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How aerial hoop can help get you the body you’ve always wanted

I’ll be the first to admit that my lifestyle used to be less than ideal… three takeaways a week, zero exercise and lots of late nights. Apart from always being tired, I hated the way I looked but didn’t have the drive to do anything about it. That’s until I decided to try something new, something just for me and that’s when I discovered aerial hoop.

So I signed myself up to a 6 week fundamentals course at Leeds Aerial Arts with the determination to stick it out and not give up after a few weeks.

Well those 6 weeks quickly turned into 6 months which turned in a year… ONE WHOLE YEAR and I have no intention of stopping. Without aerial hoop, I would still be that unhealthy person with zero fitness, zero strength and zero (body) confidence.

So if you want to find out how aerial hoop can change your life and help you get the body you want, scroll down to read more…

What is aerial hoop?

Traditionally a circus act, aerial hoop or Lyra is a suspended steel ring and is used to perform acro based routines.

Aerial hoop offers a fantastic full body workout designed to improve strength, build muscle and increase flexibility. This makes it the perfect balance of getting fit and having fun at the same time… so what’s not to love?

Super fast spins, daring drops and graceful gazelles will be part of your training but don’t worry, as a beginner you’ll learn the basics first. If you want to learn more about what to expect from your first aerial hoop class, click here.

Super Strength

During your first few sessions of aerial hoop, you’ll find conditioning exercises hard (I really struggled) and unless you’ve trained previously, moving your own body weight around will be a challenge.

Seated pull ups, leg raises and even straddle mounts will seem impossible but stick with it. It was months until I managed by first pull up and now 5,6 or even 7 in a row aren’t a big deal.

The more you train, the stronger you’ll get but I’m not going to sit here and tell you it’s easy but when you start to see results – it’ll suddenly feel worth it.

Top tip: If you’re serious about training, invest in a gym membership. A few weight lifting based workouts each week will accelerate your progress, making hoop class a bit easier.

Increased Flexibility

If you struggle to even touch your toes, no worries – the more you practice, the better you’ll get and the best part is that you might not even realise until you nearly drop into the splits or get a near perfect back bend without trying.

The shapes and flows you‘all learn and practice will push your body to new limits helping to figure out what you’re naturally good at and what needs practice. For example, my splits have come along way in a short amount of time with little training but my shoulder mobility is poor.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that regular stretching and flexibility training is important to really push your progression as well as understanding the fundamentals of how to stretch properly and safely.

For more information on stretching, check out The Bendy Series. Covering getting your splits in 12 weeks, back flexibility and shoulder mobility, just 10 minutes a day can really help!

You can eat more!

No I don’t mean you can stuff yourself with crisps, bags of sweets or bars of chocolates. By eating meals packed full of the good stuff will give your body the fuel it needs to build muscle and recover. After a hard slog during your gym and aerial hoop training sessions, your body will thank you.

The misconception is that to lose “weight” is to go into a calorie deficit meaning eating less but that’s not right at all. If you want to have a more defined figure then you need to lose body fat and build muscle – ignore the scales, muscle weighs more than fat but you will look and feel slimmer.

Just to put it into perspective, when I was at my unhealthiest I weighed 63kg and was a size 12, now I weigh 65kg and currently a size 8/10.

Make sure you have a good breakfast to start the day off right followed by lunch (and a second one in my case) then a lovely big dinner. You can snack inbetween as well if you still feeli hungry but try to stop eating 3 hours before bed time – this gives your body chance to digest your food.

And finally…

It’s a confidence builder

It can be daunting signing up for a class when you don’t know anyone and for many that can be a turn off. But how can you learn a new skill or meet new people if you don’t step out of your comfort zone every once in a while?

It’s important to remember that EVERYONE is in the same boat so when you arrive at your first class just smile and say hello to everyone – it’ll break the ice and before long you’ll have your own little aerial hoop family.

Enjoy your aerial hoop fitness journey!

The Bendy Series: Shoulder Mobility

For those of us that spend hours hunched over laptops and desks will understand the constant shoulder tension we carry around as well as a noticeable rounding in our posture. However a few simple stretches will soon sort this out.

In the final part of The Bendy Series, yogi Claire Bell has helped put together a lovely stretch routine aimed at increasing shoulder mobility.

Claire is a true inspiration to all us wannabe bendy people so please show her your support by checking out her recent posts and following her Instagram for your daily fix.

Warming Up

Before stretching, it’s important to get your body warm and the blood pumping to prevent any injury. It’ll only take five minutes so find a space to begin.

  • Wide arm circles squeezing the shoulder blades together
  • Lift and drop your shoulders as quickly as you can
  • Shoulder rolls

Now that you’ve lovely and warm, lets begin…

Basic Shoulder Stretch

Basic shoulder stretch

Bring one arm across your body with thumb facing down. The other arm should firmly lock underneath securing the hold. Pull your arm close to your body until you can feel a nice stretch in your shoulder and hold for 20 seconds.

