Monday, November 14, 2016

Annnnnd I'm back...I think...

So 2016's almost over, I can hardly believe it.  

It was quite an exciting year for me and there were quite a few highlights in terms of flying trapeze. 

I started off the year performing with the Salt City Big Top. I had so much fun flying with the team at Utah Trapeze. It was extra special to look over from the board and see my best friend sitting in the catch trap.

Over the summer, I traveled out to California and back up to Pali, where I spent two glorious days flying in the mountains with so many members of my trapeze family. It felt like coming home.

I also visited my friends at the Circus Arts Place for some flying time throughout the year. Their beautiful energy and presence in the air always inspires me. It was so much fun to take a few tandem swings with the ladies. And it was such a treat to see the great Tony Steele fly again!

And now, I'm wrapping up the year with my very own slice of trapeze paradise!!!! On October 8, 2016, Orange Blossom Trapeze was born.

Now that I am flying regularly again, I've been thinking a great deal about my goals and what I want to achieve in this upcoming year. I'm approaching this next phase of my flying career with a sense of calm acceptance, which is completely different than in years past. I've always placed unnecessary pressure on myself to do well, which caused me to taking my training days very seriously, but sometimes almost too seriously. It intensified the frustration and defeat I felt on the days that I did not perform so well. I'm still dedicated to practicing hard, but this time, knowing that I'm not counting down the days until I'm grounded again, I'm able to relax and just enjoy the ride.

I feel so out of shape and out of practice (I am and it's okay). But each practice I get stronger, my hands get a little tougher and I'm more mindful of what I'm doing with my body. Some days I have a major breakthrough and some days I fall back into my same 'ol bad habits (often during the same practice). But things are slowly coming along.

Right now I'm taking it back to the basics. I'm working on fixing my take off, swing and returns. If there is anything I hope to achieve in the next year it would be to have a strong swing and a polished look to my flying. I'm extremely fortunate to have a coach that is working so closely with me, breaking the fundamentals down into bite-sized pieces. Focusing on the individual components has allowed me to feel my swing in a very different way than ever before. 

This past weekend we had a fun little crew flying on the rig. Over the past few years, returning has become so inconsistent for me, however, I returned my tricks to the board the other day. Upon looking at the videos afterwards, I was pretty disappointed with how I looked in the air. All the hard work to fix my take off and tighten up my swing just went out the window. Even though I didn't have pretty feet and my old, ugly take off reared its head again, I worked well in-hands. I held my sweep nice and long and I stayed vertical in my press, making it back to the bar and back to board. My  round trips weren't pretty, but they felt like real progress AND THAT'S SOMETHING TO CELEBRATE.

As we get closer to 2017, I will write more about my goals for the next year and hopefully by then I will have some better video of my swing progress. Until then, I leave you with my new favorite net trick...

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 25, 2015

artist: Bill Ballantine, 1951 | source Circus Historical Society

Wishing you and your family a joyous Christmas!

2015 Flying Trapeze Recap Looking Towards 2016

Monday, December 21, 2015

As another year comes to a close, it's another opportunity to review the previous 12 months and plan for the upcoming 12. I ended my flying year yesterday with such a fun and relaxing day in the air. I'm so fortunate for every opportunity to fly and my heart bursts with joy every time I get to share it with people I love. 

This was quite an interesting year for me in many ways, but this post will focus on my flying trapeze progress in particular. I only had four months of weekly flying this year. The rest of the year consisted of 1-2 fly sessions a month. But that being said, the intensive nature of my summer in California really helped me progress quickly in a few areas. 

I began the year with four main flying trapeze goals: swinging/returning (this is really two goals in one), layout, cutaway, layout full. Well, I have yet to begin working on the full, but I did start working uprise/forward over, which was unexpected. So with 2016 just around the corner, let's check-in with my 2015 flying trapeze progress.

Goal #1 - Swinging and Returning 
Swinging is a lifelong journey as they say, but I did gain some real traction with my swing by the end of the summer. I was pleased with the height I was building and the strength I felt after 10 weeks of serious flying.

