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  • Writer's pictureThe Aviary

Is it Supposed to Hurt?

So you finally found the courage to take an aerial class only to find out that it is waaaaaay harder than it looks and it hurts at times. That is completely normal. Whether it’s a wrap on the fabric feeling tight on a particular body part, achey hands from gripping, a wedgie from bungee or bruises on your thighs you're definitely going to feel pain at some point in your journey. There is just no way around it. Aerial is not for the faint hearted. It takes grit, determination and the ability to stay head strong when it comes to the pain. The good news is, the more you do it, the more the pain goes away. Your body adapts and your brain processes the sensations as normal.

Acceptable Pain

A pinchy, slightly ouchy but bearable pain is almost guaranteed when you are doing aerial, especially when you are doing the coolest and most badass tricks. After all, your entire body weight is being held in the air by a piece of fabric. The pain can be pretty intense when you begin aerial, but beyond a bruise, redness or soreness you are not doing any actual damage to your body. These things are normal:

Aching hands: After aerial your hands will probably ache a bit. You are asking your hands to hold your whole body weight by gripping a piece of fabric. You need to build your grip up slowly. Luckily it comes quickly.

Burning hands: For those of you doing lyra your hands will probably burn. This is because the bar rubs against your finger joints as you apply downward pressure when you hang. The sensation will go away as soon as you stop hanging in the air.

Bruises: Even if you aren't prone to bruising, wrapping your body in fabric and then adding your bodyweight to it is likely to cause a couple bruises. They are unavoidable for the most part but they eventually stop occurring in the same places.

Blisters: This is the what happens when you either have soft hands or you over do things too much on lyra. Ideally the blisters should have healed up before you go back on the lyra again, so don’t over do things. Eventually your hands will toughen up and develop a ‘callous’ - not so great a look for your hands, but it stops the burning and means you can stay on the lyra for longer.

Shakes: If your body is scared to do something it will release adrenalin into your system in order to prepare the body for what it needs to cope with which can make your body shake. Take some deep breaths to calm your system or take a break. Be patient, the more your body realizes that what you are asking it to do is safe, the more it will relax and not shake.


1. Listen in Class: your teacher will tell you and warn you before you try the trick if the pain factor is spicy or intense. That way you are mentally prepared and have the choice as to whether it is something you want to try or not.

2. Know Your Limits: everyone has their own pain tolerance edges. Know and understand your limits - if you are the type of person who hates pain then don't feel you have to do a move just because everyone else is. Take a rest and join in on other moves or work your way up to it.

3. It's 99% Attitude: as Winston Churchill said "Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference" - going into aerial class with a winning, upbeat, positive attitude can really help when the going gets a bit tough. Your mind needs to be in the right place at the outset to deal with things such as pain factor (and will even help with the scary stuff like doing your first drop).

4. Breathe: as you move into the pinchy part of the trick breathe deeply. This will make you relax and reduce fear. Pay attention to your breath to take your mind away from the feeling of pain and more onto the sensation of air filling up your lungs.

Unacceptable Pain

This is the kind of pain that tells you of actual damage to your body, such as sprains, strains, torn ligaments, breaks, burns, bad bruising, tendonitis and so on. You must realize that this type of pain is not always unavoidable - the very nature of hanging ourselves upside down in all sorts of weird positions and maneuvers in the air means that you have to accept that the risk of injury is part of aerial. Things can go wrong and injuries can occur no matter how safe you try to be. If you can't accept the risk then you shouldn't be taking aerial classes.

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