Release your arm and repeat but this time with your thumb facing down as this will rotate your shoulder. Make sure to do this on both sides.

Tricep Stretch

Tricep stretch

Drop one arm behind your back with the elbow pointing upwards. Grab hold of your tricep (avoid tugging on your elbow) and pull it behind your head towards the opposite side. Once you feel a stretch in your tricep, hold this position for 20 seconds then repeat on the other side.

Top tip – Try to hold your own hand by joining them in the middle of your back (commonly knows as the cow face pose). You might only be able to do one side but that’s okay – it’s a good way to measure your mobility progression.

Wall Chest Stretch

Begin this stretch by facing the wall and keep your feet close to it. Place one arm against the wall and slowly twist your body around until you begin to feel a stretch. If you feel able, continue the twist to deepen it then repeat on the other side.

Standing Wall Stretch

Stand facing the wall and reach your hands up with forearms touching the wall. Step backwards and slowly begin to push your chest towards the wall as close as you can.

If this is too challenging then adjust your stance to allow your head to hang down facing your feet. By doing this you can work to get your chest to touch the wall.

For those of you that find this easy, take another step back, keeping your hands in the same place for a deeper stretch.

Puppy Pose

Puppy pose

The aim of this is to get chin and chest to the floor!

Begin in childs pose, lifting your bum up and moving your knees closer to your chest. Do this nice and slowly until you reach your limit then hold for 20 seconds.

Variation – For an extra challenge, try reaching behind and holding onto the back of your thighs.

Backwards shoulder stretch

Backwards shoulder stretch

Sit with your legs bent and keep your hands close together (roughly shoulder width apart) then begin to slide them backwards until you feel the stretch. Hold for 20 seconds and if you feel confident, move further back for an even deeper stretch.

Folded shoulder stretch

Folded shoulder stretch

Standing upright with your feet shoulder width apart, clasp your hands together behind your back and begin to fall into forward fold position. Pull your arms towards the ground and hold for 20 seconds.

Bridge

Bridge

Get into the bridge pose in whichever way feels comfortable then begin to gently rock forwards and backwards. Each time to rock forwards, push your shoulders over your hands – five to ten rocks then rest.

If you need more help with your bridge pose, then read more here

Remember…

Practice this short stretch routine a few times a week and you’ll really feel the difference.

The Bendy Series: Back Flexibility

Some people are blessed with a bendy back and the rest of us seem to have a spine made of stone but don’t worry… we have the answer!

As part of our bendy series, yogi Claire Bell has helped us put together another awesome stretch routine to build a strong and flexible back which is perfect for those back balances and twisty shapes.

Claire is a true inspiration to us wannabe bendy people so show her your support by checking out and following her Instagram for your daily fix.

Warm Up

Before you start this routine, it’s important to warm up your back and activate the muscles you’ll be using to prevent injury.

Spend 5 mins working through the following exercises:

  • Side to side twists
  • Cat/cow combo
  • Toe touches
  • 30 second plank

Once you’re lovely and warm, grab your yoga mat and find a comfy spot to begin.

The Stretches

Each stretch should be held for 20 to 30 seconds and the whole routine shouldn’t take any more than 10 to 15 minutes. 

Cat Pose

Cat Pose

Begin in table top pose, making sure your shoulders are stacked over your wrists and your hips stacked over your knees.

Inhale and bring your belly button inwards towards your spine and arch your back upwards. On your exhale, release and bring your spine back down to neutral.

Cow Pose

Cow Pose

Stay in the same starting position as you did for cat – cow is just the reverse.

Inhale and arch your spine as much as you can without causing any pain then return to neutral on your exhale.

Claire says – “These first 2 poses are done as a flow cat to cow cat to cow I will repeat 5-10 times, this also serves as a nice back warm up before the next stretches.”

Seal Pose

Seal Pose

Lay flat on the ground with your hands by your side. Lift your upper body high and arch your back as far as you can.

Soften your elbows so that there is a slight bend and keep them tucked into your sides.

Try to keep your hips flat to the ground but its ok if you can’t on your first few attempts – after all, practice makes perfect.

Bow Pose

Bow Pose

Lay on your front and reach your arm behind you, grabbing any part of your legs between your ankles and knees. Slowly arch your back and straighten your legs as much as you can (without hurting yourself).

If you have good shoulder flexibility, you can reach over your head and hold your feet for a deeper stretch.

Top tip: If you’re unable to grab your legs, try using a yoga strap to bridge the gap.

Camel Pose

Camel Pose

Kneel on the floor and arch your back downwards so that you are able to grab your ankles. Once you’re in this position, push your hips forward to get a lovely deep stretch.

Camel Pose – Beginners variation

Beginner’s variation: If you’re finding this stretch a bit challenging, try tucking your toes to give you extra height while working towards being able to keep your feet flat.