Running Springs, CA

Now, after a few months off, I'm feeling somewhat sluggish and have regressed a bit, but in general I have a better idea of what I need to do (getting my body to cooperate every time, well that's another story). After chatting with a friend after our most recent fly session together, I realized that I need to think about really squeezing my butt tight (think about trying not to drop that $100 bill haha). Other areas that still remain a focus/challenge are getting my hips up on my force out and forward in my seven (squeeze butt!) as well as lifting the bar up with me in my seven. There's plenty of room for improvement but overall, I'm pleased with my progress this year on my swing. 

Returning...well that's another story. As a matter of fact, there has been quite a regression on this over the course of the year. The times when I did return, I was returning quite high, so that was an interesting adjustment. haha But in general, I found myself off-time in-hands, killing our swing by rushing and then doing something weird on the press pulling me towards the catcher. I had some interesting returns to the bar, including hanging by an armpit and one hand where most of my fingers were underneath the bar. So needless to say, this one is still a work in-progress. I did start working an angel return and it went better than the first time I worked on it, so that was encouraging. We just worked on it the one time, so there's not much to report, but I'm looking forward to working more on it in the future.

Utah Flying Trapeze - SLC, UT

Goal #2 - Layout
For the Seinfeld fans out there, the layout is my Newman, we're frenemies at best. Some days are better than others, but mainly this trick has been the bane of my (flying trapeze) existence. I had the goal this year to get it out of lines. And it technically is OOL, but it needs so much attention, that I put it back in lines all the time so I can work on it without added pressure. I've come a long way with the form of my body, but I'm struggling with closing at the shoulders. I've received some good coaching about ways to work through that, but I'm still navigating through what makes the most sense to me. I'm also releasing too early (that pesky rushing thing again). Patience!! One of my coaches recently told me to just think about the break and then let the trick happen. That was a big ah-ha moment for me, so I'm really going to focus on that, as well as my handstand to the sky. I think part of what causes me to close my shoulders is that I'm scared of peeling off the bar on the drive, which totally won't happen, but it causes me to overgrip as well as force the flip to happen. Anyone else dealing with that?

I wanted to have my layout on my own timing, but it's a long way off, so that particular goal will roll into 2016. This is not an excuse, but rather just something worth mentioning, I did not spend much time working on my layout this year. I probably should have given it more priority because it is such a fundamental skill and will do so in the new year.

Utah Flying Trapeze - SLC, UT

Goal #3 - Cutaway/Cutaway Half
The cutaway remains un-halved at this time. I did catch my cutaway multiple times, but it has a long way to go before it will be OOL or a cutaway half. I have been told I look like a fainting goat sometimes upon my release...whenever I do something weird off the bar, I stiffen up just like a scared fainting goat. It's funny because I know I do it. I had this awful tendency to force the trick to happen (at least I'm consistent), which resulted in bending in half. I've worked through through the urge to bend in half and now release from the bar in a nice flat position (usually). This is another trick that I need to relax and let the trick happen. It's been quite a while since I've thrown one, but they were coming along nicely for the most part. I would like to work on this one again soon. One time I did a split return on the cutaway stick, that was fun/ny. haha

Running Springs, CA

Goal #4 - Layout Full Twist
HA...HA HA... um, let's just say this will be a 2016 goal.

Added Bonus(es)
One random day right before the summer ended, I started working on uprises for fun. After one practice of doing uprise shoot, I moved onto uprise forward over. And Oh.My.GAWD, that day, I fell head over heels IN LOVE with the forward over. That trick came so natural to me, I had been so long since I had experienced something on the trapeze that felt so effortless...the last time must have been a set trick haha. Catching this trick was a wonderful way to end my summer and big run of flying trapeze.

Running Springs, CA

Also, just for fun, I threw a couple doubles. They are not even close to catchable and double back tucks are not a trick I am actively working on, but it was so much fun to play.

