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Aerial acrobatics with Hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndromes

by Anna Hayes

As a kid I was always really flexible but also chunky.

I followed my sisters footsteps in gymnastics, but I wasn’t very good, just really flexible!

Later, I started teaching gymnastics and trampolining and enjoyed demonstrating skills and moves.

At age 25, I discovered the pole and aerial world of acrobatics.

I was able to make simply flexible moves look stunning, with my overextended splits, my extended knees, and my perfect toe point.

I decided to train hard focusing on aerial hoop, but also doing other aerial acts like using silks. I competed in aerial hoop UK wide. In my first year of competing I won 3 gold medals two silver medals and one bronze, placing in every competition. I was also the UK aerial Champion in 2017 winning two silver medals at the world championships 2017.

Sounds pretty awesome right?

After achieving so much in one year I didn’t know what to do next. My amazing sister, who runs her own shows, gave me my first big performing opportunity to perform at the Brighton Fringe Festival. I did a hoop routine, a contortion chair act, and the rest is history.

I’ve been performing there ever since.

The buzz you get when you are in the air, when the music plays, when you can lose yourself in your own world and do what you love - and it is the best feeling you will ever get!

The downsides:

I’ve always been really grateful for my super 'bendiness' in my routines and performances. It takes some people years of training to do what I do, but luckily comes naturally to me.

But with the highs come the lows.

The joint aches and pains, the random falling over in the middle of the street due to super weak ankles, the irritable legs and daily body pains.

I am allergic to most foods.

I have irritable bowel syndrome, an old diagnosis of fibromyalgia, skin rashes, sleep problems and suffer from anxiety.

I can’t do certain moves due to the fear of dislocating joints.

I strength train my joints A LOT more than the average person as they are very weak.

I take a cocktail of vitamins and supplements every day that are costly - the list is endless.

But you know what, I wouldn’t change it for anything.

Sometimes the pain gets me down mentally, but I try and research and get advice from other members.

I know after I’ve trained, I do need to stretch for a long time. This might sound silly when I’m already naturally flexible, but if I don’t stretch I get stiff, tight, sore, and uncomfortable. I use a massage gun, a foam roller, magnesium spray and magnesium tablets after every training session.

I am grateful that SEDS was able to fund some of this for me this so I could keep working.

Future aims:

I have a degree in inclusion special needs and worked as a teaching assistant but hope to apply and be accepted soon to do my PGCE and work in special schools.

I have seen the Chair of SEDS who is an inspiration to me, do this and more and would like to do the same.

I will never stop wanting to perform aerial acrobatics though and hope to continue until I’m at least 90!

Anna Hayes

33 Years Old

Brighton, Sussex

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