Why children like to spin, swing, climb, hang upside-down in aerial yoga class? What is the real science behind it?

Written by Dr. Veronika Rakli - Psycholinguist, Dance Movement Psychotherapist and Aerial Yoga teacher


One of the most basic of all human relationships is our relationship to the gravitational field of the earth. This relationship is far more primal than the mother-child relationship. Gravitational security is the foundation upon which we build our interpersonal relationships. If the child’s relationship to the earth is not secure, then all the relationships fail to develop optimally. Further than that, if the brain cannot receive and process sensation from movement and gravity, academic learning – reading, writing and computing - will be very difficult for the child and learning problems might occur. Then the child usually feels fearful, anxious, distressed, and helpless, strikes back and is then considered as a behaviour problem. Thus gravitational insecurity may damage every aspect of a person’s life.

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It is easy to see, that gravity has an enormous impact on inorganic and organic matters on Earth. Linda Hartley, the founder of Body-Mind Centering, states gravity as second law of nature, “which irresistibly pulls everything with substance towards the centre of the earth”. Only organic world has the ability to strike against it – through a movement upward, which she calls the force of antigravity, or levity. Our ability to move upon the earth is mastered in infancy, but we meet first gravity as early as in the womb once our gravity receptors start to form.

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To understand how we process gravity, first we have to know about the human’s vestibular apparatus and its relationship to the central nervous system. Sensations of gravity and movement come from our inner ears’ movement and gravity receptors through vestibular nerves to our brain stem’s vestibular nuclei. Hence we can maintain for instance upright posture and equilibrium. The cerebellum that is wrapped around the back of the brain stem also organizes gravity, movement and muscle-joint sensations to make our body move smooth and accurate. That is, our inner ears’ bony structure not only takes up the auditory information but also the information of the force of gravity (through tiny calcium carbonate crystals attached to hair like neurons) and the movement of the head (through three pairs of semi-circular canals filled with a fluid). Vestibular input seems to “prime” the entire nervous system to function effectively.

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The vestibular nuclei appear nine weeks after conception and begin to function by the tenth or eleventh week. By the fifth month in utero, the vestibular system is well developed and provides sensory input to the foetal brain. Throughout most of pregnancy, the mother stimulates her foetus’s vestibular system with the movements of her body. 

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Gravitational security is so vital to emotional health that nature has given us a strong inner drive to explore gravity and master it. Every human being has a primal inner drive to develop a satisfactory relationship with Mother Earth and gravity. Children master this relationship by creeping, playing, climbing, jumping, and putting themselves in different body positions and body shapes. They learn what one can do, what gravity can do and at the end they come to terms with gravity.

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Reading, writing and computing require that the brain process very detailed sensations and engage in precise motor and mental responses. None of these brain functions can work well if the brain cannot receive and process sensations from movement and gravity. To try to teach a gravitationally insecure child will be a misery for the child, a failure for the teacher. Even the most loving mother cannot reach her child if he did not master gravity-body relationship. Schoolmates will notice his fear and will find him hard to get along with. They may blame or punish him not able to be part of playground activities and this child can end up in exclusion of friendship. To avoid or reduce distress, he will try to manipulate his environment and other people. He will learn ways to control adults and keep them away. Teachers will force the child being manipulative, hence the child will suffer even more. They can easily become neurotic or emotionally ill. Unfortunately psychotherapist may treat the anxiety and not the underlying problem, the neurologic discrepancy. Only a dance movement (psycho)therapist or a sensory integration therapist will be able to deal with the primal problem, not a verbal (talking) psychotherapist.

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In Aerial Yoga for Kids classes we offer a space for children to learn about gravity, get to know their relationship towards Mother Earth, and how to relate to their own and groupmates’ body in the room, as well as developing spatial awareness. In academic words, we offer input to the vestibular (equilibrium) sense of children, which is the base of academic learning and emotional and social wellbeing.

With no claim of being exhaustive, let me describe some of the activities what we do in Aerial Yoga Kids classes. I also teach shapes (asanas by yoga terminology) as in a simple kids yoga class a teacher would do, including breathing techniques, although this is not the main focus of our syllabus. We also spin, sway and hang upside down in a mid-air hanging hammock.

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Swinging is usually pleasurable, as the forward and backward motion nourishes the vestibular system. Slow swinging promotes calming, and faster swinging increases alertness. Back and forth motion stirs up the language centres of the brain, the child’s speech and language output may increase after teetering and tottering for a few minutes. Swings reduce anxiety and emotional upset.

