The past few weeks have been insanely stressful throughout all of Florida, and Orlando was certainly no exception. We watched hurricane Irma steamroll toward us, followed the constantly changing spaghetti models, prepped for the storm, worried about shortages of supplies. We sweated through one sleepless night listening to the wind whipping through our neighborhoods and waiting for that tornado we all knew was coming straight for us, and then kept sweating through days of no electricity, damage to our yards, homes, and cars… It’s a wonder we all managed to stay sane. For those of us in the aerial arts community, we had a secret weapon in our stress relief arsenal: dance.
According to the Department of Neurobiology at Harvard Medical School, dance benefits our mental health in a number of ways. While any form of exercise helps stimulate the production of serotonin and endorphins (which make us feel excited, happy, optimistic, and relaxed), dance is the only form of exercise which can give you a double-dose of pleasurable neurotransmitters through the synchronization of music and movement. Dance activates many areas of the brain simultaneously, and brain activation is the most effective way to keep your mind healthy and able to cope.
But aerialists have it even better. We literally get to rise above our problems by climbing the silks, lyra, or pole. We get to burn off our nervous energy with some great weight training and heavy lifting. And if we’re feeling extra daring, we can shake ourselves free of our negative emotions with a daring drop. By allowing ourselves to get lost in the music, we can bring ourselves fully into the present moment and let our body move in whatever ways it needs. We can sink into our concerns, elevate ourselves above them, or just shake (or twerk) them off.
Beyond the physical act of dancing and moving, training at an aerial arts studio like Lotus helps put us in touch with a community. And I don’t know what it is about aerialists, but we are damn fun. So many times, I have come to class in a terrible mood, stressed out, exhausted, and by the time class is over, I am relaxed and laughing with my classmates. Or, if I’m not in the mood to be cheered up by the support group of our community, I can always dance it out solo because aerial is always whatever you need it to be.
Cari, the owner of Lotus Fitness Studio, frequently posts her freestyles on social media with the caption that she is destressing through dance. I think if most of us look at why we go to class so often, we’d end up with the same caption pretty much every day. As storm season draws to a close, the holiday season looms before us with its own bag of stresses. Life always has new challenges to throw at us. But aerial is always there to boost us up and help give us a fresh perspective – from 12 feet up! See you in the air!