Flips, Flight and Freedom

Tara Scalesi Blog

When I was a kid, I used to love watching the Olympics with my family and marveling at the girls (and boys) who would run at full speed onto a padded mat and begin a series of seemingly impossible, continuous flips. They were incredible and I was enamored with all the crazy things they could do with their bodies. I remember begging my parents to be a part of a gymnastics program, but my mother, fearing that I would break every single bone in my body, refused to sign me up. “You’re too tall to be a gymnast anyway,” she’d say. And I guess that was true. I was always taller than everyone in my classes and in my mother’s defense; I was not exactly the most graceful kid either. I had a slew of silly injuries (with the scars to prove them) from things like flying over the handlebars of my bicycle or running into walls. I was a bit of a mess. Her fears were not unwarranted, and I really could never blame her for saying no to a sport that would have left her in fits of worry and that would have probably sent us more than a few times to the emergency room.

Still, I wanted to flip like those Olympic competitors did. So without a training program, I found my own ways to fulfill my need of seeing the world upside down. My best friend/next-door-neighbor/fellow inversion enthusiast, Mary, and I were climbing/jumping/flipping maniacs. We would find ourselves regularly at the tops of trees, usually upside down, and we would practice handstands and headstands in the yard and put on Cartwheel shows with choreographed rolls and tumbles and tricks. On rainy days when we were trapped inside, we would stack up the blankets, pillows, and comforters on the couch in my parents’ den and go running through the kitchen to tumble onto our makeshift cushion mats. The possibilities were always endless.

So, as you can imagine, we were absolutely ecstatic when Mary’s mom came home one day with a trampoline. We would finally be able to add flight to our moves! We spent hours upon hours after school every single day on Mary’s trampoline, teaching ourselves back flips, front flips, walk overs, hand-springs, twisty flips in the air, just everything. We had so much fun. We would even played this (admittedly dangerous) game that we created for the sole purpose of getting as much height as possible. We would bounce simultaneously into the air 3 times and then land on our backs together, but because the timing of the jump/landing we could never be exactly in sync. One person would inevitably land a split second before the next, and the impact would shoot the second person high up into the trees. It was definitely crazy, but it was an unmatchable rush. Suspended in air like that, time would stand still for a second that felt like it could go on forever. It was so peaceful in those moments.

It was a little under 10 years later that I took my first Aerial Yoga class in NYC. After having tried a series of very interesting classes, like underwater spinning (yes, this is a real class) and cardio fencing, I stumbled upon this very interesting looking class where people were wrapped up and twisted in fabric and hanging around that they were calling “Aerial”. The discovery alone tapped into something I hadn’t even realized I had been missing, and I had one of those “OOOOOO, I want to try THAT” kind of moments. I went in to my first class with absolutely no experience. At the time, I had very little flexibility or upper body strength, but I didn’t care. I went in and thought, “I’m probably going to be pretty bad at this.” And I was, but it didn’t matter – I loved it immediately.

Aerial, or Elevated Movement, as we call it here at BBI, can be useful in a lot of ways in our bodies. There is a lot to be said about all of its very real benefits for the body, specifically the ways in which it encourages blood flow to change, and allows our bodies to explore shapes and movements we would not ordinarily achieve in our upright, gravity-fighting every day lives. However, the thing I connect to most about it, personally, is that it is FUN. It’s so easy as adults to get stuck in our heads, telling ourselves the rules about what it is to be an adult. What we should and should not do, or can and cannot do. We get too accustomed to telling ourselves that we “can’t” do things.

“Oh, wow, I could never do anything like that!” is a statement I hear a lot when people first look at a picture of someone taking a class like this. Let me be the first to promise you that this class is so much more than crazy upside down flips. I promise you, the entire class is NOT inverted. We swing, we hang, we flip, sure. But a lot of it is grounding, too. There’s a lot of work with balance, strengthening, restoration, and stillness. We work a lot to open the spaces in our bodies that we tend to close off for protection and self-preservation. Some of this class feels like a deep tissue massage and will help to release toxins from our systems. Some of it is floating silently, focusing on breath and falling into deep relaxation or meditation. It is a space to connect and bring awareness to the profound work that our bodies are doing every second of every day to keep us moving. I find the practice of Elevated Movement to be playful and exploratory, but also deeply connected. I hope for each and every client who experiences this class that they find joy and freedom in moving their bodies in whatever way makes it feel good, light and free.

If I’ve successfully de-bunked your fears that this class may be to physically challenging for you (And I hope I have!), and you’re STILL feeling slightly fearful because you are worried you wouldn’t be any “good”, I encourage you to please, kindly let that go as well. Everyone is welcome in this space. We have designed these classes for all levels, and private sessions are even more individually focused to each client’s needs. There is always a way to work on something, no matter the level. As always, it is less about completing difficult poses or competing with what someone else can do, or even getting yourself to reach a specific end-goal in any way. I encourage everyone to approach this work with lightness of heart, an open mind, and a little extra faith in yourself. Most importantly, allow yourself the permission to play! Reconnect with the fearless little kid you were once upon a time. There’s something magical about being suspended in air. Give yourself to the chance to fly!