Aerial Yoga may seem scary and only for Olympians or people 'good at yoga', but it is very accessible, fun and full of benefits that we can all enjoy.
Typical yoga is performed on a yoga mat or on the ground and the idea of going sky wards may be a bit daunting but taking that metaphorical and literal leap could do more for your body, mind and practice than you might think.
Aerial Yoga is yoga that takes place in a 'yoga hammock', elevated from the ground by straps attached to the ceiling. And yes, it can take your weight, you silly sausage. Classes can be restorative, dynamic or similar to silks (advanced). As a typical class progresses you come from sitting and lying on the hammock, performing simple stretches, to hanging completely upside down (inverting is the proper terminology for this). This might appear a little acrobatic – but it could be exactly what you need to shake up your usual yoga routine – and your daily life. Inversions are incredibly good for your brain and body (though do let the teacher know of any heart problems or high blood pressure). If this sounds too scary bare in mind before you click off of this page having ruled out Aerial for good that the first inversion you will learn your upper body will be entirely in contact with the floor (lying down) and only your legs will be elevated.
Create Space in your Joints
If you have experienced the discomfort of stiff joints, aerial yoga will help to loose them up and increase your range of movement. The hammocks gently support your joints, removing stress and tensions. This means the muscles, tendons and ligaments are able to receive some extra TLC. They can stretch and tone in new ways you wouldn’t usually get in a floor-based class. You will embody a feeling of space and freedom as your joints decompress and the muscles lengthen.
Supporting yourself in the air requires a fair amount of strength. Although many of the poses are actually easier to execute in the air than on the ground, there is actually more core engagement happening to maintain balance. In the hammocks, transitioning from pose to pose requires increased muscle engagement and cooperation. By the end of the class you will have experienced a full body workout, leaving you feeling energized and happy.
Relieve Back Pain
Back pain is exceedingly common in our society. Many of us spend a lot of the day hunched over desks or looking at smart phones. This combined with sitting on chairs for long periods of time, creates tension in the hips and lower back. Hanging freely not only relieves pressure from your joints, but also to your back and spine. When we hang upside down in supported inversions, gravity helps provide a therapeutic, traction-like effect through our spines, helping to relieve pain and tension. The weight of your unsupported head lengthens your spine, giving it a much needed break from our detrimental habits and gravity. Removing the pressure from your spine also allows your hips to open, promoting a wider range of movement throughout your body.
When we hang upside down in supported inversions, gravity helps provide a therapeutic, traction-like effect through our spines, helping to relieve pain and tension.
Calm Your Mind
Similar to many yoga practices, aerial yoga calms your mind by linking your breath to movement and bringing you into the present moment. In an aerial class, your focus and awareness is heightened even further. Along with breathing mindfully, you have to be extremely present in order to keep yourself stable in the hammock. Throughout class you are encouraged to enter a more meditative state, giving your mind space from its habitual thought patterns, allowing new ideas and thoughts to surface.
Sometimes simply getting out of our routine is one of the best things we can do for ourselves. After all, Eastern philosopher Vilayat Inayat Khan once stated “the human spirit lives on in creativity and dies in conformity and routine.”
Yes, our comfort zones are familiar, pleasant and often enjoyable, but as long as we stay inside these confines, we significantly decrease our chances for exploration and growth – pleasant is not synonymous with exciting. Yoga usually shakes us up enough to try new things, but once we have established a regular practice it can start to become normal and mundane. So how can we reignite the curiosity and excitement we felt when we first discovered yoga? By taking our practice airborne! Having the courage to try new things will quickly translate into other areas of our lives. By choosing aerial yoga today, who knows what you will chose tomorrow.
Having the courage to try new things will quickly translate into other areas of our lives.
Fear of the unknown and stepping outside our comfort zones can bring about several mental challenges. However, on the other side of these challenges lies room for growth and discovery.
Even after all these mental and physical benefits, lets not forget that aerial yoga is just great fun! It is common knowledge that exercise – such as yoga – promotes the release of endorphins (the chemicals in our brain responsible for feelings of pleasure). So it stands to reasons the same will happen in aerial yoga. However, the gravity defying aspect of the class adds an element of playfulness. Yogis often talk about a post-practice “yoga high”. Well in an elevated class, you can literally reach new levels of this feeling. Aerial yoga is the closest most of us will get to feeling like a fully fledged acrobat, giving us a fun, new way to experience our yoga practice.
The yoga swing in aerial yoga will literally support you whilst you find new ways to move, which will surely improve your yoga practice both in the air and on the ground. Whether you are after a stronger core, a clearer mind or relief from back pain, maybe try thinking about taking your practice airborne and experience these benefits for yourself. More often than not, you’ll leave the class with a newfound feeling of ease and purposeful calmness.
No skill required!
You do not need to have done ANY aerial or mat yoga before your first class.
You need to wear comfy, yoga clothes - I recommend a tighter vest top with a loose tee over the top and leggings/trackies. No jewellery apart from engagement/wedding rings to be worn on the hammock, please leave it at home. Bring a water bottle and a non-slip yoga mat if you have one.
It's one of the best ab workouts around. 'Aerial Yoga' classes can be dynamic and strong, 'Calm Aerial Yoga' classes are restorative.
Mat poses become easier to master
Been working on your headstand or forearm stand in yoga? Forget kicking up against a wall and consider this: The swing wraps around your body and supports you in certain difficult poses like inversions, giving you the experience of how a pose should feel, taking a few aerial classes might raise your game in your regular yoga classes as well.
It counts as cardio too
It increases muscle mass and decreased fat mass all over, so it's likely that aerial yoga provides strength-building benefits but Aerial also provides a cardio intensive form of yoga. One 50-minute aerial yoga session-is in fact comparable to that of power walking.
Whether or not you have knee problems, adding some low- or no-impact workouts is great for you ,and aerial classes are exactly that easy on the joints.
You'll walk away feeling Zen
Research shows that mind-body activities can reduce stress, and aerial yoga is no exception. Many classes end with you lying in savasana, cocooned in a hammock as you gently swing from side to side. Talk about blissing out! I've fallen asleep every time.