Spinning activates the semi-circular canals more than any other stimulus. These needs to be trained, if we wish a child develop tolerance to vast variety of movement. There is not a great deal of spinning in school or in life, where this activity could be mastered. I think this adds towards the fact, that this is one of the most beloved play by children in hammocks.

Hanging upside-down, holding the head in inversion provides the greatest stimulation to the gravity receptors. Learning upside down (Monkey) position is an enormous success, a self-esteem booster for those children they have fear experiencing changes in head position.

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Without a great deal of full body play that includes these activities, a child does not get the kind of sensory input that is necessary to develop the brain as a whole. In addition, he will not have the experiences of mastery necessary for normal personality development.

To see children having fun in aerial hammocks means they are making effort toward sensory integration, enhance their academic capacity and work towards emotional wellbeing. This is why children like to spin, swing, climb, hang upside-down in aerial yoga class.

No Jewellery, Please!

Written by Veronika Rakli

This is what you always hear at the beginning of our Aerial Yoga and Pole Dance classes. Is this only our teachers passion to ask you, to annoy you to remove your favourite ring(s), earring(s), necklace(s), bracelet(s), even fitband trackers, watches, that you love so much? You got it from your parents, from your special frined, partner, husband, you fell in love with this shiny little beauty and bought it years ago (or just yesterday). Basically you feel this jewellery belongs to your body. You don’t even know it is there, as you wear them night and days.

Oh, yes, we know it can feel intrusive to ask to remove those things. But why we ask this? Is there something behind this request, that you should know about?  Why we ask you to remove jewellery in Aerial Yoga and Pole Dance classes?

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To remove jewellery when participating in physical education activities serves yours and other class participants’ SAFETY. Ear studs, nose rings, watches, rings anklets and other hanging accessories could cause harm or be broken.

Don’t destroy your beloved tresures! As they can bend, break, indeed, during aerial activities. You won’t like the feeling when you need to go to jeweler to get it fixed or into a shop to buy a new one, that can never be the same…

But more imortant, that jewellery-related sports accidents and injuries can happen when jewellery worn by participants:

  • Comes in contact with classmates, for example assissting each other in pole classes.
  • Comes in contact with sport equipment (pole, hammock, gym or studio floor)
  • Or... just for comfort to prevent blisters, cuts and contusions.

Earrings in particular are prone to being torn from earlobes when contact is made aspecially in hammocks.

For this reason, it is our strict safety rule to remove any-and-all jewellery BEFORE a practice, training in the gym/ studio.

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It is good to know that jewellery-related accidents can cause severe injuries that could compromise patients’ health.

  • Earrings present risk of damage to the ear lobe if caught and pulled sharply.
  • Rings can occure degloving, aka avulsion. (Wikipedia: A degloving injury is a type of avulsion in which an extensive section of skin is completely torn off the underlying tissue, severing its blood supply. It is named by analogy to the process of removing a glove.)
  • Necklaces may present a risk of choking/strangulation.
 This picture is only for strong nervousness!!!!

This picture is only for strong nervousness!!!!

These items can injure equipments occuring holes in fabrics, scratches on poles. Hammocks can get snagged and ripped – nobody wants to fall because of neglegence of rules. A scretch on crome pole can cut your or others skin occuring bleeding.

What else do we ask not to wear in Aerial Yoga class?

  • Zippers
  • Metal buttons
  • Sharp hair accessories
  • Dress, tops with sequins
  • Any embellishments, buckles, or things that can get caught on the fabric
  • Avoid wearing too much perfume, cologne, essential oils, or anything with a strong smell that can linger on the hammock long after your practice.
  • Too much lotion, sunscreen, or other cremes can stick to the hammock and make it difficult to grip the slings.
  • Long/Sharp/(fake) fingernails. Please make sure your fingernails and toenails are trimmed! (especially children!)
  • Sleevless top that does not cover your armpits - this is for hygiene reasons and to protect your delicate skin.
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Please, no jewellery!

  • for your and
  • others safety, as well as
  • protecting your equipments! 

Thank You!

Safe and Happy Flying!

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Moivation after your first trial pole dance class

Written by Veronika Rakli

You have seen a beautiful pole dance performance on youtube or just a short video on instagram. You say „WOW!”. You think: „I wish to be like her/him”. You act: „Let’s go and subscribe for a pole dance taster class.”

Well done! This is how we all started. 

You are so excited about your deceision, maybe you don’t want to admit to your family/mum and dad/boyfriend that you are taking up pole dance classes as it still has it’s stigmas (…about stigmas in an other blog…), or even opposit, you are so proud of your activity choice that you ask a friend to join you to the same class. 


