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Find your inner acrobat with aerial hoop

Aerial hoop, or lyra, is an anti-gravity studio workout that offers you a seat on the moon

An aerial hoop workshop by Aashna Mansharamani. Photo: Tanvi Mehra
An aerial hoop workshop by Aashna Mansharamani. Photo: Tanvi Mehra

The hoop has travelled from school playgrounds to circus acts like Cirque du Soleil, and high-production stage performances. And in the last few years, aerial hooping, or lyra, has been appended to an expanding list of anti-gravity studio workouts such as trapeze, silk and aerial yoga.

Aashna Mansharamani began conducting aerial hoop classes in Mumbai two years ago, after training at the Brown Aerial Arts Society in the US. She started with a group of four until the Instagram appeal of elegantly suspended bodies led to fuller batches. “Some students do come for a few photos and they’re out in a month," admits Mansharamani. “But there are others who become obsessed."

Since most students at Mansharamani’s beginner classes come with little or no fitness training, the hoop height is adapted to the person’s level of expertise—it hangs 3.5ft off the floor for first-timers, and up to 5ft for more advanced students. “The way to get on the hoop also changes with each level. For a beginner, since they can reach it with their arms, they just do a pull-up and they’re on it, but for more advanced hoop, they have to get on it upside down," she says.

A typical hoop class begins with a head-to-toe warm-up, then practising classic positions like the “bird’s nest" and “man on the moon", one of the most-Instagrammed poses, where your back curves along the side of the hoop, your legs extend to the top and your hands elegantly drop below. The class ends with a set of conditioning exercises—planks, pull-ups, hanging from the hoop like a monkey bar. “My students tend to hate these exercises but I think they’re the most important. Throughout the week I give them a lot of homework, which I monitor by Snapchat or texting them," she says.

Aerial fitness enthusiast Ria Bajaj, who conducts classes in Mumbai’s House of Dance, designs her lessons around a choreographed routine. The age of students at her classes has ranged from 7-57. “Since I’m from a dance background, I focus on movement and body language," she says. Bajaj also finds the hoop conducive for pair-up exercises and routines. “The fun part is two people can get on the hoop together, and I encourage people to try a double hoop. So I have a lot of young men attending with their partners as well ," she says.

Aerial hoop classes in Mumbai are available at Studio 23 in Nariman Point ( 3,000, for four classes), Tangerine Studio in Khar ( 3,000, for four classes) and House of Dance in Andheri ( 4,000, for eight classes).

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