Am I able to practice aerials in my living room?
Let’s say you have become obsessed with the aerial silk arts. You go to class every week but you can’t seem to get enough, and you think it’s the best thing ever, but you want more. It is a common desire to think about how you can transform your home into your own personal aerial studio because, let’s be honest, it would be so cool to have some silks in place of your stairs so you can practice those climbs, or even a hoop in your hallway. So how possible is this, you ask?
First, make an informed decision by weighing the pros and cons, and doing your research’
The short answer to the question, ‘can I practice the aerial arts at home?’ is yes, but there are many things to consider before getting too excited and setting up your home. Aerials are incredibly inspiring and it’s understandable that you would want to practice at home but it needs to be treated with respect. I would never want to discourage you or say anything to lessen your enthusiasm but there are a few factors to take into consideration before setting up your own rig. The following are four main points to really think about:
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Respect the art
All forms of aerial arts can be incredibly dangerous since your whole body will be suspended in the air and your entire weight will be held up by what is essentially a piece of fabric. You will put yourself in crazy positions and there is a high potential of falling out of a move or out of your rig and injuring yourself greatly. I’m not only saying these things to scare you; they can definitely happen if you are not careful, therefore you need to really understand what you will be undertaking before you have your own home setup.
Get help from an instructor
Even though there are potentially grave consequences that go along with aerial dance, these dangers are reduced greatly when practicing under the instruction of an aerial arts professional (i.e. a teacher or a coach). It is their job and responsibility to ensure your safety and they fully understand all the risks of the sport, and thus they will take all the preventative measures and steps to make sure you don’t hurt yourself.
Thinking ‘I got this’ can have serious repercussions
Training in the aerial arts is risky in itself, but it can have incredibly serious and heavy consequences if you mess it up. You might be under the impression that just because you have what you think is enough strength, and you think you know what you’re doing, you will be fine without supervision, but remember that all it takes is one small misstep or missed grip to hurt yourself. In a miraculous situation you will leave unscarred, but in most cases you will end up slipping or falling, pulling or tearing a muscle or ligament, land on your head, or, heaven forbid, break your neck.
Self training via Online courses and YouTube videos
There are so many cool and interesting things you see online that make you think ‘I could totally learn how to do this’ and though you could definitely learn many skills this way, this is definitely not the way to go about learning the aerial arts. Firstly, there is no one around you to tell you whether you are doing it right or not. Even learning ground based yoga, though doable, is not 100% safe to learn online without a real instructor present. In the aerial arts, you will be suspending yourself upside down in the air, in all types of positions, while you’re hanging from a simple bar or piece of fabric. I can almost guarantee that not getting a move right will end in tragic, traumatic consequences.
Respect the art
If you didn’t get the message before this, it’s all about giving the aerial arts the respect and caution is deserves. It is more dangerous than most activities and should never be taken lightly.
Some steps to take before training at home:
- Train with a professional in their studio or school in order to properly develop your strength and body awareness.
- Train in group class sessions so safety is a priority and it is ensured at all times. Once you are completely comfortable and confident practicing without supervision, then you can consider setting up your home rig.
- Be sure you understand the health and safety procedures, and follow the ‘golden’ rules of safety all the time.
- When training the aerial yoga at home, it is imperative that you have someone on standby that knows how to spot you properly. Take note that this person cannot be your little sister or other family member who does not know the slightest thing about aerials and is only interested in messaging her friends and not watching you whatsoever. Always train with someone who is also practicing the aerial arts and knows what you are going to do.
- If you want to try out a new move that you saw, for example, on YouTube or online somewhere, don’t try it out at home. First, bring it to your class and get your instructor to aid you so you know how to do it properly before trying it at home. Your instructor has much more experience and will be able to help you do it right, while teaching you about the possible risks and what to do.
Safety first with Aerial Silks
You can increase your chances of staying safe while practicing the aerial arts if you strictly follow some ‘golden rules’; doing so will ensure your training will be enjoyable and productive. I’ve written an entirely separate blog post about the important of aerial safety so check that out if you would like more information. For now, however, I will just stick to the main points:
- Never train in your home without a spotter. The whole point of a spotter is to have someone who understands the sport and what you’re attempting to do on standby to assist you in case anything happens.
- Be sure to always have a crash mat underneath your aerial apparatus. Also, before starting your session, check your rigs to be sure your equipment is safe to use.
- Don’t train if you are not feeling well, or if you are feeling any type of pain. Training with an injury will only serve to further hurt yourself.
- Have a professional, qualified rigger inspect your set up every six months to make sure your equipment is safe to use. This is required by law! On the same note, do not allow anyone who is not a rigger or circus professional to set up your rig.
Let’s say you’ve carefully read through the previous points and you are sure you’re ready to set up your own rig at home. The following is what setting up a home rig point requires:
What is a rig point?
A rig point is the place from which your aerial equipment (what your hoop or silk will attach to, such as a hook, sling, span, or clamp) will hang. The rig point will need bear a 1 tonne capacity load to ensure your safety while hanging off of it. It will also need to be set up by a professional, certified rigger who will make your rig point certifiable.
What’s a shock load?
