An Intro to Aerial Yoga

Savasana in the Sky

aerial yoga
Jennifer Lauren

Aerial yoga is not the name of a circus act, but a fairly new form of group exercise. I had the pleasure of trying a class at Studio Anya in midtown Manhattan, NY. When I entered the room, I saw 25 or so brightly colored hammocks (their term, not mine) hanging from the ceiling. The friendly instructor measured me against the hammock to make sure it was at just the right height, and after a couple of safety warnings, off we went!

The first position was called womb, and it had me thinking, "Yes, this is for me!" After a short series of movements - swinging your leg over the hammock and maneuvering the material just so – you find yourself in a silk cocoon, meditating until further instruction. Aaah.

Then, things got serious. We flipped over into an inversion, with the hammock around our bums and our legs in the air. It felt great. Numerous other moves followed, mostly with names never heard in a regular yoga class (the platypus and Jackie Chan being among my favorites).I really felt the burn during a series of lunges and planks (done with one or both feet in the hammock). The hardest part was the forward inversion, which required a serious amount of trust in the hammock, the teacher, and myself! At the end of a tough workout, we laid in savasana, got a gentle swing from the instructor, and felt like we were floating away.

To get a better sense of the experience, check out this video of a woman doing some serious aerial yoga moves.

Pros:

  • It’s unique: Aerial yoga marries familiar yoga moves with a one-of-a-kind floating experience. It was such a pleasure to break out of my usual workout routine and try something new!
  • Toning Toning Toning: Adding an element of instability to your workout creates instant opportunities to use muscles to their fullest. With the hammock, you’re constantly using both your arms and legs to stabilize yourself in a wide variety of moves. I was definitely feeling it the next day!
  • Inversion therapy: The hammock allows for great spine stretching and decompression, which feels great.

Considerations:

  • You can't practice at home: Well, technically you could purchase a hammock and a serious set of nuts, bolts, and carabiners, but you would have to go to great lengths to install this system yourself. This means you can’t practice moves on your own, which  means you’re relying on class time to go deeper in your stretches and advance your practice.
  • You have to go to a specialty studio: It goes without saying, but it takes a special yoga studio and well-trained instructors to pull these classes off. If you love the class, you may have to travel or deal with crowds since there aren’t many aerial studios out there.

Tips for Your First Aerial Yoga Class

  • If you’re going to take an aerial yoga class, be sure to wear comfortable clothing – and remember, you’ll be playing around with gravity, so a fitted top makes more sense than a loose tunic!
  • Come prepared to pay close attention to the instructor’s cues, and know that she or he may reposition you or ask you to sit a move out if it's your first class.
  • If you have a back injury, are pregnant, or have high blood pressure, you might consult a doctor before you sign up to make sure you can safely participate.

Wondering if there’s a studio near you? Try this class locator to get started. Namaste!

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