You are very determind about the class, you hope to take soon beautiful pictures and post on social media, hanging upside down, widly open legs in splits, going into bridges, do a handstand next to the pole of course with grace. And the big day is there, you arrive to the class and you face the reality: oh God, the pole is slippery, so difficult to hold up your own bodyweight in your hands, and you might even bruise yourself. Most people give up at this point with those words, „Oh, pole dance is not for me. It hurts too much…The teacher performs the move so easily, how come I can’t do the same?” 

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Here, let’s pause a bit! Your teacher does the moves so effortless, as she has been doing these excercices 1000 and 1000 times by now. And you will do so as well if you give a chance for pole. Without practice you won’t get anywhere. 


Once you enter a pole dance taster class you have to know, that those performer who you have seen on youtube/instagram/facebook performing beautiful routine, they all went through this first trial class. If you stop because you feel incompetent in the first class you will never know your boundaries or where your body really can take you. And this is what I think pole is about.

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You will learn to respect your body, your real capacity and you won’t even realise as first but your body will honor you. First you will feel this in your arms and hands, then shoulders, abdominals, your butt and your core. You will feel lighter, toned, more helathy, full with energy. You will find friends, likeminded people, boys and girls, younger and elderly, you will see that not just perfect body exists, yet to be able to perform high level moves with it.

 

 

However, for this you need to come to classes. You need to come to classes, at least once a week. If you wish to achieve more than fun and leasure: twice a week. Only to dream about it, won’t work. This is not negotiable. Full stop. 

Feel the fear and do it anyway

Written by Stefania di Fiore

“Feel the fear and do it anyway” is the title of a famous book by Susan Jeffers. The author helps people to face their fears and to change their lives for the better…

…But hold on… what I am talking about? How do psychology and pole dancing fit on the same plate?

Well, I am one of the few girls facing a fear of heights!

I was fascinated by the girls so strong and sexy on the pole, thinking how talented they are and the work they put in to get there. Intrigued, I decided to give it a go, and I joined the class at Floating Fitness. I really enjoyed it and I was determined to carry on. Not even an injury could stop me taking part in pole classes!

Once I had reached the intermediate level with tons of inversions such as Chopper, Inverted Crucifix and Gemini, I didn’t know I was going to fear the height.  ”I have never been scared of heights, what the hell is going on now?”, I said to myself, “Will I never be able to do those beautiful moves on the pole?”

The fear of the height, of falling, of the empty space held me back, I couldn’t see any progress at one point of my physical development. I also started to think pole dancing was maybe not for me, I thought I should actually give up, I felt I was not good enough for this.

Well ladies, one year later my fear is still there but I am still enjoying pole dancing. I still look forward to it and when I feel fear I just do it. And if the fear is strong? Well, the support from the girls in the class is stronger!!  It is not easy of course but why we should allow our fears to control our life? Why should we give up to those things that make feel us happy? Soon I am going to be able to learn hand stand on pole, I never imagined I could do that when I first stepped into the studio of Club Pulse.

The only way to get rid of the fear of doing something is to go out and… do it!

Good luck girls!
 

My dream came true

Written by Alba Barbati

You know when you really want to express something, but can’t quite? That’s where videos like this one come from.

I set foot into a pole dance studio exactly one year ago, simply hoping to keep in shape and stay strong; but man, I got so much more than I bargained for. Even now, my thoughts are still jumbled together in a mad rave of memories all going around in a flurry, not unlike the quick-shots reeling through the video at 4x speed. I’m a pole dance instructor? Really? Me?

How did this happen?

Coming back to it, I still remember the day clearly.

I had taken it upon myself to help Veronika disassemble the poles at the end of every class, and we’d exchange a few words, since she’s always been such an amazing and interesting person. Thanks to her I made a huge progress in the span of a few months, and more often than not I would help out fellow pole students, both as a spotter and giving out advice whenever there was something I knew well. Unbeknownst to me, the ever observant Veronika had noticed; and that fateful day, as we were both crouched down and busying ourselves with the task of taking the poles off the floor, she asked me the biggest question I’ve ever been asked so far:

“Would you like to become a teacher?”

Already then, my mind went a mile a minute. Me? A pole teacher? I don’t even do a full split! Sure, I know a thing or two about teaching, from back when I used to teach English to art students, but… I’m not super-bendy like the amazing artists you see on the internet, I’m just… me! All of my insecurities were screaming at me that I wasn’t nearly competent enough for it, but the temptation was too strong. So I said yes. Yes, I’d love to be a pole teacher. In fact, it’d be nothing short of a dream.

