Back in April or whenever the Groupon was offered, NPY was pelted from both sides when the Tantra Fitness deal was released. I told him I was doing the 5-class Silks option and his sister, SIL, was also buying it. I learned she went for the 10 fitness class option and I went “Pfft!” I would love the company at Silks but having none, I would still go it alone because it’s something I’ve wanted to try for a while. See how I tried out Aerial Yoga last year as a near attempt at Silks.
Throughout the busy-busy summer, it didn’t seem like a good time to activate the Groupon. Once activated, I had 60 days to do my five classes. That is not really so tall an order but I lived in east Van (booo…) and the way our window shopping was going, maybe – just maybe – we’d buy a condo in Olympic Village and then it’s my neighbourhood fitness studio, etc. But we didn’t buy anything and only by the middle of August did we decide on an apartment to rent. But I’m in the ‘hood. Finally!
So, when I was looking at the Silks schedule – and getting increasingly worried that I wasn’t going to get 5 classes in what with vacation and all, I browsed over to the fitness classes. Ohhh lala, all the classes are really sexy. Classes are named like Burlesque, Erotica, Sexy Flexy, TNA, Bikini Body Blast, Dancehall… And there was a workshop (so timely) on Twerking. While I’ll try anything when it’s on an unlimited two-week pass, the classes I thought I would pay for include Acro Stretch, Dancer’s Stretch, Ballet Bootcamp and Contortion.
The beginning of September was down to the wire – 60 days until the end of October when the Groupon would expire and I couldn’t start within the first two weeks anyhow. And I wanted to activate a one-time offer new client special (two weeks for $35, unlimited classes) before piling on my five Silks classes. Plus, the studio was imminently moving (boooo) to Gastown. It was all down to the wire and two crazy weeks.
Ball Fit SIL’s friend did this class and warned me it was hard. There were just about ten of us relatively early on a Saturday morning. We did alternating about two-minute intervals of cardio (lunges, squats, shuffles) followed by two-minutes of core work (push-ups, planks, abs, back) and repeated the circuit to get a second shot at all the stances I couldn’t do. I’ve eschewed and avoid balance ball exercises all my life and face them with this class. I rate it felt harder than that 10K last week!
Bikini Body Blast No more unwieldy ball that I’ve managed to avoid most of my life! Also rated as moderate/highest intense, I was nervous about going again. We were instructed to pick up a resistance band, skipping rope, chair, mat and ball by the same instructor as for Ball Fit so it was more of those cardio intervals with “rest” being resistance, with her following the Timer app on her iPhone to tell us when intervals started and ended. Another thing I’ve avoided all my life – burpees. Man, I do them badly and slowly.
Ballet Bootcamp “Don’t be fooled by the name!” I looked up the class description and hoped my Monday class would be a moderate/lower level but – nope – moderate/higher intensity! It was led by a redhead in hot pink and we did traditional bootcamp (planks, push-ups, burp-ees, abs), cardio in the form of leaping arabesques, resistance training for our arms and some traditional ballet barre work at the center. I love the idea of Ballet Bootcamp but it’s not traditional bootcamp I want – I want, say, 24 plies followed by fondues and developpes until we drop, none of this planks stuff.
I am so blissfully sore in so many places. I know part of it has to do with the fact was my last Barre Power class was in on August 20 and I did not a drop of exercise until September 14 (that 10K). But it’s also encouraging that I am sore in places barre doesn’t make me sore: back, biceps, abs (hurts to sneeze). After this past weekend, I feel so – haha – cross-fit.
I am getting so very cranky and old and until I am part of the aerial crowd, I get angsty when I see them. Little attention seekers!! Really, most of the clients are just fine – normal people looking for an alternative workout. I am definitely of the party that does not automatically conclude that a pole fitness student secretly wants to entertain men or become a stripper, but find it a supremely interesting challenge. But it really annoyed me when I sat next to two pole students and one asked the other how the other’s brother felt about her taking these classes (I missed the responses) and they started to pontificate about breaking the boundaries put upon women that was set for centuries by the church and oppressive society, etc. Is that annoying or is the fake-tanned girl, a walking advertisement for Light Activewear, attired completed in screaming yellow with black accents including deep-V bra top, tiny shorts and coordinating hairband more annoying? (She had coral coloured Nike runners, naturally.) I thought she was thus so advanced… but she isn’t, yet. At the heart of it all, it’s just fitness; some people just take it so seriously.
