Think yoga is for women only? We put Shape’s art director Ray Ticsay to an aerial yoga challenge at Trium Fitness. He lived to tell the tale.
I’ve never been a fan of yoga, or any fitness class for that matter. With the exception of work, I generally avoid any activity that requires me to sign up and show up at a fixed time.
My idea of exercise is calling up some friends for a round of basketball, which I haven’t done for a few years since I had my first child. These days, exercising means playing Dota 2 every night. Those hours of gaming generates at least 1,000 mouse clicks from my forefinger, and saps lots of brain juice. Pretty exhausting stuff.
Once in a while, I get inspired to attend a yoga or cardio class, thanks to my active Shape colleagues who are always trying out fitness classes in the name of work. But my interest quickly fizzles out. If only workout classes were as fun as basketball.
Actually, the main reason I join those once-in-a-blue-moon fitness classes is to stay in shape – well, I try. In my heyday, I got away with eating junk food every day. But after hitting my mid-30s, my waistline has expanded noticeably. My double chin is starting to show, and my belly isn’t as taut as before. After reading countless Shape articles on how to get toned abs, I sometimes feel a surge of motivation to do those exercises. I can even visualise exactly how to do them – except that I don’t get around to it.
Here’s another thing about working for Shape. You don’t really get to say no to any work-related physical activity, unless you have pre-existing medical conditions or a medically diagnosed phobia. I have none of those issues, and am relatively healthy. Which is why when associate editor Estelle tasked me to blind-trial a fitness class to showcase men doing unconventional workouts, I agreed to it.
Since this was potentially blackmail-worthy, I dragged my other male colleague, ex-designer Huy along, to do this with me. The stakes would be halved, no? Thankfully, he was game.
Prior to the event, we were told nothing about the nature of the activity, except to wear fitted clothes and tights. I immediately thought of acroyoga, and worse, pole dancing. Imagining myself wrapping my legs around an icy cold and slippery pole did nothing to help me sleep the night before.
The class was due to start at 4pm. By 2pm, I made sure my lunch was digested and my bowels were cleared. (Estelle advised me to eat light and avoid spicy food.) Unfortunately, the butterflies in my stomach did not go away. During our car ride to the studio, I had fleeting thoughts of calling sick and heading home. But I had a job to keep.
We arrived at Aperia Mall in Lavender, where Estelle led us to level three. All I could think of was how good Tim Ho Wan dim sum – from the 24-hour restaurant two floors down – would have tasted right then, instead of a surprise workout.
And then we saw it – red and black cloth hanging from the ceiling of Trium Fitness studio. “Looks like bondage,” Huy quipped. At that point, I prayed to emerge safe from the workout.
Wasting no time, Dawn Sim, the founder of Trium Fitness, led us in and announced that we were going to do aerial yoga. Just what I’d expected from those cloths (hammocks, as they’re called). She led us through several warm-up exercises to stretch our back, shoulders and hamstrings. They looked easy enough, but with my stiff body, I could not extend my back nor legs fully, hard as I tried. I took consolation in the fact that Huy was struggling with the exercises too.
Challenge #1: Titanic pose
Fifteen painful minutes later, Dawn taught us the first trick of the day: titanic pose. Basically, you have to lean your pelvis into the base of the hammock, bend forward and stretch your back till you look like a graceful bird. Other than the thin cloth, there’s nothing else for support.
I’ve not done acrobatics before, but this comes pretty close. After multiple tries and encouragement from Dawn, Huy and I managed to balance ourselves on the hammock without falling on our faces. Phew. Our alignment was far from perfect, but I felt majorly proud. In fact, I was ready to call it a day – except that it wasn’t time yet. Dawn had a few more challenging poses in mind.
“With guys, I typically let them try more strength-based exercises than balance and flexibility ones, as they are stronger and less fearful,” she said. Upon hearing that, I puffed out my chest and told myself that I’m stronger than most girls.
Challenge #2: Dive bomber transition
The next challenge though, nearly made me wet my pants. Dawn demonstrated what looked like a somersault. That’s like, gymnastics? (I later learnt that the move is called a dive bomber transition, because it’s swift like an aircraft.) Holding the sides of our hammock, we were supposed to use the momentum of swinging our legs forward and upwards to invert, and then flip ourselves over. Dawn made it look too easy.
On my first few tries, I failed to turn over. Each time I reached the upside-down position, I squawked and freaked out. But like Dawn said, practice makes perfect. On my fourth attempt, I’d built enough confidence to complete my flip without a disaster. Considering I’ve not done any inversion in my life before this, it’s an amazing accomplishment.
Challenge #3: Inverted butterfly + lazing monkey pose
Seeing how Huy and I nailed the previous poses (well, sort of), Dawn decided it was time to level up. Demonstrating the final challenge, she stepped up onto the hammock, wrapped her legs around the cloth to form the groin-stretching butterfly pose, and then let herself drop freely to invert the pose.
I was half expecting her head to hit the floor, or the hammock to give way, but nothing of that sort happened. That graceful, flawless demo gave us no reason to chicken out. I let out a nervous chuckle. Inside, I was on the verge of breaking down. So this is what it feels like when I make my daughter learn new gymnastics tricks. Beside me, Huy became disoriented once he was suspended from the ground.
To egg us on, Dawn told us to flex our biceps while holding the hammock. It sounds like a pure ego-boosting strategy, but doing so activated my arms and improved my grip, which made me less anxious about performing the stunt. Of course, I felt empowered staring at my bulging biceps in the mirror.
Dawn must have sensed our anxiety, as she came around to help us get into the pose individually. In the inverted butterfly pose, I was surprisingly calm. I could almost take a nap here, but I had to keep the bottom of my feet glued together to prevent slipping. On the other hand, Huy, who had no issues doing the earlier poses, started howling. He had trouble lifting his hands off from the ground, and found it hard to stabilise himself.
After doing this pose, I found the next one – lazing monkey pose – much less scary. We were to get into a similar inverted position, except that this time we were to sit on the hammock and flip backwards, like a half somersault. Once I managed to relax and align my body, I realised the pose wasn’t as tough as it looked. And it was pretty soothing for me.
After what felt like an eternity – when it was actually just three minutes – Dawn helped me return to an upright position. That’s when dizziness and slight nausea set in, probably because I was new to inversions. I was glad that I didn’t have my favourite fried chicken meal for lunch.
Like a reward for surviving our first aerial class, Dawn had us lie in the hammocks for a few minutes in aerial yoga’s version of savasana (corpse pose), rocking forward and backwards gently while taking deep breaths. It was the most satisfying savasana ever, as I thought to myself: Man, I can conquer anything.
Trium Fitness is located at #03-01/02 Aperia Mall (tel: 8782-8633). It offers various yoga, pilates and dance aerobic classes. Rates start from $35 for a drop-in class. Visit www.triumfitness.com for more info.