Circus artists delight and amaze us with their bodies. We admire their strength and we admire their flexibility.
Strength for many of us is relatively easy to obtain, you just have to make sure that you train regularly several times a week and you have to focus on your conditioning (Strength training). However even going to class once a week will see you developing your strength even if it is at a much slower rate. Flexibility on the other hand? This you have to fight for….
Many people who train in aerial arts for ‘fun’ will have a certain amount of strength from impressive to not impressive but it’s rare to come across a recreational aerialist who has the flexibility of your average professional unless they happen to be dancers. Yet having this flexibility and being able to perform exquisite front splits or a divine backbend can help to bring a routine to life especially on the lyra/aerial hoop where flexibility is expected.
So how do you achieve super bendinesss? Effective flexibility training is rarely offered for evening students at circus schools. I say effective because it’s never usually enough or ‘hands on’ to help you achieve your splits. I was actually advised to seek out a contortionist for flexibility classes. It took me a while and much research on contortion forums but eventually I did find a teacher and have been taking classes since 2011 which have enabled me to achieve my left and right front splits. My teacher is a world record holding contortionist who is originally from Mongolia and she is truly amazing. It’s a group class but she works with all the students individually helping them to achieve the flexibility at the rate that their body will allow and she gets amazing results. Her students come in as stiff as a board and after some time they emerge as limber as ballerinas.
These classes aren’t a quick fix though. You have to put in the commitment. There are a rare few who after a few of these classes or even immediately achieve their splits but for the majority, flexibility will be much harder to attain so depending on the work that you put in and your body it can take from six months to a year to achieve the splits. So contortion/flexibility classes are the way to go but some words of advice:
- Make sure that your teacher is qualified. A qualified teacher will understand how far they can ‘push’ your own unique and individual body and they won’t work beyond your range of flexibility.
- Make sure that your teacher performs a thorough warm up. You do not want to start stretching cold muscles. This will lead to injury/torn muscles and will see you out of all training for months.
- Generally, it’s better to work with a teacher who has worked through training to achieve their flexibility as opposed to a teacher who is naturally flexible. A teacher who hasn’t had to train to achieve their bendiness won’t have the same understanding of the body that a teacher who has had to train hard will.
Lastly even when you do achieve your splits it can still take time to be able to perform on demand and insert them into your aerial routine so be patient with yourself. You will get there. I did.