Gaona's Trapeze Workshop - LA, CA

2016 Flying Trapeze Goal Planning
I'm somewhat hesitant to actively plan additional goals at the moment since I already have so much I'm working on. So for the foreseeable future, I really want to focus on the tricks I'm currently doing and get them all solid and OOL. I want a beautiful, consistent, FLOATING layout, cutaway ---> cutaway half with force out turn around and tucked set position, forward over with a solid uprise and a straight-legged kip that rises UP off the bar. The journey of swinging and returning will continue as well as the search for a graceful take off and remount. 

The most important thing I will focus on this year is remembering to have fun. I take my training pretty seriously, but sometimes I can allow an off day on the rig to really get to me. I need to remind myself to never forget the reason why I do trapeze in the first place: I do flying trapeze because I love it and it brings me joy. So if I achieve only one goal this year, it should be to never lose sight of that happy place.

Yoga for Aerialists: Splits

Monday, November 23, 2015

I'm extremely excited to share with you the first installment of Yoga for Aerialists! It's a series about two of my favorite and circus. So let's get down to it, today we're talking about splits. Specifically left and right front splits.

Even though splits can be challenging, they are often one of the first poses beginning aerial students learn. For flying trapeze, it might be the second trick you learn, for aerial silks it could be the first one you learn after you nail your double foot lock, and for lyra you may learn it on the bottom bar the very first day you ever place your hands on the apparatus. It can be intimidating, yes, but the good news is you don't need perfectly flat splits on the floor to make them look pretty up in the air. But if you'd like to work on your technique, yoga is a great option.

(Side note: one trick if you want to make your splits "sparkle," as my fly gal CC would say, hold your splits position open at catch point, slowly bringing the legs together as you make your way to poles in-hands).

Before stretching, it's important to warm up your body to prevent injury. Start your practice with a few Sun Salutations. Also, be sure to include some planks; they are a great way to create heat, fire up the core and engage the entire body. I love this sequence put together by MOVE NOURISH BELIEVE, which starts with Sun Salutation A (Surya Namaskar A) before moving on to various plank positions. This flow will not only get the blood moving, it will also condition your upper body and core. AND it also includes Dolphin pose, which is one of my favorite postures to prep the upper body and core for inversions, which are of course totally circus-y. haha

Below are a selection of postures to assist you in your front splits journey. Hold each of the poses for 15 seconds. Breath should be moving freely at all times.

Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

1. Lower to your hands and knees on the mat, placing wrists directly below the shoulders and knees directly below the hips. Finger tips should be spread and the weight should be distributed evenly across the palm.
2. Tuck your toes under, lifting the knees off the ground. Draw the hips up towards the sky and press them back away from your hands, creating a modified v-shape with the body. It's okay to walk your feet back a step and also keep a bend to the knees. It's most important to maintain a long spine and distribute the weight equally in the both hands and feet, keeping the shoulders square.
3. Relax the shoulders away from the ears, allowing the shoulder blades to slide down the back towards the tailbone.
4. Your ears should be in line with the biceps and the focal point is between the feet.

Benefits for Aerialists 
+Strengthens the arms, legs and torso
+Stretches the palms, chest, back, hamstrings, calves and feet
+Energizes the body

Runner's Lunge

1. Start in Downward Facing Dog
2. Look at the mat between your hands and step one foot up between your thumbs. Bend the front knee, aligning it directly above the ankle.
3. The wrists should be directly below the shoulders. You can rise up onto fingertips as pictured above or keep the palms flat on the ground.
4. The back leg should be long and lifted, knee pointed towards the ground and the toes tucked. Flexing the foot will help engage the leg.
5. Engage the core to lift the torso away from the front thigh, keeping a long spine.

Benefits for Aerialists 
+Strengthens the arms and legs
+Stretches the groin

Lizard lunge (Utthan Pristhasana)

1. Starting in a runner's lunge position, bring both hands to the inside of the front foot and walk the front foot out to the edge of the mat. Align the hands so that the wrists are directly below the shoulders.
2. You have the option to stay in this position or to go deeper (as pictured above), lower the back knee to the ground and untuck the back toes, resting the top of the foot on the mat. This is an intense hip and hamstring stretch so proceed with caution.
3. Press into the hands or forearms lifting the chest to avoid collapsing into the shoulders, gazing forward to keep the chest open.
4. To add additional challenge, replace the hands with the elbows, lowering down to the forearms.