Pigeon Pose

Pigeon Pose

Sit in a half split (front leg bent and back leg straight) then bend your back leg, arch your back and reach over your head to grab your foot bringing it to your head.

As this pose is a bit advanced, don’t worry if you don’t have the back or shoulder flexibility – just keep working on it!

Pigeon Pose – Beginners variation

Beginner’s variation: Grab yourself a resistance band, yoga strap or belt and attach to your foot. This will help you bring your foot steadily towards your head and hold the pose.

Bridge Pose

Lay flat on your back and bring your feet up to your bum. Place your hands flat by your ears and fingers pointing to your feet, push your tummy up to the roof and rock your chest forward. Make sure your shoulders are stacked over your hands.

Your arms should be straight with elbows locked to provide the stability you need to hold this pose. If you need a bit of help, try using a yoga wheel or ask someone to support your back.

Claire says: “This requires some shoulder flexibility which I clearly don’t have as my shoulders aren’t in the correct place but I practiced often so they’ll get there.”

Teardrop Back Bend

Standing with your feet shoulder width apart, begin to arch your back and slowly slide your hands down your leg. Pushing your hips forward will help keep you balanced.

It’s as simple as that…

And rest…

Finally it’s important to finish with some forward folds to help cool down and prevent sore muscles. Also these folds are great as short breaks throughout the routine to help recover.

Child’s Pose

Kneel down with your knees apart and walk your hands forward. Try to keep your big toes touching and your bum sat on your heels.

Spend 1-2 minutes concentrating on your breathing and letting your body relax.

Forward Fold

Sit on the floor with your legs out in front of you. Lean forward, keeping your back as straight as you can and pull your chest towards your knees.

As with child’s pose, spend a bit of time on your breathing and relax into this stretch.

Beginner’s variation: Soften your knees slightly to allow you to bring your chest to your knees. Remember – a straight back is more important than straight legs.

Remember – keep up the hard work and you’ll see amazing results 🙂

The Bendy Series: Getting your splits in 12 weeks

Aerial shapes and routines always look so much better when they are”splitty” but if you’re not quite there yet or starting from scratch, this easy to follow daily stretch routine from the one and only yogi Claire Bell is a game changer.

Claire is a true inspiration to us wannabe bendy people so show her your support by checking out and following her instagram for daily inspo.


Warm Up

Before you start stretching, it’s good to get the blood pumping so 5 minutes of quick cardio is a must.

  • Star jumps
  • High knees
  • Jumping squats
  • Running on the spot

Once you’re nice and warm, grab your yoga mat and find a nice spot to begin.

The stretches

Each stretch should be held for 20 to 30 seconds on each side and the whole routine shouldn’t take any more than 15 minutes.

This routine is perfect for fitting into a busy life style and can pretty much be done anywhere. Whether it’s in the morning before you go to work, after your gym workout or in the evening before you go to bed.

If completed every day, you can achieve or get close to achieving the full splits in around 12 weeks.

If you want speed up the process then aim to complete the full routine 2 or 3 times a day. It may seem intense but once you start to see results, it will definitely be worth it.

Pyramid pose

Pyramid Pose

Starting with your left foot, take a big step forward and make sure your heels are in line with each other. Hinge at the hip, bringing your chest to your leg and your hands behind you with fingers facing away.

If you are struggling to rest your chest on your leg, then soften the knees slightly but keep your back as straight as you can.

Low Lunge

Low Lunge

Get into the lunge position, making sure your front leg is bent at 90 degrees. Extend your back leg as far as you can while pushing your thigh down to the floor. This will help loosen up those hip flexors.

Remember: Always keeps your hips as square as you can (facing forwards, not to the side).

Lizard Pose

For a deeper stretch, you can move into lizards pose by leaning forwards and placing both forearms on the floor.

Backwards Lunge

Backwards Lunge

This is the reverse of the low lunge. Instead of bending your front leg, keep it straight and bend the back knee under hips. Bring your chest as close as you can to your knee.

For a deeper stretch, flex your toes towards your face so that your hamstrings are kept activated.

Pigeon Pose

Pigeon Pose

Keeping your hips square and facing forwards, bring your front leg to a 90 degree bend and stretch out your back leg as far as you can while pressing your thigh into the floor.

Steady yourself with your hands by your sides to keep your back straight and core engaged.

For a deeper stretch, bend forward and lean over your front leg. Reach your hands as far forwards as you can. You can use your fingers to walk your hands further.

Pillow Stretches

Now lets get to practising those splits.

Grabs some pillows, preferably 3 big chunky ones so that you can stack them underneath your legs and comfortably slide into the splits. It doesn’t matter if you’re not far down yet as this is just to ease yourself into it stabilise yourself.

Three…

Three Pillow Split

Cross opposite hands over opposite legs to keep your hips square and to allow your body to go as low as it can.

Split, stretch, repeat.

Two…

Two Pillow Splits

One…

One Pillow Splits

The Splits

Full splits

Congratulations! You’re now part of the splitty crew!