What is Aerial Yoga?
Aerial yoga is a type of anti-gravity yoga and has recently gained popularity. It requires the use of silk fabrics tied to the ceiling in a hammock style and suspends the individual in various poses above the floor. The silks are also used to increase balance and stretch when doing floor poses.
Anecdotally, aerial yoga increases health outcomes by facilitating the bending and stretching of the whole body as well as strengthening the muscles and joints. It also helps to improve posture by decompressing the spine as it hangs freely in the silk fabrics. Moreover, as with any form of physical activity, it increases circulatory, digestive, and respiratory systems through increased blood flow through the body.
Specifically, the hammock provides three main benefits: (1) traction – it creates natural body weight traction in a safe and effective manner, (2) back and core strengthening – through dynamic balancing poses, and (3) flexibility – allows for a deeper stretch into any pose by supporting on half of your body on the hammock and pushing the other further away from the hammock.
My First Aerial Yoga Class
One of my goals this year was to try out different types of yoga practices including an aerial yoga class. I didn’t know too much about it except that acrobats and other performers would often use it to practice for their shows, like Cirque de Soleil. I have always been a little intrigued due to its artistic nature and decided to finally give it a shot. I figured, how different could it be from traditional hatha yoga?
I signed up for my first aerial yoga class, beginner level class. At first I was a little intimidated by the silk fabric and a bit leery that it could hold my body weight. I was afraid to fall or get an arm or foot caught in the fabric casing me to get stuck or sprain something. However, the instructor informed the class that the silk fabric can hold up to 2000 pounds and we need not worry about falling down. She also cautioned us to pay attention when positioning ourselves on the fabrics to prevent getting caught up in it.
During the class we followed some traditional yoga poses including the warrior 1 pose, downward dog, tree pose, as well as various other types of stretches. However, we were using the silks to balance one leg while using our core to support the rest of our body weight. We also tried various pull up positions, hopping over the fabrics and the upside down pigeon poses, as well as inversions.
In the picture above, I am preparing to get into an inversion pose by pushing myself upward into the hammock. I need to pull myself up from my shoulders using controlled movement to lift my legs upward and bring my body into an inversion.
The picture below is me in an inverted position secured within the hammock. I felt such a rush while in this pose and as you can see my face is so red from all the blood rushing to my brain. I wouldn't recommend staying in this pose for long but it does for nice for a couple of minutes.
I decided to take this pose a step further by releasing my legs from the bind and extending both arms and legs to the sides. My body was supporting itself from the top of my buttocks and in my hip creases. It requires a lot of core engagement.
This was by far my favorite pose throughout the entire class. I am in an inverted pigeon pose suspending my body at the top of my buttocks and wrapping my left foot around the silk hammock. I really enjoyed the stretch in my back and shoulders while in this pose. Not to mention it is the most seductive looking pose of them all (wink).
And finally, I ended with a much simpler and less exotic pose, the tree pose (please excuse my hair). This was actually a pretty relaxing pose and I felt a nice stretch in my right hamstrings.
What I learned from the experience
Although it was a beginner level class I still found the poses to be challenging. It forced me to balance my body in ways I wasn’t normally used to relative to the other types of yoga I’ve tried in the past. It also required that I rely more on my upper body strength including my back and arm muscles when holding myself up in the hammock. Typically, I rely more on my core and lower body strength when doing yoga so this was a bit difficult for me. There is also a lot of pressure on your skin with the silks holding your body up against gravity. You just have to breathe your way through the pain.
Overall, I really enjoyed trying out aerial yoga and have since gone back for more classes. Not only was it something new in my routine but it helped me to become more aware of my body. I realized that I am pretty stiff in my hip joints and need to practice hip opening poses. Moreover, I realized the importance of trying new things in yoga and in life. Not only does it help you learn new things about the craft and yourself, it helps you to become more knowledgeable and agile as your continue to grow in your practice.
Let's continue the conversation below! Have you tried Aerial Yoga? What was your experience like?