Originally from Georgia, Glenda Renkes always dreamt of living by the water. So, after her two children left the nest, they both gave her that little nudge to venture out. She landed in the Keys 16 years ago. 

Growing up a competitive gymnast, she had wanted to be a gymnast teacher but ended up getting married and having a baby at a young age. As she got older, she realized that gymnastics was strenuous on her body. So, years later, she fell in love with yoga after someone gave her a gift of 10 classes … and so it began.

Yoga shifted the overall awareness of her body versus being in a competitive mindset from gymnastics.  And the timing of when she discovered yoga was a gift in general because her spouse was ill and ended up passing away from brain cancer. Yoga gave her an emotional outlet to help her through that extremely challenging time.

Renkes intensely trained in Baja, California, and lived in a tent with the other students for a month. In addition to the actual yoga movement training, they also had a day of silence where they couldn’t talk to anyone for 24 hours. They could only sit with their thoughts (Imagine what that would be like). For Renkes, as well as the other students, it was a wild emotional experience.

While she was teaching yoga, she noticed an article about aerial yoga, which she had never heard of before. Then a photo of someone doing the splits in the air inspired her to say, “I want to do that.” 

Weeks later, the timing would be in her favor; a yoga school had certification classes for aerial yoga up in St, Petersburg. Shortly after that, she also got certified in paddleboard yoga. 

As Renkes put it, “yoga on land, sea, and air.”

She met her husband, Jason Renkes, initially at The Moose Club, and then they further connected at MM 88 (Talk about true Islamorada love). Now, Jason regularly does aerial yoga with the rest of the class when there is enough space.

“Men sometimes feel intimidated with yoga — period. But then with aerial yoga, they may feel they have to be very flexible, but as Jason has demonstrated, it’s not as hard as one would think,” she said.  

“I wrestled in high school and college, so I realized the value of stretching to keep you in shape,” Jason said. “I never realized yoga was another avenue to achieve that. It’s helped me a lot.”

How many aerial yoga poses are there, you may ask? Hundreds. People can incorporate any yoga pose that exists with the swing. Popular poses such as pigeon, downward dog and tree pose are easily adapted into aerial yoga. Not only is it a form of therapeutic fun, but it’s also strength training and can help with physical therapy. 

Take it from me, who’s a new-found regular class attendee. Core exercise can be a strength training killer. One tiny movement for a few minutes can really burn. 

Glenda Renkes said this is the yoga split pose that started it all. MELINDA VAN FLEET/Keys Weekly

In addition, Renkes tailors a lot of the movements for her students as she gets to know them. She can coach her students through poses for areas that need work (So, maybe that’s a hint for me to work on my core?)

Suppose you meditate or appreciate a holistic experience? If so, you will be excited that Renkes incorporates reading passages, placing eucalyptus essential oil on your palms (if you desire), and enough time for Savasana — along with a lavender-scented eye pillow. These special touches round out the whole experience and help clear out any bad energy, so you are ready to start your day.

What is Savasana (or Shavanasa), you may ask? It’s the traditional final part of the yoga practice where you lay like a corpse and relax your body one muscle at a time. Savasana calms the mind and body. In aerial yoga, you do this tucked in the silk swing suspended from the ground — kind of like a butterfly in a cocoon regrouping and getting ready to emerge with a fresh start.

Regarding the passages she reads, Renkes had this insight to share: “What message do they need to hear? I worry about that more than anything. Yes, this is the one they need to hear. And sometimes the wind will blow my page and mess up my message. But it brings me another page, so I better go ahead and read what is showing. Inevitably someone after class will mention that that message touched their heart.” 

Or, as Jason said, chuckling, he may ask Glenda, “Alright, was that message for me?” 

A message she read clicked for me a few weeks ago. It was a poem from Danna Faulds. The poignant passage was, “We come from stronger stuff than our feelings.” It was meant for me that day. 

“One of the most rewarding parts is when Kinder in The Keys books a class. The teachers, the counselors, and the students are all heart-warming and wonderful. It’s always a pleasure to have them. That’s why I do this.”

Who can do aerial yoga? You can be a 50-year-old beginner. She also works with children, preferably 8 years or older. However, Renkes does caution that the parent knows that the child is good with focusing as it’s a calmer practice that requires following instructions versus a more physical activity such as soccer.Those interested in taking a class can connect with Renkes via email [email protected] or find more information on her website www.hanginginthekeys.com. Aerial yoga is also a great idea for bridal parties and birthday parties (please note—no more than eight people at a time).

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Melinda Van Fleet is a sales strategy and success coach/consultant, bestselling author of "Confidence Mastery for Couples and Life & Love Lessons," and speaker. Melinda is the host of two weekly podcasts, "The Good Karma Success Coach" and "Crush It In Sales." You can connect with her more at www.melindavanfleet.com.