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Welcome to my blog, which I started way back in December 2002 - long before social media was a thing! With the advent of Facebook, Twitter etc. I don't write that often here now, but you never know when I might feel the urge to do so.

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Life is better (when) upside down (again)

Sunday, June 21, 2020


The COVID-19 lockdown has been hard, and it's meant missing out on lots of things - seeing and hugging friends, eating out and even at one stage simple pleasures like sitting on a park bench and reading a book.

We've all lost different things and tried to cope in our own way, and we've all succeeded or failed to varying degrees, at varying times - and sometimes both with frightening regularity. It's hard, and we still have no certainty about when or how it will all eventually end.

Beth and I locked down a week before the official lockdown in the UK this March, and one of the things I had to give up was going to my yoga studio - a place that has become a bit of a second home for me over the previous 20 months.

When the lockdown started the studio were switched-on enough to immediately move to streaming classes really quickly, which has probably kept them afloat and lots of us sane. However, as the class I did most (aerial yoga) requires specialised equipment it's obviously been off for the duration, and although suitable equipment to use at home (a hammock, together with rigging equipment such as carabiners and daisy chains) is readily available you do need somewhere to hang your hammock.


Unfortunately, we're short of suitable open spaces inside our home and - as Beth wasn't keen on me modifying any of the ceilings (which would basically involve attaching heavy duty fixings to a ceiling beam) that was plainly out. Although there's always the doorway yoga approach, not all doorframes are suitable and it looks like ours aren't.

That left portable rigs and kit like pull-up bar frames - and although I did find a suitable bit of indoor gym kit which I dithered over for a while, in the end I decided against it as it's rather narrow - and although it would fold down for storage, it would have still taken up storage space we don't really have.

That left dedicated portable aerial rigs, which break down to a set of poles and fixings (like a big tent without the canvas) - although "portable" is a bit of a misnomer, as aerial rigs are rather heavy (typically 30kg or so).

I did some research, and managed to narrow it down to:

Of the three the UpliftActive rig was the most expensive, and although their rig looks fabulous, once you add import duty and VAT it priced itself out for me. In the event they stopped shipping to Europe in March, so I couldn't order it anyway.

The Amazon one was the cheapest, but as it has legs which screw together I suspect it's also the least flexible and hardest to put up. I'm glad I didn't order it.

That left the X-Pole A Frame, (which gets great reviews), and after dithering I finally made my choice and hit the "order" button. As X-Pole temporarily stopped shipping orders on 23rd March I knew I'd have to wait a little while before it arrived, so I waited (mostly) patiently.

In the meantime I ordered a hammock, carabiners and daisy chains, along with a pair of slings.

On 12th May X-Pole announced that they were finally able to reopen and start fulfilling back-orders, and my rig finally arrived on Monday. Despite all of my anticipation, my first thought was panic when I saw firsthand how big the box was and felt how heavy it was to lift!

Nevertheless, the following morning I took it outside into the communal garden (which proved not to be as impossible as I had feared, but I'm so glad we have a lift in the building!) and had a go at setting it up.

The rig came with two carry cases. The large one contains the main poles, and the smaller one the corner pieces, fixings etc.

The rig came with two carry cases. The large one contains the main poles, and the smaller one the corner pieces, fixings etc.

The opened carry cases.

The opened carry cases.

The four upright poles and the top bar.

The four upright poles and the top bar.

Uprights at full extension (360cm), minimum configured length (246.5cm) and packed for transport (146cm).

Uprights at full extension (360cm), minimum configured length (246.5cm) and packed for transport (146cm).

It took 45 minutes to get the frame erected for the first time and a bit longer to adjust the hammock to the right height (it later came down and was packed away in just 15 minutes).

My aerial rig after I set up for the first time.

My aerial rig after I set up for the first time.

Things they warn you about when you order an aerial rig:

Things they don't warn you about when you order an aerial rig:

  1. Getting 35kg (over half my bodyweight!) of rig out to the back garden is not a task to be underestimated (but it is part of the workout, I guess...).

  2. Rigging a yoga hammock to the right height is way fiddlier than it looks (just as well I'm patient. Do you get bonus points for doing it with stretchy hammock material...?).

  3. We have a communal garden, and an aerial rig seems to be a small children magnet. I quickly learnt to keep my eyes open and be prepared to shepherd them away for their own safety.

Then I finally got to play. I did an hour's practice - basically a variant of the warm-up sequences we use in our regular classes, plus some old favourites. So there was the usual stuff like Cocoon, Chair, Forward Leaning T, Balancing Stick (I even did ostrich reps!), Warrior 1 etc., followed by Basic Inversion, Flying Pigeon, Shoulderstand, Vampire, Strength Inversion and Bee to name but a handful.

It was obvious that I was rusty and that I've lost a bit of strength during the lockdown. In particular my Shoulderstand was wobbly, and my Strength Inversion quite frankly pants (though I suspect having stretchy hammock material may have contributed to the latter, as that's new to me).

But it was so good to be back flying again!

Shavasana has never felt so good!

Shavasana has never felt so good!

It is now mid June, and although with the UK gradually coming out of lockdown there is a possibility the studio will reopen in the near future, it will almost certainly be with a requirement for social distancing - which I imagine will cut class sizes in half.

So as long as the weather holds (I know that's a big if in the UK) at least I have another way to get my zero-compression inversion fix.

Posted by Anna at 19:33 | Get Link


Work (and lots of yoga) in progress

Wednesday, June 10, 2020


My work in progress yoga feet have literally kept me sane over the past couple of months!

My work in progress yoga feet have literally kept me sane over the past couple of months!

This site is nearly 18 years old now (!!!), and it's long past time the site had another overhaul. The last significant update was in in 2013, so this is a long overdue process.

For the past couple of months I've been working on doing just that, and the good news is that it is finally about done. The new design is responsive, so it should also work on mobile devices.

As well as a new theme, I've also updated much of the content - which has meant reading it all again. Needless to say given how much I've changed since I started this site that has been an interesting (and in some cases quite difficult) experience.

Nevertheless, it was worth it, and I hope that the new version will be a useful addition to the information out there - not least in terms of documenting what transition was like at the beginning of the 21st century.

I still have a great deal to do (not least on this blog, which despite the new theme still needs a major overhaul) so please pull up a chair - or better still get out your mat and practice with me - while I work on getting this finished.

Needless to say if you have any questions just let me know. As time permits I'll be adding new (and not necessarily trans related) content, so watch this space.

Posted by Anna at 07:27 | Get Link