Earlier this week Hoop/Lyra was featured on “Live with Kelly”. Kelly and Anderson were “taught” “Beginner” Lyra moves in an effort for a Big Box Gym to showcase their new Lyra for Everyone Program. I was going to leave it alone….but I just can’t.

I was notified by a student via Facebook about this. And I was SO EXCITED! Hoop is a great workout. I wish more people knew that and would come play in the Hoop, so I thought this would be a great thing for the sport. Then I watched the segment. And I was HORRIFIED. I try to be positive, I try not to criticize, but this was down right UNSAFE. And gives the layperson a really unfortunate view of Hoop classes. I understand that this was TV, they probably practiced it before hand and Anderson was probably intentionally “hamming it up”. But when what you are doing is difficult and could result in permanent paralysis, that isn’t ok. A few important things to point out:

  • The crash mats were not appropriate for Hoop. Way too thin and hard, they would have not helped in a fall. Our mats are cushy for a reason! Also with the weird “openings” in how the mats were set-up on the floors, with the swinging of the lyra they may not have even landed on the already not correct mat. Did they just not have enough mats to put them over the entire workout space?
  • I know this if Kelly’s show so she is in the middle, but this is not a good set-up for instruction. The instructor should have been in the middle.
  • The moves selected were NOT appropriate for beginners. Having a beginner go to the top bar and execute a move that they haven’t even done on the bottom bar is simply not ok. There was no discussion about knee placement, muscle engagement, and heels down; Anderson’s top bar hang was extremely precarious and he was literally a very small slip or shift from falling directly on his head.
  • The lack of spotting was dangerous! It was clear the instructor didn’t know how to spot based on her standing next to Anderson with a confused look on her face when he was in serious danger. Thankfully he’s strong so he didn’t get hurt….
  • The lack of instruction was appalling. She didn’t demo the move first so the students could see what it was. She didn’t have a clear view of either student so couldn’t give them verbal cues to help them in the air. The cues she did give were poor at best like “take a knee off” when they were on the top bar with no indication of hand placement or other important tips for that move; had Anderson actually just taken a knee off when she said to, at that point he would have fallen and landed on his head, only his innate sense of self preservation kept him safe.
  • The instructor seemed new to lyra herself, her skill level was sloppy.

Here’s why I’m so angry about this. In the aerial community right now there is a HUGE outcry of “what were they thinking” and discussion about how this reflects on the sport. As I’ve read the excuses from those involved I’m more angry. This was ill conceived on all involved and now the excuses are appalling.
Apparently the Instructor took a two day Instruction course. That is why she was “qualified” at her Box Gym to teach this aerial spot. Are you kidding me. 2 days. You think in 2 days you are ready to teach a sport that gets people’s butts over their heads? She may be a great yoga teacher or some other land based sport, but based on her ability in the hoop, she is not an aerialist. And then you think in 2 days you’re qualified to teach it? In two days you aren’t really qualified to teach anything, this is a big issue I have with the fitness industry in general, all the “weekend certified” trainers. No, after a two day course you should have learned enough to realize how little you know and how much you need to invest in your study to become a master. My instructors train for about 6 months before they work with any students! And that is after they have been doing the sport for at least a year and are proficient on the apparatus BEFORE beginning instructor training.
The person who offers the 2 day teaching certification has weighed in saying that she only recently trained this would-be instructor, apparently the instructor had only been certified a month ago, and that she is supposed to be team teaching right now. That she didn’t know that what she taught in her training program would be used this way and she isn’t not happy about it. Great. I don’t care. At the end of the day you took someone’s money and gave them a false sense of ability by “certifying” them. When they left your facility they could use the knowledge you gave them in any form that they chose. You chose to take their money and declare them fit to teach in some capacity, had Anderson fell, it would have been partially on your head. Even though it would really help my bottom line to offer an “instructor certification course” and I could write a great one with my PhD knowledge, I don’t train anyone who isn’t going to work for me because it scares me to think how my knowledge could be inappropriately used to hurt someone. If you offer to train someone, you take on their interpretation and use of your materials and shouldn’t “pass” them until you are confident in how they will disseminate your knowledge to the world.
Back to the Instructor. She’s spoken out saying the producer told her she needed to be on the far side for the shoot, that she needed to stay in the hoop and that she needed to do something on the top bar to make it more dramatic. So she compromised her integrity and put her students at risk. Awesome. I hope I can take a classes with her! NOT! I get that this was probably very hard for her, working with a producer and doing a TV spot when she was new to the sport. I get that her contract likely had a big fine in it if she didn’t do what the producer required. But I do not care. You were there as a teacher and your number one requirement was to the health and safety of your students. You disregarded that. Worse, you could have made a better lesson plan to keep your students safe and meet the producer’s demands had you thought it through and had a lot of experience planning classes. For example, start with a pike mount and have them do the double knee hang low! This alone would have made a big difference!!! But she didn’t have the knowledge or background to be creative in class design to meet producer and ethical demands.
Which brings me to my last big issue: Box Gyms teaching the Aerial Arts. Please don’t. You’re simply not equipped. The Aerial Arts (Pole, Hammock, Hoop, Silks) belong in boutique studios that have dedicated their entire business to the safe practice and teaching of these sports. The Aerial Sports are MORE DANGEROUS than land based sports!!! They require very specialized equipment and exceptional knowledge on how to use that equipment. The Aerial Sports require a very high level of instruction that takes a very long time to master and needs to be constantly updated as the sports are rapidly evolving. The Aerial Sports required the instructor be knowledgeable not only in their apparatus, but in the techniques of spotting which is a whole other skill set that takes time and LOTS of repetition to master. Box Gyms are all about the hottest fitness craze, advertizing the Sh*t out of it to get people in the door and then moving on the the next hot trend when it comes. The Aerial Sports are NOT a fad, they can’t be safely executed in this manner. I understand that having a Hoop class at a Box Gym sounds sexy, but it is dangerous. And when you disrespect the sport so blatantly, you put your client’s necks at risk in your desire to profit.
Box Gym’s have lots of money for advertising, I would guess that this was a paid for spot or else why did the show not use one of the established Circus/Aerial Schools? Instead the program featured the “new hot program” at a Box Gym. Said Gym likely sent their most qualified and best trained instructor, logical. But as seen in the aforementioned issues, the instruction was very inadequate. So this means that the BEST instructor at this Box Gym is at a very concerning level. So, what are the rest of the instructors like? And what is this fitness program like? If the Instructor wasn’t able to change out her program to correctly control the situation, is she able to make appropriate modification for a student in a class? This was the launch of a program for a big franchise facility, is my understanding, so how well thought out is this new program? All of these things are HUGE concerns. When we launch a program at Aerial Dance we work on it for MONTHS. Hoop Flow, an advanced hoop class starting in July, has been “under revision” since November last year and only now do we feel confident to bring it out. The introduction to this Box Gym’s program on TV shows an ill conceived program that is more concerned about advertising and making a splash than providing a safe and effective workout. So please Box Gym’s don’t be disrespectful to the aerial arts and try to teach them with so little advanced planning and training!
As a boutique facility, we train 3 hours a week with instructors on spotting, teaching cues, and new moves. My staff are insanely dedicated to the aerial arts. Yes we are fitness instructors, but the aerial arts are our focus in a way that you simply can’t have in a Box Gym environment. So please Box Gyms, leave the aerial arts alone! Introducing them to the public like you did on LIVE is dangerous for all of us, but most especially your clients.