Want to Get Fit? Get on a Trapeze

Rock climbing: yawn. Bar Method: So last year. Whether you're looking to turn your fitness routine upside down or preparing for your upcoming Burning Man fire dance, consider checking out our favorite circus-inspired facilities. While these daring courses and workouts may clown around on occasion, they will help you conquer not only your body's limitations but your mind's as well.

There are few places where adults can act like kids again. The Seward Street slides in the Castro and House of Air are such magical places. Although the first thing I saw upon entering the former airplane hangar in the Presidio was a man being led away on a stretcher, I was undeterred. (Note: It goes without saying that there are physical risks involved in the feats mentioned here, so consider this your finger-wagging). In addition to the main indoor arena — which consists of 42 conjoined trampolines, is bigger than a basketball court, and is called the Matrix — House of Air offers the humbling experience of getting your ass handed to you by 10-year-olds in trampoline dodgeball in the smaller "Colosseum court." A former national trampoline champion teaches you how to flip, bounce off walls, and perfect tricky aerial moves for the next time you find yourself in a Mission: Impossible movie. Adults may want to visit in the evening to avoid accidentally smooshing small children (it's also less crowded). 926 Mason (at Pearce), 345-9675 or www.houseofairsf.com) Cost: $14 an hour for adults.

AcroSports teaches tumbling, gymnastics, aerial arts, contortion, break dancing, capoeira, and parkour. For whole-body workouts, aerial and contortion classes aim to power up your flexibility, core strength, and control, with moves like handstands and holding yourself parallel in midair. Of the aerial workout, Cristian Ortiz, an engineer, says, "It taught me efficient movement as opposed to 'muscling through' moves, which to my surprise carried through to other aspects of my life, including playing cello. Also, the closest I've been to having a badass sixpack was while I was taking this class." Tumbling classes are great for perfecting balance and reminding you how hard it is to do a cartwheel now, as opposed to when you were in elementary school. 639 Frederick (at Willard), 665-2276 or www.acrosports.org. Cost: varies.

Anna Pulley soars through the air at Trapeze Arts.
Andrew J. Nilsen
Anna Pulley soars through the air at Trapeze Arts.

You might assume that high-end acrobatic skills require years of sacrifice and hard training, but the folks at Trapeze Arts can have you doing amazingly cool tricks in less than an hour. Their 90-minute flying trapeze classes include brief prep work on the static bar, followed by a few words of encouragement — and then away you go, hurtling 45 feet through the air. The instructors are supportive in a benevolent drill sergeant way that leaves you little time to freak out. They also film each swing you take, to analyze your technique and provide easy feedback. Trapeze Arts also offers trampolining, aerial classes, tumbling, hoops, and classes for kids ages 6-13. Ellie Kaufman, an Ashtanga yoga instructor who flew for the first time recently, sums it up: "It was the scariest thing I've ever done, but afterward I felt totally hardcore." 1822 Ninth St. (at Pine), Oakland, 510-419-0700 or www.trapezearts.com. Cost: $40 per class.

If you prefer your flying to be a little more, well, grounded, you might benefit from an acrobatic yoga class. The founders of AcroYoga, Jason Nemer and Jenny Sauer-Klein, put a literal twist on an ancient practice. Combining the strength and flexibility you'd get from traditional, asana-based yoga classes plus Thai massage and playful inversions, AcroYoga is probably the one circusy venue that won't make you sign liability waivers before participating. A terrific date idea (though singles are more than welcome), the classes allow you to let go and get physical, but not in the typical pervy San Francisco way. AcroYoga operations manager Deven Sisler explains, "Acro yoga provides a safe and supportive environment where you might experience intimate touch, especially during Thai massage, but not in a way that's explicitly sexual." Also, not to go all after school special, but there's something inspiring about physical exercise that also teaches you to trust others and experience interconnectedness. It's like being flown Superman-style, but for grownups. Several Bay Area locations, including Yoga Tree in the Castro, and the Sun Room in the Mission. www.acroyoga.org. Cost: varies.

To read a list of upcoming circus events — and see more of Anna Pulley on a trapeze — visit blogs.sfweekly.com/exhibitionist.

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