Independent optometrist and Aston University doctoral student, Jasmine Smith on the joy and adrenalin of her gravity-defying hobby
I started aerial hoop when I was looking for a new hobby during my pre-registration year.
It was a bit of a contrast going from a busy university life at Cardiff to working in the small, quiet town of Ware in Hertfordshire. I wanted a new sport to break up work and revision.
Aerial hoop was love at first lesson really. If you watch a show, it's a bit like an acrobatic or dance routine, but in the air. The hoops are about two metres off the ground. It definitely feels higher than that when you are in the hoop and a lot higher when you fall off. Luckily, I haven’t had a serious injury yet.
The first couple of classes are usually focused on getting into the hoop. The better you get, the higher they make you go. I became addicted really quickly.
Sometimes it is a bit ridiculous trying to get into the harder moves. You are holding on with one hand, balancing with your toes on a tiny bit of metal. I also do doubles where you do a move on the hoop with another person. That is harder because you end up holding your own weight and their weight. You have to trust the other person because if they do it wrong you both fall off.
"Aerial hoop was love at first lesson"
Keeping it varied
Almost anyone can do aerial hoop. I go to a workshop called Studio Fly where they run children's, teenager and adult classes. It helps if you have some upper body strength and a basic level of fitness and flexibility but, if not, you will develop it very quickly.
I've tried a little bit of most sports throughout my life. At university, I did climbing and caving. The upper body strength definitely helped when I first started aerial hoop. I have always been really bad at flexibility – I can't even reach my toes – so I am trying to improve on that.
I think it makes life a bit more exciting if you try new things. I spend most of my evenings and weekends education and vision in some form. Aerial hoop gives me a break from essays, lectures and revision. I love making new friends and there is always a new move or trick to learn.