Great Adventure

I'm the Daring Young Girl on the Flying Trapeze

by Victoria Lewis

The author, in magnificent flying action. Photos by Victoria Lewis

New York's Hudson River Valley is all sleepy charms and mellow country living. Until, that is, you climb up a trapeze and learn to fly through the air at wellness center Omega Institute.

RHINEBECK, New York – I love the Hudson Valley. In my dream life, I forego my New York City apartment in favor of a little farm in Tivoli. But despite my love for the area, a girl can only "hike, eat, repeat" (my usual M.O. up there) so many times before she needs to change things up. Such was the case this past Fourth of July weekend, when my boyfriend and I decided to take a trapeze class at Omega Institute in Rhinebeck.

I'd always wanted to try the trapeze (I blame a Sex and the City episode for sparking that flame), but never found the time. So when I stumbled across Omega's trapeze offerings — unexpectedly positioned right next to the massage and facial menu on their website — and subsequently found my boyfriend actually amenable to the idea, I decide it's time. It didn't hurt that when we called to inquire, the Omega rep informed us that there were only two spots left in the class. The whole thing felt eerily meant to be.

The next day, we wake to a torrential downpour. We lounge around reading books, convinced that our afternoon class would be cancelled for sure. But when we call, they tell us to come by anyway. "Summer storms can pass," they say nonchalantly.

That afternoon, we dive up to Omega's gorgeous, forested campus. As if on cue, the rain lets up and the sun starts to peek out from behind a few clouds. Class is on.

We make our way across a field to the trapeze structure, sign waivers, and sit down with three (seriously strong-looking) instructors. Like eleven-year-olds on their first day at sleepaway camp, we go around in a circle, introducing ourselves to our fellow "flyers." We're a motley crew, a real range of ages and physical fitness levels. I'm fairly fit (I do yoga and dance cardio a few times a week), but am nervous about my upper body strength. When I see a woman at least thirty years my senior gearing up, I figure I have no viable excuse to chicken out.

The lesson begins with a quick hang from the low bar to get a feel for the various poses. After some brief safety talk, we line up to climb the (very tall) ladder to the trapeze platform. "The only rule of trapeze: absolutely no one comes down the ladder," warns our instructor. In other words, once you're up there, the only way down is to fly.

Omega Institute, Rhinebeck, New York

And this is what flying looks like.

To be clear: An instructor is on the platform helping you and another is working a rope attached to your harness, calling out cues from below. A massive net is there to catch you in case you fall. In other words, it's safety first, second, and third.

I force my boyfriend to go first, watching him slowly ascend and gracefully swing. When it's my turn, I climb with shaking legs. I lean out over the edge of the platform to grab for the bar, and when the instructor calls out, "hup!" I jump, letting out a scream as I soar.

"Can I go again?" I ask as I tumble into the net, cheered on by my classmates.

In the three-hour lesson, each classmate gets about four or five turns on the trapeze. Each time, you add a few new moves, like hanging upside down and pumping your legs to dismount in a back flip. All of this is meant to prepare you for your final trick: the catch.

As the sun set behind us and the sky turned that magic, cotton candy purple-pink hue that can only happen after a day of summer storms, it's time for the big finale. I watch as each student successfully completes their catch. Suddenly, I am wracked with performance anxiety. What if I am the one student to fail?

I climb the platform. Blisters are already forming on my chalked-up fingers, and my legs are getting achy, but adrenaline kicks in. I swing out on the bar, performing each move as the instructor calls it out. "Don't think, just do what I say," he commands. "Knees up!" I hear. "Arms out. Arch your back!"

I pull my head up to see the instructor swinging towards me. "Got you!" he yells, as he grabs my wrists. I let my legs swing away from my own bar, flying through the air in the instructor's grasp, and gently float down to the net.

The author.

The boyfriend.

The big finish.

It's funny because, until that moment, I hadn't really understood why Omega would have trapeze among its offerings. Sure, it's fun (and great for an Instagram), but I wasn't sure how it fit into their whole health and wellness ethos. But after a few flights, I totally got it. Yes, it was exhilarating and energizing. But even more, it was about learning to trust yourself a little and let go. And the post-flight endorphin rush is pretty much like nature's Xanax. We'll definitely be going back for more.


Omega Institute
150 Lake Drive
Rhinebeck, NY 12572

Trapeze lessons are only offered during the summer months. Check their website for summer 2016 dates.

We make every effort to ensure the information in our articles is accurate at the time of publication. But the world moves fast, and even we double-check important details before hitting the road.