Benefits for Aerialists 
+Strengthens the inner thigh muscles of the front leg
+Stretches the hip, hamstrings, quadriceps, groin, hip flexors

Low Lunge (Anjaneyasana)

1. Begin in runner's lunge position.
2. Lower the back knee to the ground and untuck the back toes so that the top of the foot rests on the mat.
3. Engage the core and the lower abdominals
4. Slowly lift the arms, reaching the fingertips towards the ceiling, aligning the biceps with the ears. Palms should face towards each other. Keep the arms active, but relax the top of shoulders away from the ears.
5. The focal point can be directly forward or slightly up towards the ceiling.

Benefits for Aerialists 
+Stretches the hip, hamstrings, quadriceps, groin
+Strengthens the shoulders, arms, core and knees
+Improves balance

Half Monkey / Half Front Splits (Ardha Hanumanasana)

1. Begin in runner's lunge position. 
2. Lower the back knee to the mat.
3. Move the hips towards the back foot, keeping them aligned so that both hip bones are facing towards the top of the mat. Keep the glutes lifted off off the back leg.
4. As the hips float back, straighten out the front leg, coming on to the heel of the front foot. It's okay to keep a bend to the front knee.
5. Flexing the foot, drawing the toes towards the front knee will help engage the leg.
6. Inhale, rising up to fingertips as you lengthen the spine. 
7. Exhale, folding down over the leg.
8. To decrease the intensity of the stretch, walk the hands closer to the torso or place them on top of blocks. To add a challenge, walk the hands beyond the foot.

Benefits for Aerialists 
+Strengthens the hamstrings
+Stretches the hip, hamstrings, calves, lower back
+Preparation for Hanumanasana

Monkey Pose / Front Splits (Hanumanasana)

1.  Starting in a lunge position, place fingertips on the floor on either side of the front leg
2.  Exhale and lean torso forward, straightening back knee as sliding leg back as moving front thigh closer to floor. Stop straightening back knee as reach limit of stretch. (low lunge position) The back leg knee should be facing towards the ground, maintain this internal/neutral rotation of the back leg.
3. The hips should be squared towards the front of the mat, resist allowing the pelvis to rotate out to the side as you move the front heel away from the torso, straightening the leg to its own degree. You can continue moving back knee away from body as well. It's okay to feel sensation in this pose but never pain or strain.
4. Actively engage the legs to maintain this alignment, resisting the urge to roll either knee out to the side. Use props (blocks/blankets) to assist in maintaining integrity of pose, placing a block on either side of the front leg to rest the hands upon and/or placing a rolled up blanket underneath the back leg.
5. Aim to stay in pose for at least :30 seconds
6. To come out of pose, slide front heel back towards body, meeting back in low lunge position
7. Step back into Downward Facing Dog between sides. It is a nice counter pose to Splits/Hanumanasana. Stay in down dog for a few breaths before switching legs.

Benefits for Aerialists
+Strengthens and tones hamstrings
+Opens hips and groin and psoas muscles
+Improves balance

Let's Flow!
Putting it all together. The poses above can easily be linked together in a sequence, just do them in the order the are listed above. Here's what it would look like:

Repeat this sequence three times. Feel free to end your practice by taking child's pose (Balasana) for a few deep breaths.

Happy Stretching!

I love sharing what I know and helping others enjoy yoga, however, please note, I am not a doctor and you should always consult your physician before starting an exercise program. Also, I am not with you to offer assistance or guidance so please proceed with caution, listen to your body and never force yourself into a position. Always ease yourself into a posture and at no point should you ever feel strain or pain when stretching. If something feels too intense, please back out of it. With time, patience and consistency, you'll increase your strength and mobility safely.

Yoga for Aerialists

Monday, November 16, 2015

I am introducing a new series on the blog called Yoga for Aerialists. If you already practice both, you may already understand how yoga and aerial arts seem to go hand-in-hand. I practice mainly flow-style yoga and I often find myself thinking about what postures would be a great fit for someone working on strength and mobility for aerial arts. It may not be possible to climb up 20' in the air every time we wish to condition, so searching for alternative methods of exercise is not a bad idea.

