‘Pull yourself up and flip over!’
BY HARLEY WILTSEY
Aerial fitness instructor Kristina Downs coaches a student through daring new moves, twisting and spinning 20 feet in the air on colorful flowing silk ribbons cascading from the ceiling.
AsaBela Studio offers classes, workshops, and private lessons that build core strength and improve flexibility while allowing for creative expression.
Downs’ own aerial journey began in Baltimore, Maryland, in 2008 when a chronic illness causing pain and fatigue led to serious depression. “At some point I just sort of had this realization that if I didn’t want to resign myself to life as an invalid, I had to do something to prove that I was not a victim of my own body,” she says.
Trapeze came first, but once she tried silks she knew she had found her niche. Downs moved to Bloomington in 2009 and got serious about her aerial arts career three years later. She began teaching in the spring of 2014 and connected with AsaBela founder Juliana Burrell. Classes are held at the Twin Lakes Recreation Center where passersby are compelled to stop and stare at the graceful acrobatics of Downs and students like Gabriela Garcia. Downs and Garcia share their top three reasons for practicing the art of aerial silks.
To get fit
“I feel overall in better shape, and I know my upper body and core are definitely stronger,” says Garcia. “I feel more balanced and flexible. The silks motivate me to push myself more than gym equipment.”
Downs recommends aerial silks to people with chronic back pain. Hanging upside down decompresses the spine and develops core strength, she says.
To relieve stress
Downs says aerial silks force her to stop worrying and instead focus on what she is doing in the present moment. “It also allows me a chance to express my artistic side.”
To have fun
Garcia says that silks remind her of “playing on the monkey bars as a kid.” Adds Downs, “There’s no rush like the one you get doing a move you thought was out of reach.”
AsaBela Studio offers classes for all ages on Tuesday and Thursday evenings and Sunday afternoons.