Good morning, aaaand I’m back with this month’s Feature! I am truly loving this series, are you guys? It’s not only letting me connect with amazing people in the wellness world, but it’s also opening my mind to so many facets of wellness. This month, we are talking to Tony Brickner (fun fact: we went to college together, we were in the art department!). Tony is an aerial yoga instructor, and he tells us all about how he started down his path in yoga, as well as telling us exactly what aerial yoga is, and how it is done. I loved reading Tony’s words, and I think you will too, check it out:
Introduce yourself! And tell us about what your passion is.
Hello! My name is Tony Brickner and I’m an aerial yoga instructor. I’ve done aerial yoga for about two and a half years and have been teaching for almost one year. I’m currently in the process of obtaining my 200 hour yoga teacher training certification, so I’ll be certified to teach yoga on both the ground and in the air!
What got you started doing yoga, then acroyoga?
Most would assume that you start doing yoga on the ground and work your way up to the air; I did the opposite.
I was catching up with my sister Christina one day and she told me she started going to an aerial yoga class once a week at The Body Art Barn in Blooming Grove. I was always wanted to try using aerial silks, but didn’t know there was a place not too far from my house that I could go to. Growing up, I was interested in any sort of gymnastics or circus performances; I loved seeing people just jump and flip around like it was nothing. I’d go in the backyard with my siblings and we’d spend hours doing cartwheels and attempting handstands.
A week or two later, I ended up roping my little sister into coming with me to a class. I had my concerns about my level of flexibility and my lack of any sort of fitness in my life, but I thought if not now, when? I walked through the barn doors and it was a pretty amazing sight. The space is painted in deep, jewel tones with mandalas painted on the floor. There were colored silks draping down from the barn ceiling and chandeliers lighting up the room; it was unlike any studio I’ve ever seen! It was a pretty magical experience; my sister and I couldn’t believe where we walked into.
I ended up taking Delia’s class that night, who is still my teacher and now also my friend. I’m not going to lie, it was a lot harder than I had anticipated. But, I did do a lot more than I thought I’d be able to. Plenty of sensations when the silk is pressing into your body, but that’s the key to safety. The best part of the class was that the silk and tricks were so much fun that I didn’t even realize how much I was working until the class was over. As a result, I was so sore the next day, and the next day, and probably the day after that! But, I went back the next week, and the next, and the next, and just kept at it.
I stuck with aerial was because it was more of an activity, and the goals weren’t measured in pounds or muscle mass; they were measured in tricks and poses. So often I would have goals of having my body look a certain way or being a certain weight, whether it was gaining weight or muscle or losing weight to be slimmer. But in this practice, I never thought about any of that. My goal was to be able to nail the poses or tricks being taught. There were times where I would get frustrated and not understand how to get into it, or my body wasn’t strong or flexible enough to maneuver. There was one trick that I couldn’t perform for about two months because my flexibility just wasn’t there. But, with enough practice, one day it happens, and when it does, the feeling is incredible.
Quickly, it became a habit where once a week I would take a class. I just kept at it, knowing it was something I enjoyed and something that kept me in decent shape. A year and a half later, the studio offered a training program for aerial teacher training. Thinking only for the purpose of being able to one day hang a silk at home, I signed up for it. At the end of it all, the owner, Michelle, offered me a class shortly after the program had ended, and that’s how I started teaching
Can you tell us about the difference between acroyoga and regular yoga? What makes you love acroyoga?
Aerial yoga has surprisingly been around for quite some time! More and more studios are popping up, but I always have two go to references: Cirque Du Soleil and what P!nk does in almost all of her musical acts. Aerial yoga is taught using a hammock or sling, which is one long piece of fabric with both ends tied up to the ceiling, so that you are able to have a place to sit. You might see split silks also, which do not connect at the bottom. That is also one long silk, but the ends are not tied to the ceiling; the middle of the silk is tied to the ceiling, leaving the ends hanging to the floor. That is more specific to circus acts, whereas the hammock can be used for both.
There are some similarities between yoga and aerial yoga. We use the silk as a prop for yoga poses and conditioning exercises. The cool thing about the silk is that it can be used to make poses easier or more difficult. Some examples would include:
Warrior III in a regular yoga class can be quite difficult. But, if you don’t have the strength or flexibility, in the silk, it can be an easier pose. You could press both hands into the silk and lift one leg up into Warrior III. This way, your hands have something to press into and keep you stable, giving you the chance to hold this pose longer if you normally aren’t able to.