Side note: it's also worth investing in a pull up bar. I have the same one Laura mentions in her post, the Iron Gym, and I love it! It's super easy to install and can be easily removed and stowed away. Most yogis I've spoken with (myself included) were completely humbled their first time climbing up on a silk. Even if you do a ton of yoga, aerial arts will challenge you in an entirely different way. In yoga we do a bunch of pushing motions (planks, down dogs, chaturangas, arm balances) but we rarely have the opportunity to pull up the body the way we do in aerial arts. Can anyone think of any similar pulling movements we do in yoga? Please comment below, I'd love to get a dialog going on this subject.

But with that, yoga does have many benefits for aerialists, so I'll be sharing some yoga poses and short flows that can be practiced alone or in conjunction with your aerial conditioning.

I love sharing what I know and helping others enjoy yoga, however, please note, I am not a doctor and you should always consult your physician before starting an exercise program. Also, I am not with you to offer assistance or guidance so please proceed with caution, listen to your body and never force yourself into a position. Always ease yourself into a posture and at no point should you ever feel strain or pain when stretching. If something feels too intense, please back out of it. With time, patience and consistency, you'll increase your strength and mobility safely.

With that, happy stretching!

If you have a particular trick, skill or area of the body you would like to work on, just let me know in the comments below!

Without Trapeze

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Grounded. Again. That's what it feels like.

Like a child who has been sent to their room, no iPhone, no Netflix, their favorite toy taken away. That's life for a flyer without trapeze.

It's been pretty quiet around here because there's not much to report trapeze-wise. I haven't been up in the air in two months, so rather than continuing to relive old memories, like I'm reliving old glory days on the football field, I've just been suffering alone in silence (sort of). 

The only up side is, the loss of grip strength has resulted in my fingers shrinking down to their normal size, which means my wedding and engagement rings now fit once again. And my palms are no longer terrifying to little kids (and my husband).

I know I'm not the only one of my Orlando friends fiending for flight. We talk about our lack of a trapeze home on the regular and discuss plans for a big family trip to a rig out of town. A date and location is still TBD. It turns out it's pretty tough to find a full-sized outdoor rig that is operational through the summer months. We have high hopes for the new rig opening up in Sarasota and look forward to making it down to the West Palm rig as soon as they are back up and running. 

The weather here is finally cooling down to a temperature where you aren't sweating the second you walk out the door. Great news for outdoor flying because that means the chalk will retain it's chalky-like texture and not turn into soap seconds after you apply it to your skin. While I love a nice, hot, sweaty yoga class, I prefer my trapeze at a temperature where I don't feel like me, the trapeze and my catcher are all melting.

This shift in weather also brings with it, a change to my status from grounded to flying trapeze mouse once again. This weekend I'll finally get to scurry up the ladder to my favorite perch in the air. I am so grateful to have this opportunity to fly with some close friends, at a place that's very special to all of us. 

Immediately when I found out about flying this weekend, I started running over everything I need to work on (my layout/force out/returning/etc). I had to literally tell myself to pump the breaks, reminding myself that this weekend is just for fun. A time to be with my flying family, enjoying our favorite activity together. I then made a promise to leave my A-type personality and the pressure I put on myself at the bottom of the ladder. If my forward over is there, it's there, if it's not, it's not. It doesn't really matter if my form isn't flawless or my harder tricks aren't solid, because what does matter is that I'll feel the air breezing by my cheeks once again and I'll feel the tight grip of my catchers hands around my wrists and the embrace of my friends as they scoop me back onto the board, tasting that freedom and friendship that drew me to flying trapeze in the first place.

My intention for this weekend is to RELAX and go back to a place where I was just grateful to be in the air, laughing on the board, cheering on my friends and making new memories.

With that, I'll relive one more old memory with you...

