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Updated Friday, December 7, 2012 at 01:01 PM

Up on silks, yoga goes for strength

By Nicole Tsong
Special to The Seattle Times

I HAVE NEVER wanted to join the circus. The tightrope terrifies me, and even though people keep encouraging me to take a trapeze class, I'm not sure if I'm down with swinging through the air hanging from my legs.

But aerial silks are different. It's a circus art that is growing in popularity. I've tried it a few times, and I love hanging upside down, getting traction in my lower back or cocooning into the full silk in sling mode and gently swinging in the air. When I saw that a place called Knotty Yoga offered aerial yoga classes in Redmond, I signed up right away for a beginner's workshop.

Mason Dixon, a former Microsoftie, owns the place. The studio, tucked into an office park, feels like a warehouse; the high ceilings are crossed with strong supports necessary for a bunch of people to hang around in silks. There are also trapezes and ropes.

Newcomers to Knotty Yoga are required to take the beginners class. My classmates ranged from yoga teachers to people who don't do yoga at all. Dixon, trained in yoga, circus arts and Thai massage, gently warned that this class could be the hardest thing we've ever done.

I was in.

He set us up on silks with a knot tied a foot or so off the floor. We did some warm-ups and went into core work, hooking our feet into the silks for planks, including controlled swings side to side and flipping onto our backs with our feet in the silks, lifting our hips for back strengthening. We also learned to hover with the silk looped under our pelvis and our legs and chest lifted in a variation on locust, a backbend.

There were some yoga moves, but there also was a lot of core strength training. I was more interested in the circus-y side of things, including a move when we used our feet to stretch the silks into a narrow hammock and balanced on our backs in a flat plank using the tension in the silks.

Dixon taught us to wrap our arms in the silks to create friction to hold ourselves up, and we worked on pulling our body weight up and, legs in a straddle, lowering down with control.

But then! Then we got to untie the knots. We powdered our palms with resin, wrapped our hands in the silks and lifted our legs above our heads to flip upside down into a straddle. To be clear, many of the guys lifted themselves upside down in impressive shows of hip, core and upper body strength. I had to do a few hops to get there, occasionally tangling myself in the silks.

We also learned a deeper backbend, hooking feet into the silks above our heads and letting our bellies hang toward the floor in a bow pose while swinging from the silks.

Dixon showed modifications to suit various strengths, and he knows a lot about the body and aerial work. To end class, he guided us through a gentle partner Thai massage of arms and shoulders, and demonstrated some more complicated rope aerial work.

He says it takes about nine months to build the strength to fully get into some of the poses in aerials. My arms, core and hips might object to the strength work for a few weeks, but my newly discovered circus self is a big yes to more knotted-up yoga.

Nicole Tsong teaches yoga at studios around Seattle. Read her blog at papercraneyoga.com. Email: papercraneyoga@gmail.com. Erika Schultz is a Seattle Times staff photographer.

Find it

www.knottyyoga.com2545 152nd Ave. N.E., Building 14

Redmond


ERIKA SCHULTZ / THE SEATTLE TIMES
At Knotty Yoga in Redmond, Matt Redman gets a core workout hanging from silks in an aerial yoga class.




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