Lap Dance There was no description on the website so I was going in blind! I went in wearing yoga shorts and the on-trend Lululemon racer-back tank top with sports bra showing and thinnest runners possible (not quite barefeet) and I was so wrong. The other girls were in platform stilettos (“pleasers”, they are called), hot shorts and slim tank tops. So, to fit in with the crowd, I kicked off my shoes, raised myself on tiptoes and rolled the hem of my shorts up. I also learned after the fact that Tantra will lend you shoes if you don’t happen to own pleasers or don’t want to scuff up your personal pair of pleasers with some of the foot dragging. The class is run practically in the dark with the studio lit only by those lanterns in the back of the room. We learned the components of one lap dance and listened to “Electric Avenue” more times than I want in a lifetime. I enjoyed greatly hip circles, Figure 8s and other ways to do normal actions (like walking) more sensually. “Turnarounds” on the ground made me feel far less graceful, intuitive or feline-like.
There’s the athletic and efficient way to move your body. There’s the conscientious way of moving your body such that you are being more graceful. Then there is the “art” of moving your body to accentuate all of the things men like to see – bums, elongated legs, curves. I like to think it’s all intuitive if I were to think about it and with the aid of some YouTube videos. What I can’t do all on my own is some of the tricks; we paired off to practice two tricks and consequently got really close to a fellow class member! One trick you could do with a mannequin (crawling backwards and onto his lap) but I wouldn’t trust but a living, breathing human to do the shoulderstand on his thighs manoeuver we learned. :o Intriguing but when I have a class card, I won’t be using it for this class.
Sexy Flexy The same instructor for Lap Dance also led Sexy Flexy and if you have an unlimited class membership – and two hours to spend at the studio – it’s a no brainer to stick around for it. I felt much better about my body doing those stretches although I worried that we weren’t warm enough to stretch most effectively. While I’m pretty flexible, an hour of concentrating on stretching made me feel a little inadequate (especially that quadricep stretch against the wall)!
Ballet Basics A perky instructor who reminds me of Judy Greer lead the basic techniques class. It is suitable for fitness and for others to gain a different experience. Since I’m loathed to wear my ballet shoes sans socks/tights, I wore pink tights and stood out amongst the cool kids who wore black footless tights with ballet shoes. since I’ve been away from ballet class for longer than I have been away from barre – last class back on August 1 – I had some of my usual tightness in the arch of my foot where a tendu hurt like dickens. But also, I found that the suede of ballet slippers against new laminate flooring is a slippery combination and I was fighting to not slip, posing an additional challenge. And since there is no barre installed, the pine chairs used for lap dance and tricep dips tripled up as a barre that also slipped across the floor. This class – and many others -is scheduled head-to-head with a pole class so it’s a cute, but significantly less popular, alternative.
Dancer’s Stretch I noticed that pole students came from next door to the Dancer’s Stretch class as it’s a good cool-down. While they wore athletic barely there outfits or sassy skirts, I was still in pink tights and with those pink tights, the ballet shoes stay on. Way to be eccentric-looking! It was a good class with hip-opening stretches leading up to ample hamstring “battement” stretches and finally parallel and center splits.