If you were to do a plank, you could have your hands planted on the floor with either one ankle or both in the silk. You could incorporate some leg lifts in there or sway the silk side to side, giving the body a variety of challenges that a traditional plank doesn’t give you.
In my classes, I always like to incorporate a few tricks. One, because I like them, but two, because where else can you flip around like a circus performer? Not many other places, and not in the safe environment like the one built at The Barn.
Fun fact, aerial yoga is actually easier on the joints. Gravity also does a good amount of work in terms of decompressing the spine and easing into many stretches that are typically a little more difficult in a traditional yoga setting.
Who is aerial yoga for?
It’s for everyone who has any interest! Don’t hesitate because you have no upper body strength or because you think you’re too old or not good enough. That’s why you come to class! Don’t build up to eventually being able to attend, just attend and build up to it with us. Every single person that is good at this was a beginner, taking their first class, staring at this piece of fabric thinking, “What did I get myself into?” But, the first step is the step into The Barn; once you’re here, you’re going to do your best, and that’s perfect.
What other things do you do in your free time?
I really enjoy just getting outside. I can’t be inside for more than two days without having to step outside and just breathe. I like exploring all around the Hudson Valley, going in and out of different towns and cities. Some would complain about the driving, but when the windows are down and the music is up, how can you complain? Sometimes I don’t even need music and the wind is all I need to hear. It’s always fun exploring, seeing what there is to do, checking out local shops, restaurants, bars and breweries either by myself or with friends. I like to try anything active, so any kind of hiking or outdoor adventure excursion is great. Any kind of fitness class I’m down to try. At The Barn, I’ve been dabbling in Lyra (aerial hoop), Split Silk, and Pole. It’s great to challenge yourself with a new apparatus.
I also have this obsession with plants. I know it’s all the rage now and everyone is all about it, but I was into the green thumb life before it was flooding all of our Instagram feeds. I was an OG Plant Daddy. But, I seriously love plants. I’m all about propagating my succulents The clearance plant section is a great and awful place for me to go. I’ll see a plant clinging for life and all I can think is “Come home with me, I’ll save you!” I love coming home and seeing all of the green, all of the life indoors, especially when it’s winter. Luckily there will be more green in the coming months.
I enjoy creating, whether it’s making art, taking photos, or figuring out my next class. I studied photography in college, so when I’m able to, I like to focus some energy into that. I do enjoy a good binge watching of a tv series too, preferably with some chips and a good drink. With teaching, creating playlists has been a fun and challenging hobby. I like to take popular pop music and mix it in with other music I like while incorporating more traditional yoga style music. It’s cool once you get the right flow and blend of songs together.
How has yoga changed your life?
I’ve definitely become a lot busier! I teach classes and take plenty of them. I’ve become a healthier person all around. Physically is an obvious change in my life; I’m in the best shape of my life! But, more importantly, I’ve noticed my level of confidence grow over the course of me teaching. I’ve grown to feel more comfortable with myself, both inside and out. Even before I started teaching, just taking the classes, I noticed a change in my level of confidence, teaching just accelerated the process. Never in my life did I think I would be doing any sort of fitness to the extent that I do, let alone teaching it. If you think public speaking is hard, try cueing up aerial moves, knowing your body and words are their guide to a safe practice…no pressure! But through that, talking to a group of people is no big deal; it’s become easy. Through teaching, I’ve become more grounded and present, something I struggle with. I always say that my third eye is overactive; I always think about what could happen instead of focusing on what is happening. It’s still going and going, but less than it used to. Overall, I just feel better.
We wanna know! Where can we find you if we want to take your classes?
Currently, I’m teaching Aerial Yoga twice a week at The Body Art Studio! Monday and Friday nights at 7! You can follow me on Instagram @tony_brick to see if I sub additional classes or begin teaching new ones in the Hudson Valley. I’m also available to teach parties or private lessons at The Body Art Barn, whether it’s aerial, yoga, for a birthday or for you and a few of your friends. Hope to see you soon!
If you are in the wellness world, and are interested in being Featured, please contact me via the contact tab above in the menu! I’d love to have you here. Thanks for reading, as always.