Photo: Courtesy Body And Pole.
I tend to spend most of my exercising hours in a spin class, with a few bootcamp classes thrown in for a change of scenery. While I’m attracted to the competition, athleticism, and “team” environments, I’ve recently found myself stuck in a fitness rut. So, in the spirit of the new year and all things healthy, I decided to challenge myself by exploring studios off the beaten SoulCycle-Flywheel-Barry’s path. That's when I came across Body & Pole.
Located in Chelsea, Body & Pole is an enormous studio offering aerial, pole, flexibility, and conditioning classes. I opted for an aerial class since it sounded exotic and is the absolute furthest thing from spin. I’d only taken one pole class before (for a girlfriend’s birthday party), which was difficult, but the racy moves left me feeling a little uncomfortable. I expected Body & Pole to be similarly sexed-up. Thankfully, my inner athlete was happy: The Aerial Fabrics class is a serious workout that’s also seriously fun.
Since I was a total aerial amateur, I took Intro to Fabrics. For safety, and due to the skill required in an aerial class, you’re actually not allowed to move to an intermediate level until you’ve completed three introductory classes. My instructor, Alex Apjarova, was a former national gymnastics champion from her native Slovakia and has toured the world with Cirque du Soleil, among numerous other accomplishments. If someone was going to teach me the basics to aerial exercise, I can’t think of anyone more qualified than Alex.
Photo: Courtesy Body And Pole.
The class began with about a half hour of floor exercises designed to strengthen, stretch, and open up the body. Alex demonstrated and also explained the differences between a ballet warmup and a gymnastics warmup. (Who knew there were specific ‘ballet’ and ‘gymnastics’ splits?) There were only about five other students (all female, even though the class is coed), so we received a lot of personal attention and corrections.
Next up, we took our focus to the silks. The silks, which look like drapes, can stretch horizontally but not vertically and are securely hooked to the ceiling with industrial-proof carabiners that can hold up to 1,000 pounds. Since we were in a beginner class, we worked with only three silks, one for Alex and two for students (in an intermediate class, everyone gets their own). We watched in awe as Alex effortlessly showed us a few moves before inviting us, two by two, to try out the positions ourselves.
She taught us some of the more basic exercises, like how to “stand” on the fabric, and then gradually worked up to higher-level poses like hanging upside down in an inverted split. It all looks and sounds very complicated, but Alex’s instruction broke everything down making it very simple (though certainly not easy).
By the end, my muscles (particularly my arms) had maxed out, and I felt invigorated in a totally new way. I got a challenging strength-building workout, but also enjoyed learning something totally new — and left wanting to learn more.