a basis for many moves. Although this part was not super physically demanding, the wrapping process is more complicated than it looks. Here is Lauren getting a tutorial on the foot-hold by Anastasia … Lauren picked this one up much faster than I did.

Lauren trying the aerials

We moved on to a few poses, which you have to get into after establishing your foot-hold, then doing a little bit of climbing with your arms. It requires nearly every bit of upper-body and arm power to pull your body up. I mean, super hard. It’s like hitting a cardio peak for just a few seconds, then when you release and hit the mat, you gasp for breath. But you feel good. It’s a full stretch, and leaves you feeling quite limber. (Or at least more limber than when you arrived.)

Ashley on the aerials to the side

Lauren on the aerials

Ashley on the aerials

Even though it was strenuous, it was impossible not to laugh and smile when up on the aerials. The most fun part was when we hung upside down and spun around. Mouth wide open the whole time …

Ashley on the aerials upside down

We may have only been a few feet from the floor, but it felt like we were incredibly high, once getting airborne. 

Lauren and I tried each move given to us by Anastasia and then took breaks in between chatting to the side. This class was not very formal, but more like an hour of open gym guided by an expert instructor, which I really liked.

The other four participants were working on their own and getting assistance and demonstrations by Anastasia when she wasn’t with us.

There was some light background music, but other people entered and exited the space as we were working, so it was very much a laid back scene.

Climbers at Aspen Aerials

We both showed up to Aspen Aerials a little bit tired from training clients and doing our own weight-lifting workouts earlier that day, so we didn’t have a lot of energy. But the fun of trying something so totally foreign was invigorating. It was a little scary, very challenging and opened my eyes to a new way to achieve fitness. Skilled exercises like climbing aerial silks are a way that some people get active and challenge their bodies. It’s totally different than attending a Barry’s Bootcamp class or a Les Mills class like I teach, and yet, it’s got a lot of value.

How hard is Beginner Aerials?

It’s definitely hard. You need core strength, flexibility and overall body strength for every single move. And to explain how hard it is, Aspen Aerials requires that the instructor clears you before you can move on to the Intermediate or Advanced-level classes. You could be in the beginner phase for quite some time. And after giving it a try, I would be hesitant to send someone to the beginner’s class who doesn’t have some sort of functional fitness.

In order to get better, there is open gym time available at Aspen Aerials, as well as yoga and flexibility classes to help you mold your body into aerial conditioned shape. 

Would I return to Aspen Aerials? I’d definitely consider it. While I won’t be purchasing a package to go back any time soon, I really liked being in a place in which I was completely a novice and was exposed to an entirely new realm of being active. 

And for nothing else, I’d return just for the chance to take more pictures like this …

Ashley at Aspen Aerials

True grace, my friends. I should have been a performer.

Beginner Aerials class

  • Length: One hour and 15 minutes
  • Format: 15-minute warm-up, including conditioning, yoga stretches and core work, 55-minutes of free time using the fabrics, 5-minute cool-down stretch
  • Equipment: Yoga mat and fabric aerials provided
  • Suggested outfit: Tight tops and pants, bare feet, no jewelry
  • Difficulty: On a 1 to 10 scale, probably an 8
  • Pros: Very personalized instruction, unique environment, fun and informal

* Disclaimer: I attended the class at Aspen Aerials for free, as part of my complimentary one-month membership to ClassPass. Learn more about the ClassPass program in San Francisco in my post about the service.

If you’ve enjoyed this class review, feel free to check out some of my previous recaps:

Questions of the day

Have you ever tried aerials? Have you ever been to a Cirque du Soleil show? If so, which one is your favorite? Anything fun on your weekend agenda?

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  1. I took my parents to see the Michael Jackson Cirque and it was amazing! The things those performers can do is unreal!!!!!

    I’ve never tried aerials but I can imagine even just getting up the silks would be a challenge, I’d probably bail out after that first part!! Looks like you had a blast!

    Have fun at Attack!

  2. Oh my goodness, this looks so incredibly awesome and challenging! My husband and I love to travel to Vegas, so we’ve seen quite a few of the Cirque du Soleil shows. My favorite so far is actually Zarkana, due to the amazing acrobats and performers. They make everything look so effortless, it’s amazing. I would love to try a class like this at some point in my life, though I’m pretty sure Pittsburgh doesn’t have anything this cool haha!

    1. Hi Tracy! I love Vegas and that’s where I saw LOVE on my bachelorette a couple years ago. Now I know just how hard all those silk and rope stunts are. What’s your workout of choice in Pittsburgh??

  3. Next stop cirque du soleil 🙂

    But seriously… I’ve done a tiny bit of aerials and it’s TOUGH stuff. Ironically I find flying trapeze to be far easier and more my thing.

  4. Oh man! I am so jelly you got to try out this class. It’s on my list! It may have been hard, but your photos make it look like you’re a pro! I’ll have to try this one out before my Class Pass expires.

  5. I went to Aspen Aerials today through ClassPass! Such a challenging and fun experience and, as someone who doesn’t consider herself athletic, I was pretty proud about what little I was able to accomplish. Love this thorough look at your visit!


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