Antoni Porowski instantly makes you feel like an old friend. Even with a nasty head cold the morning after his 35th birthday, his warm charm makes me forget we're about to hang upside down. It's 7 a.m., and we're making our way into the pink and green Om Factory Yoga studio in New York City's Union Square. Stepping out of my comfort zone and into draped neon fabric, I'm about to do aerial yoga with Antoni Porowski for Elite Daily's Take Me With You. As someone who's not used to heights, yoga, or being surrounded by cameras, my emotions are all over the place.
While picturing what would happen if I lost my grip and fell eight feet skull-first, our instructor Kevin Bigger starts to lead us in warm-up stretches. If Antoni has the same graphic thoughts running through his mind, I'd have no idea. He's the same person you see on Netflix's Queer Eye in real life — radiating positive vibes and bursting into ad-libbed songs at any given moment.
These stretches are a far cry from your downward dogs and child's poses; they're deeper, and quite frankly, significantly better. We're both starting to feel good and, as Antoni points out, doing yoga first thing in the morning really "makes you feel like a responsible New Yorker."
My feeling of assured responsibility goes out the window when Kevin describes our first real "aerial" trick.
"Use your left leg to pull the hammock-style fabric out, grab your right leg with your right arm, arch your back, and hang." Sounds simple enough. Attempting to channel every ounce of grace we have in our bodies, we hoist ourselves up.
I have a split second of acrobatic finesse before it shatters. Somewhere between a rush of confidence and a lack of upper arm strength, I come face-to-face with Antoni's big toe. Luckily, I manage to word vomit that it was a "nice looking foot," completely maintaining my professional attitude. Antoni, unfazed, assures me he showered.
With both of our feet back where they belong, Kevin said our next move will be "more circus-y," which prompts Antoni to break into song. Swinging and wrapping our legs around the fabric, the ground gets further and further away.
Personally, I'm a bit speechless, more grunting and gasping my way through the motions than forming actual sentences. Antoni has no issue vocalizing his unabashed concerns on the way up. A little worried about the positioning of his, er, package, Antoni squirms his way to top, announces his adjustment, and proudly poses.
Without losing any limbs (or other body parts), we both find ourselves nearly touching the ceiling. Although the fabrics wrapped pretty tightly around our legs, this is the moment the real feeling of aerial yoga clicked and a true level of comfort set in. So much so that I'm barely picturing my brains splattered on the floor before jumping into our next trick.
With the blood quickly rushing to our heads, Antoni and I wrap the fabric around our shoulders and legs, hanging upside down. No harnesses, no smoke and mirrors — just two bats in a cave, slightly swinging back and forth.
During our cool-down, we lay in the hammocks and close our eyes for the familiar yoga closing. Antoni says he feels like an edamame bean in a pod. I felt more like a butterfly in a cocoon, but I digress. I can tell my body's going to be sore, but Antoni and I agree this is definitely something we'd both try again. Namaslay.
Before ending our time together, the crew brings out a cupcake and candle for Antoni, and we sing "Happy Birthday." Luckily, we didn't catch him on a hungover post-partying morning — he kept it easy the night before. In one final ad-libbed musical moment, Antoni reminds us he's sick and no one should eat the cupcake because he "blew his germs on it." Laughing together, it's perfect note to end on.