What flying trapeze at circus school taught me about trust

I was looking for a new workout on ClassPass when I saw “Circus Center” on the list of available studios. Circus Center?? After a quick Google search I realized that there was, indeed, a circus school in San Francisco with a full indoor flying trapeze and classes for adult beginners. And then it hit me: I could have my own Carrie Bradshaw moment and fly through the air with the greatest of ease. Best of all, it didn’t involve a gym. Why not run away to the circus for an hour?

It started as a whim (literally me laughing with my roommates about how funny it would be if I actually managed to get on a trapeze) but then I was seriously thinking about it. What if I jolted myself out of my normal routine and did something that terrified me? The concept of flying trapeze seemed as wild as skydiving, except almost scarier, because it involved being physically active (and there’s no one with you in the air when you’re on that swinging bar).

I told my roommates and my coworkers and my friends that I was doing it, because I knew if people knew I was doing it, I would actually follow through with it. I signed up for a new student special (3 classes for $59, which is a pretty insane bargain considering I’ve paid more for yoga classes) and showed up at my first class.

I walked into the gym fully expecting not to make it off the ground in my first class. I was so wrong. They gave me about five minutes of “ground school” instruction where they tell you what you’ll be doing in the air, and then before you know it they’ve got you in the harness and you’re like WHOA WHOA WHOA hold up I’m going up there already? I had been there for FIVE MINUTES.

But then again, are you ever really ready to fly trapeze? Probs not. So up the ladder I went. That’s one thing you don’t realize when you’re watching trapeze videos, is that you have to get up there in the first place, and you do that by climbing a really high ladder without being attached to the safety lines. FML. The instructor reminded us that we’re in earthquake country, so make sure to hold on to the ladder! I was so ready to be done before I even made it up to the platform.

But then somehow, I made it up the platform. I gripped the bar. I jumped when they told me to jump. And then…I was flying. And I was actually pretty chill about it. It’s shocking how calm it is up there. Because once you’re in the air, all you’re thinking about is being in the air, and nothing else (God knows that even an overthinker like me would not be capable of worrying about work while hanging from my knees 20 feet off the ground).

God knows that even an overthinker like me would not be capable of worrying about work while hanging from my knees 20 feet off the ground.

The hardest part about flying trapeze wasn’t even about the heights. It was more about trust. Because when you step off that platform, you are taking a leap of faith in yourself to hold onto that bar and do what you need to do. You have to trust yourself to be able to hold yourself up, because no one else is going to do it for you. If you panic and let go, it’s on you. The scariest part of each flight, for me personally, was the second before stepping off the platform when you are holding on to the bar and thinking please arms don’t let me down. please abs get my knees up. please legs keep me on the bar when I am upside down. please brain just shut up and focus on the moment.

You also have to trust the person catching you. At the end of class, the last trick they have you try is the catch. This is the classic trapeze move, where the flyer lets go and reaches out to the catcher on another trapeze, and you grab hands with the catcher and fly off your own swing. This is hard for a few reasons- you need to have perfect timing in your swing, jumping off the platform and letting go of the bar at precisely the right moment, to match the catcher’s swing. This means you don’t have an instant to hesitate. You just gotta go. It also means you have to trust the catcher. When you reach out, you are hoping that this person is right there to grab you, and that if you release your legs, they will be able to keep holding you. And this was after only like one hour of my entire trapeze career!

At my class, we only had one chance to attempt the catch. It was super intimidating. But I attempted the catch, and catch we did. See below proof:

Whenever you do something scary, whether it’s jumping on the trapeze or off a cliff or out of a plane, it’s really about trust. If you don’t trust your bungee cord, you won’t bungee jump. If you don’t trust your parachute, you won’t skydive. And when it comes to trapeze, if you don’t trust yourself and the other acrobats holding your safety lines and catching you, you’ll never make it off the platform (or you’ll make it off the platform, but you’ll panic and fall).

I’ll definitely be going back to trapeze class, and not just because I still have 2 classes left in my new student pack. It’s been a while since I’ve felt so challenged both physically and mentally, and so exhilarated and proud of myself for something outside of work. Yoga is great and all, but this is on a whole other level, and I don’t plan on coming down from this high anytime soon.

Have you tried a new form of exercise or activity lately that made you feel alive and showed you something new about yourself? Tell me all the things!



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