Intro to Silks On a practical level, I’m upset that I won’t be able to use up my five Silks classes before the end of October with me activating the Groupon only between the wedding and going away five weeks later. Oops. I thought I could squeeze in three Intro classes but after one Intro class I’m not sure I could take a second and third because they are so very, very basic. In the class led by superfun Silks insructor, Jen, we did some conditioning which was painful and difficult shoulder and back exercises. We learned how to tie two knots, step into the silks and an inversion. In terms of inversion, aerial yoga came in handy and with that head start, I’m a little less peeved that due to sharing a silk with a partner you only get to work with the silks half (or less) of the class time. It’s a good intro class and Jen did a demonstration that showed how to tangle and untangle your foot and I was inspired. As with all things Groupon and the end of the valid period coming up, the studio is really busy with reservations for their classes with limited spots and the progressive Silks classes are full. :(
Aerial Hoop L1 (Non-Progressive) Katie, the instructor, asked everyone, “Have you taken aerials hoops before? Have you recently been on monkey bars?” Um, no and no. And even when I was last on monkey bars, I just hung from them, not upside down or anything. Did I even ever, in my youth, go upside down? Probably not when there was an “audience” during recess. I went in with fair warning of the pain on my hands and just before class, Katie was talking to some students and amongst the tidbits, she said the the least flexibility was required for hoop (compared to pole and Silks). Isn’t that a nice tidbit? There were fewer people in this class such that I could have my own hoop. We did a fair bit of warm up and conditioning including Katie’s five and one’s – ten core exercises for 30 seconds each with a few seconds in between to adjust to your next set. We learned how to get into the hoop and then to pull up and sit. Oh, but did that already hurt my hands (can’t do anything about that) and my legs (could have worn leggings instead of hot shorts, and multiple layers on the legs, Katie advised). When I first attempted to pull up to a sitting in the hoop, I just couldn’t. But then the next skill (the following image) required starting from a seated position so I struggled into it – it gets easier, right?? We ended with doing the splits against the hoop and I could technically do it but it didn’t look pretty! What a great workout and watching Katie (who has been doing aerial since she was three) lithely demonstrate was so inspiring.
Image from poleitical.wordpress.com
Once upon a time, years ago, on a whim with my friend Vinnie, I took an exotic fitness sampler class in Toronto at Aradia Fitness which included half an hour or so on the pole. It was an eye-opener to the arts. But I can tell you that I was clinging to the pole like a madwoman – would I ever get it? In terms of equipment, hoop appears to be the most streamlined. Silks is the most beautiful of the three. All three require huge improvement in my upper body strength and that is not beyond me. I just can’t give up in the middle of a class (which I sort of did in Aerial Hoop). Which is more me: Aerial Hoop or Silks??
Erotica Can I just say … Erotica >> Lap Dance? I like the instructor (Vanessa, same redhead who lead Ballet Bootcamp and has crazy long legs) and she really took the time to make sure we picked up the techniques. Further, I brought black stacked stilettos and there was no partner work like in Lap Dance. I prefer to fly solo. :P We learned how to walk (no problem), how to crawl (harder) and how to hump air with a twerking add-on (hard on the knees, owwww). We put together a little routine that included a roll into a candle (fancy word for a shoulder stand). Once again, I appreciate how what simply looks like sensual movement is thought-out and so deliberate. This class, unlike the Lap Dance one, started to convince me of the merits of taking a class for these “arts”. And can I say I went home and practiced a little? (It was a solo night while NPY was at hockey.)
Exotic Dance (Floor) Since I took Erotica the night before, Exotic Dance felt a bit like more of the same. The instructor was Natalie, the same as I had for Lap Dance last week. Studio lighting was dimmed, we learned a a short routine with walking, crawling and a trick – it is apparently sexy to do this backwards off-center somersault with straight legs stuck up in the air. My question is, “How do people breathe while in a prolonged shoulder stand?!” I have take a breather, my organs get so squished.
Silks L1 Class 1 I registered for this class and got onto the waitlist (fifth out of 10 waitlist positions) and hardly thought I would get into the class but – as you would have it – last minute cancellations in the afternoon freed up a spot and as I was checking in to a 6:30 class, I was told I could get into the 8:30 Silks class. Sweet! Because I had activated my Groupon for five Silks classes before I took either Silks or Aerial Hoop on the weekend and thereafter mulling over the timing. Silks only has an Intro class compared to Aerial Hoop’s Non-Progressive Level 1 class and the Silks progressive classes were full and was I going to use up my Groupon on useless Intro classes? Getting into the L1 class was just what I needed and then I could fairly compare Silks with Aerial Hoop.
(This is reading a lot like an exercise journal!)