And what Veronika told me filled me with hope and inspiration, and it still does every day: you don’t have to be a perfect athlete to be a good teacher, as long as you can connect to people, you have a kind personality, can explain and understand the body… then that’s all that matters. And you can work your way up and over your own limits.

She believed in me, she trained me, and I still train with her every time we can, to improve both my individual skills and my ability to assist her as an instructor. I’m obviously miles away from the glamorous and borderline superhuman athletes that amaze thousands of eyes all over the internet or on stage; but I’ve come a long way from the girl who was too shy to even show her progress to her own friends, and though there is a long way to go still, I can take each stride with confidence and determination, and with my amazing mentor by my side.

A silly video  and all the “thank you”s in the world will never be enough to express my gratitude, but it’s a start.

Here’s to more and more days of fun and improvement together.


 

One Year at Floating Fitness

Written by Rhian Wilkinson

The first time I hung upside down from a pole it felt like the biggest achievement of my life. In fact, every time I nail a new trick I feel that way. A surge of adrenaline, a rush of pride. 

I started taking pole classes with Floating Fitness in March of 2015. I'd taken a few classes in the past but nothing had ever stuck, until now. I would admit that I am a touch pole-obsessed now. 

Since starting with Floating Fitness I've seen huge changes in myself. I'm not just fitter, I'm stronger, and I'm also more confident. I'm still not as thin as I'd like to be (who ever is?) but I've learnt to appreciate my body in a different way. I used to hate my muscley thighs, now I'm thankful for them, they keep me stuck to the pole!

It hasn't been a smooth road for me, I suffered a muscle spasm in my back after a session heavy on inverts. I learnt the hard way that I should have listened to my body and stretched more. That took me out for a month, unfortunately a much more permanent issue arose for me in November. 

In November 2015 I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. I spent a week in hospital, and learnt that for the rest of my life, everything will be harder. I can't eat without checking my blood sugar. I can't exercise without checking my blood sugar. I can't even sleep without checking my blood sugar. Losing the genetic lottery sucks. 

However, having been diagnosed as a diabetic, after months of feeling unwell thanks to my dead pancreas, getting insulin in my system made me feel like a superhero. Having a autoimmune disease is lame, but having treatment makes a world of difference. 

On my first class back after getting out of hospital I managed to get into a teddy, and even inverting felt more natural. No more dizzy spells or blurred vision definitely makes it easier to spin around a pole.

Committing myself to pole classes was a big deal for me, I'm not good at sticking to one thing and I get distracted easily. Veronica has taught me a lot about myself, my body, and my ability to enjoy exercising more than I ever thought possible. 

Pole hasn't just given me a reason to love my body, it's healed me, time and time again. After a bad day there is nothing more cathartic than spinning, sweating  and hanging upside down. The good ache you get after a successful pole lesson compares to nothing else. 

All the bruises, bumps, and pole burn are more than equalled by the laughs, the smiles, and the joy that being on the pole brings me. Floating Fitness has helped me find confidence in my body and my strength - even if my pancreas doesn't work, at least the rest of me does! 


Aerial Yoga and Rowing exercise help you to feel confident with your body

Did you know, that looking confident can help you feel confident? One of the best ways to look and feel your best is to stand tall with you head held high.

Unfortunately, because we spend so much time sitting in front of computers, texting, reading and studying these activities draw the neck and shoulders forward creating a ‘hunched’ upper back. This puts strain on the neck and elongates the muscles located between your shoulder blades which diminishes not only the appearance of confidence. It can make the most elegant outfit look frumpy - but also our own sense of feeling good about ourselves.

Antidote: Rowing!

Rowing is the most effective exercise to strengthen the rhomboid and trapezius muscles. Rowing is an extremely varied exercise - you can do it many different ways. It can be carried out without or with device (i.e. elastic band, TRX, rowing machine, dumbbells, bars); sitting, standing or tilt strain, two-handed, symmetrical, or even in turns.

Whichever you choose, the most important thing is to bring the scapula together towards your spine. Bring the shoulder blades as close together as you can. This is the way to strengthen those muscles. When you relax the muscles, let your scapula drift slowly apart. Do 3 sets of 10 repetitions with a 20 second break between each set.

Include rowing in your weekly training program! When done in the aerial hammock rowing exercise is especially effective.

Check out our short tutorial video, and give a try in aerial yoga class at Floating Fitness on Sunday, 3-4pm.