Last year on the board with Rob and Uncle Tony

A Summer of Trapeze Firsts

Monday, September 7, 2015

Another flashback post to summer and flying trapeze. I would love to post about my current trapeze situation, however, it's nonexistent at the moment. Side note, if any of my Orlando friends have a large piece of property, get at me, because I have a proposition for you.

This summer I grew exponentially as a flyer and an instructor. I had hoped the intensive nature of the job would result in huge gains, which would hopefully make up for the lack of flying I had experienced in the few months leading up to it. 

Truth be told, I spent a great deal of the summer frustrated and disappointed in my progression. I swear it took about five weeks for me to feel like I was flying at the level I had left off a few months prior. And it wasn't until the last two or three weeks before tear down that I actually felt good about how far I had come. (We are our own worst critics). 

That being said, some pretty cool things happened this summer flying- and otherwise. This post will focus on flying and I hope to recap the other fun stuff in another post.

Mojo and I were lucky enough to go straight to Cotton Candy Club as our first order of business in California. Felt really great to be back in the air and so happy that our first flight of the trip was at that gorgeous pink rig! Thank you again Nicolina!! <3

By far one of the coolest and most memorable experiences of the summer (and a top 5 life experience) was flying under the full moon. It was my first real night fly and it was so surreal catching in the dark underneath that big bright pie in the sky. That night I posted the photo below on instagram with the caption:

When you wake up to a phone call in the middle of the night that says, "it's a full moon and we're going to fly," you wipe the sleep from your eyes, throw on your tights and race over to the rig because something magical is happening.

Another really special experience was having my husband Alex finally agree to take a swing. He did great for his first time and he even managed a fly away! It was really cool to send him off the board and welcome him into my circus world! :D

As for my own flying, I worked on my cutaway quite a bit this summer. I caught it for the first time with Efe back in June. There's a video on my instagram from one of those first few catches. We played around with some return variations, including this splits version with Rob. We never had the chance to clean it up, so here's a silly version that still makes me laugh looking back at it. 

It was pretty exciting to finally meet up with my trapeze evil twin CC! It was so much fun chatting and flying and my goodness, the time went by too quickly! She brought me to Richie Gaona's Trapeze Workshop and it was just as wonderful as I had imagined.

Christie is a beautiful flyer and person! It was so nice sharing the board with her, she calmed me down and made sure I was okay (I was so nervous leaning out to the bar. It was a faaaaaar reach for a shrimpo like myself). At the rig, I mainly worked on my layout and then started throwing doubles for fun. It was my first time working on a double back tuck and I fell in love immediately. It felt like I was rotating for an eternity. Here's my layout catch with Terry:

Efe and I had talked about uprises being a good trick for me and my interest in doing a forward over. A few weeks before the summer ended we finally got around to working on them. Within a few days of learning an uprise, I was throwing catchable forward overs (in lines of course). After struggling my way through my swing, layout and cutaway for so long, my mind was completely blown at how easy the uprise forward over felt. I can't wait until it's passing leap ready (hehe one day)!

In addition to flying, I learned so much about rigging and teaching trapeze. I can now tie a clove hitch and a double figure eight in two different ways each. I can also switch out the fly bar without shaking and sweating profusely, terrified that I'm going to drop a cable. I even hung from the catch crane and rigged up the catch trap!

I came to Pali only knowing how to run board, but I left able to pull and call for tricks as advanced hocks salto. I really enjoyed pulling lines and I think it made me a better coach and flyer. 

In addition to trapeze, I also worked on other circus-related activities. While, it was not my first experience with acro yoga, I'm including this as a first because Rob and I put together pretty chill flow and also because I finally nailed this pose:

Lastly, as the summer came to a close, I put together my first doubles act with my aerial soul sister, Adi. We are still awaiting footage, but hopefully it turns out as rad as the raw footage looked. PS we scored these sweet leo/dresses for $10 at a sample sale.

I feel like there was so much more that happened this summer. And I'm sure I'll remember stuff after I post this. I have hours of trapeze footage on my iPad that I still need to go through. And there are so many other things that happened that I don't have photo/video of, like Mojo taking his layout on his own timing...multiple times... that's his trick now. :) Heck yeah!

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