I was psyched to get into a progressive Silks class, and this class did not disappoint. Okay, so the very first conditioning exercise – pulling myself up on the silks and lowering to the floor – was still impossible for me. You’d think I’d have upper body strength since I have broad shoulders and I can do push-ups in Barre Power. Those little girls also in the class who don’t look like they do any exercise can pull themselves up so it is also partly mind over matter. Apparently, I need to install a chin-up bar and destroy the aesthetic of the apartment! But I could do the rest of the skills Natalie taught even if it wasn’t pretty in the least. We did more lace locks for the foot. Then we did a classic climb and a Russian climb. I can climb but the problem is I can’t iterate the climb beyond once and I don’t have the energy to come down without just jumping down. We also got each of our feet into lace lock and from there, I could – with control – get into the splits like the following. Yeah, I’m a show-off about my right split. I couldn’t dismount properly, though. I think it currently stands at Silks >> Aerial Hoop.
Image from femmesdufeu.com
I told NPY about climbing the silks and showed him an amateur video of a student who was just learning to climb. He remarked, “Isn’t it like climbing a rope in gym?” How prosaic! I wouldn’t know about rope-climbing technique as there was not one installed in my high school gym. Great, I am so fascinated and proud that I can finally climb a robe!
Contortion I was excited to do this class, a new one to try as my two-week trial winds down. The website description of the class is a little scary like so, “You MUST have adequate splits and straddle before attempting this class. Intense drills and stretches straight from Chinas’ [sic] acrobatics are not meant for beginners … We encourage you to … get approval from … instructors in order to advance into contortion … we will focus on extreme over manipulation of the shoulders, lower back, groin, and leg flexibility…” And the class doesn’t have a whimsical name you can’t take seriously like “Sexy Flexy”. While I am impressively flexible compared to my friends, I was afraid I wouldn’t get to sample Contortion class because of not getting approval, but the current instructor is not as strict as the one previously and I had no problems signing up.
Body shape and, um, BMI, is not a perfect predictor of flexibility – I mean, look at me! – so I was really curious of the ten-odd students in the class, where I fell within the mix. There was one guy – the first guy in all the class I have taken – who was such a clown and made approaching dirty sounding groans as he stretched and felt pain. Only one girl could truly do an oversplit while two of us (myself included!) were invited to try it because we do have our splits. And I surreptitiously looked around to see who could fold forward entirely and touch beyond their toes. It’s okay if people couldn’t. It is Contortion class at Tantra Fitness and not Contortion at Cirque du Soleil and it’s nice there is a serious stretching class in the mix. At the same time, I’m not sure I would use a class pass on it – shouldn’t I be able to do these at home while watching television? Splits both way, rig a mat or chair to work on my oversplit, kicking each leg higher, a proper bridge (I have one!), and shoulder stretches …
Burlesque At this point, I’m so broken. I twisted my “good ankle” on Monday – and my “bad ankle” doesn’t like me so much anymore after dancing in heels and wearing them at work all week – and Silks and Contortion really did a number on my shoulders (in a good way!) such that I was beat up by Thursday. And it’s just like me to go out more on a whimper than on a bang. The warm-up for Burlesque was great – to cabaret music and a dance warm-up loosening up the hips and upper body – but it was also about twenty minutes long. Have no fear, the instructor was business-like and we made it through just two bars of Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel” (not the usual cabaret burlesque music she uses) with ample practice. For four counts of the music, she presented three levels of options for if you’re coordinated enough to do legs, hips and arms altogether.
So, during my two-week trial (activated on a Saturday, last class 13 days later on a Thursday), I made it to 13 classes (including Aerial Hoop)! It was a whirlwind I put myself into because I wanted to try at the lowest fee as many classes as possible to determine which one(s) I would actually pay for.
Going forward, I can enjoy the 30% discount for students with an “Academic/Career Development Institution”, the latter of which I am in. The fitness classes varied in their utility to me but I will get it elsewhere. I will, however, pick up a Silks punch card and attend progressive classes and see where that goes.
There is a danger to dividing my efforts and then all I get is fitness and not improvement in a particular technique but… with Silks in the mix now, I have motivation to improve my upper body strength and core while also looking graceful at it. Sounds like something the mix of ballet, Barre, Silks class and running can do? Because that is the plan.