Another important factor to take into consideration are shock loads. These are sudden and intense applications of force that is applied to your rig point; it occurs every single time you do a drop in the aerials. Even if you are only dropping a little, it still applies a shock load to your rig point, and you definitely need to take this into consideration for all types of aerial arts.
There is a simple formula for calculating shock loads:
Shock load = [(weight x freefall distance) / stopping distance] + weight
So, if you have a 220 LB aerialist that is falling from 9 feet and will stop with a distance of 3 feet you will get [(220×9)/3)+220 which gives you a minimum shock load of 880 lbs on your rig point.
A rig point that has a capacity of 1 tonne is therefore sufficient enough to cover the shock load.
Where can I find a good rigging point?
- Steel beams or RSJs, for example, are found in commercial structures and they make great rigging points. They can also be rigged by simply wrapping a span around the beam.
- Wooden beams, such as ones you would find in barns or even ceilings of old buildings can be rigged by wrapping a span directly around it, and therefore make great rigging points. The problem is, however, that most of us don’t have access to barns or old buildings, making this an unlikely rigging location.
- Warehouse spaces can also be ideal rigging locations, and I know from personal experience! You can rig the A frames directly, but that generally means it’s taking up some of your air space which is not really ideal. Instead, rig the steel scaffold bars (though keep in mind you need two or they won’t be strong enough), or place a trilite or quadralite beam in between two A frames then rig off of those. The scaffold bars are your best option, though, since they are easy to get for a cheaper price. You can also use ladder beams but they should be vertically hung or they won’t be able to carry loads.
- Setting up a rig in your own home is where it can get a little sketchy. You definitely cannot just stick an eyebolt wherever you want and hope for the best. You might have an ideal location in your home but you should first consider if this location can a) hold your weight, b) not break your ceiling and pull it down, or worse c) weaken your entire home structure. First, find the main support beam inside your ceiling and then attach the eyebolt to it. Be sure to have a professional rigger present to help you set up your home safely.
- Consider insurance
It is extremely important to consider how setting up a rig in your own home can affect your insurance since, in most cases, insurance does not usually cover the aerial dancing industry. Here’s a simple rule of thumb: if your policy does not allow trampolines (though most do), they will definitely not cover aerials. In short, it is crucial to know that your insurance could potentially be cancelled because you have an aerial rig (and this might cause your mortgage to default!). It is always better to know beforehand than taking the risk and finding out the hard way. You may be able to work around this by purchasing a separate liability coverage for the rig itself then let you insurance company know. The bottom line is that you should do your research before you get to installing.
It’s just as important to know the technical aspect of rigging your own set up, but it’s important to also be aware of how much space you have to work. The minimum height for hanging an aerial hoop, for example, is 4 meters while silks should be hung 5 meters, though this depends on the amount of drops you’d want to do; in general, the more height you have, the more drops you are able to do, but for basic drops a 5 meter height is acceptable.
Aside from vertical space, you will also have to consider the space around you and ensure that you have at least 2 meters of unobstructed, free space in all directions. Installing a rig beside furniture or your banister, for example, is definitely not a good idea. You might think you have tons of room, but this likely won’t apply if you happen to fall out of a pose in the wrong direction and you will injure yourself. Keep safety at the front of your mind, always.
One final spatial aspect to consider is where you would store your crash mats. These tend to be quite large and don’t really tuck away neatly in closets or camouflage into the rest of your furniture. As an alternative to hiding your mats, you might want to consider disguising them as sofas!
Be knowledgeable of what you’re getting into
I truly hope that your attraction to the aerial arts hasn’t diminished, and that you still consider setting up your own rig at home. The point of this article was to instill the idea of knowing exactly what you will be undertaking before you begin, and this is achieved by doing your research and gathering all the information on the subject that you can; this way, you can make a fully informed decision, and there is no guessing involved.
As for myself, I have set up aerial rigs in all the placed that I have lived and this includes multiple warehouses, a variety of trees, between trees, and even a self constructed wooden rig in my garden that measures 8 meters high. Additionally, I have personally rigged two barns to turn into aerial studio spaces, as well as advised multiple gyms on how to set up their own rigs.
Because of these factors, I am very much ‘pro’ installing your own rigging point, not to mention how excited I get when a student is so excited and passionate about the sport that they would want to set up their own rig. The only difference is that I’ve been a professional aerialist and circus performer for well over a decade, I have taken and passed a professional rigging course, and I’ve rigged much of my own equipment in many venues thus far, so the whole act of installing your own rig has become second nature and I’m able to do it on muscle memory alone. I am always aware of the risks you take while practicing the aerial dance and would personally never practice or even hang off of something I did not think was safe.
It is common for beginner aerial silk artists to think that all they need to do is install a hook, then stick your hoop or silks wherever you want but this is definitely not the case. My aim with this article is to help you realize that there is much, much more to installing your own rig than that. If you consider all the points I’ve laid out and do everything the proper way and with your safety in mind, having your own rig can be so much fun and I encourage everyone to do it! You can definitely send me a message if you have any question or need any advice as I’ve got tons of experience! Plus, if I’m unable to help you, I know other professional riggers who can!
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