owner Thérèse Bailey
upside down in a blue yoga hammock, and I’m in a bit of a conundrum.
Not just because the fabric has my legs and wrists bound in such a way
as to force challenging, spine-lengthening positions, but because I
thought that this — an hourlong aerial yoga class at ZenZen Yoga
Arts — was going to be easy.
After a few
minutes of trying to untangle my limbs, ZenZen owner Thérèse Bailey
bails me out. "Slow and steady," she reminds me. My
movements are too ballistic. Slightly embarrassed, I stretch out my
taxed muscles on the floor mat and bow my head, trying to regulate my
breathing as I silently pray my fellow aerialists don’t notice what
sounds like a beleaguered dragon.
This is exactly
what I came here for.
Over the past
few years, I’ve been a somewhat passive participant on my journey to
weight loss. Despite shedding 30 pounds off my 5’ 2" frame, I’ve
yet to find a consistent fitness regime to reach my goal weight, which
sits a mere 12 pounds away. Following some reflection, I came to
realize that I’d plateaued because I was bored, and I went in search
of igniting the fire to help me cross the finish line.
remember exactly when I was first introduced to aerial arts — it may
have been taking my son to the circus, or P!NK’s spellbinding 2014
Grammy performance — but I do remember feeling instantly mesmerized.
As a former all-around gymnast, its mix of yoga, aerobics, pilates and
acrobatics — not to mention its strong, sexy appeal — seemed the
perfect grown-up substitute for my beloved sport (which you gracefully
exit at age 18). After an ad for ZenZen popped up in my inbox, I took
that as a sign and decided to give it a try.
I had the
pleasure of visiting the ZenZen studio at 900 S. 5th St., Suite 305,
one Saturday afternoon, where Bailey was teaching a basic aerial yoga
class. If I had any reservations about hanging from the ceiling, they
were quickly extinguished by Bailey’s commanding, yet empowering,
She jumps right
in, warming us up with stretches and aerial lunges, and getting us
familiar with the fabric. She encourages us to lift our bodies into
the loop and swing, and walks us through a half boat pose, until we’re
all inverted in a half angle, our weight supported only by the fabric
on our lower backs.
We also spend
several minutes trying to get the hang of one of aerial yoga’s key
moves: a straddle, several feet off the ground, and it takes some
finagling on my end. This is where I get caught up. But once I figure
it out, it’s an emboldening feeling.
"There is a
trust element that you find yourself working through," Bailey
says. "There is streaming fabric hanging from the ceiling, and
there is nothing but your body. You’re working
providing a total body workout, aerial yoga increases flexibility,
alleviates back and joint pain, and improves balance — not to
mention offers the mindfulness signature to the yoga practice. It’s
playful, creative and challenging, all at the same time.
Bailey got hooked. The Milwaukee transport and longtime yogi first
took an aerial class at a gym in Chicago several years ago.
"For me, it
was mind-blowing," she says, adding that for her traditional yoga
had started to feel stale. "I wanted to be challenged. I took the
class, and it took me to a whole other level. I couldn’t get enough
After moving to
Milwaukee, her passion for aerial yoga never waned. Following a
breakup, Bailey found herself on a journey to spiritual renewal. She
cast convention to the side and decided to leave her cushy job in
corporate America to follow her dream of launching Milwaukee’s only
aerial yoga studio in 2012.
existing under the guise of how I ‘thought’ I should be
living," explains Bailey. "I didn’t know I had a choice to
live joyfully. I loved doing yoga, and the universe responded."
offers a full roster of aerial yoga, aerial silks and aerial hoop
group and private classes in the diverse neighborhood of Walker’s
Point. As a woman of color, Bailey hopes to encourage minorities and
other city residents to get out of their comfort zone.
worked for me. At the end of the class, Bailey instructs each one of
us to stretch out the aerial fabric to create a "cocoon."
For several minutes, we are all swaddled and slowly swinging back and
forth to TLC’s suave ballad "Digging on You" playing
softly in the background. Despite being surrounded by a roomful of
strangers, I feel completely still and at peace — a rare feat for
this high-anxiety woman.
is a magnificent unit of energy," Bailey says as we all unravel.
And like a butterfly, I feel transformed.
To learn more
about aerial yoga classes, visit zenzenyogaarts.com or call (414)