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First Person Experience: Circus workout more than clowning around

International Polytechnic High School sophomore Victoria Nakai enjoys the circus aerobics class at Pilates Studio M in Claremont for her third time. / photo by Stephanie Ball

International Polytechnic High School sophomore Victoria Nakai enjoys the circus aerobics class at Pilates Studio M in Claremont for her third time. / photo by Stephanie Ball

Hayley Hulin
Staff Writer

Now more than ever people look for fun and intensive workouts that keep their interest but are also effective.

I am one of those people, and in my search I was presented the opportunity to take a circus workout class at Pilates Studio M in Claremont.

During this one-hour period, Jehan Izhar, the instructor, challenged and encouraged me through one of the most interesting workouts I have experienced.

Finding the studio was difficult, and I wandered the outer edges of the Claremont Village for 10 minutes discovering Pilates Studio M in the back of the building through the walkway. From there, the studio sat directly in sight.

The space was not what I had envisioned.

French doors opened to an undersized room filled with embroidered pillows in rich colors, a hanging red and white tent, mismatched chairs and equipment.

The second room, directly in back, was half the size and had mirrors lining two walls.

We started in the back room for the first part of class. The five of us each got a yoga mat and Izhar began the 25-minute warm-up and Pilates. We rolled our necks, circled arms, twisted wrists and focused on every joint.

In the middle of the warm-up, Izhar instructed us to move our bodies to create fluid shapes and movement – basically whatever felt natural. Well, nothing about that minute and 30 seconds felt natural. While everyone made “natural and fluid shapes,” I ungracefully jerked and swayed, obviously embarrassed.

The second part of class consisted of two circuits in the front room with the circus equipment. Each circuit had five stations and lasted one minute. I started at a cushioned bench two feet tall and proceeded to balance while doing knee-ups. Once the minute finished, I moved on to the high trapeze and did “lat drops.”

These were hard, but doable. With hands gripped to the bar, I hung in a chair position while pulling myself up and down. Next at the purple silks, I laid on my back with my feet on the floor and pulled up to a standing position, then back down.

By the end of that minute, my arms felt like noodles. For the fourth station, I did bicycle crunches. The last circuit challenged me the most. With the trapeze tucked under my knees, I hung upside-down and did reverse crunches. The entire circuit took five minutes but killed me anyhow.

Before the second, more advanced circuit, Izhar taught the class how to climb the vibrant silks.

While everyone else took a station, I was left to start at the difficult fabric. As I wrapped and flexed my left foot, my arms reached and pulled up one foot, then two, and eventually I reached the top. To my shock, climbing was not the hard part, however getting back to the floor stung and burnt.

Suddenly I gained new respect for trapeze artists like my instructor. I am proud to say that I climbed that devil twice in the longest minute of my life. None of the other exercises I did compare to that. Who knew silks required wrist strength? I certainly did not.

Izhar’s degree in kinesiology from Cal State Fullerton gave her the knowledge and understanding of how the body works, but her smile and boisterous laugh gave me confidence.

“It is really inspiring for me to see people come in and have no background whatsoever and be really unsure and nervous, and be able to see people achieve things,” Jehan said. “It just inspires me every single day.”

I was not the only student who enjoyed the class.

Both Somer Dummond, 21, and Tom Hill, 47, both Claremont residents, had fun.

“Just being in the air for the first time was liberating,” Dummond said.

“I like the stretching and the strength,” Hill said. “I wasn’t bored. She’s really clear on everything.”

I agree with them both. As I reached the top of the silk, I radiated pride. Of course that satisfaction was smashed by my clumsy slide down, but it did not matter. No one slapped me on the wrist or yelled at me to do it again. Izhar smiled and I moved on.

My advice to anyone that wants to enjoy their workout: check out Pilates Studio M. Sure, you may get silk burns and be sore for a week in places you could not imagine, but it was too much fun to focus on those little things. Maybe you will try Izhar’s pole-dancing class, or maybe not. Either way, make sure you tell them I say, “Hi.”

Hayley Hulin can be reached at

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