My Aerial Yoga Experience – fly, Anja, fly!
If you like yoga, aerial yoga is absolutely an option. It makes you fly!
Basically it is doing your ‘normal’ asanas supported by a piece of fabric hanging from the ceiling. Doesn’t sound much, but boy, how it does deepen and differ the practise…
I have wanted to experience an aerial yoga class for a long time, and today is the day!
What is Aerial Yoga?
Basic elements and most of the asanas are the same in a floor mat practise and aerial yoga practise. In the aerial yoga version, the body is elevated in a fabric hammock, or using that hammock for alignment.
Well, it is not your regular beach hammock, it is a soft piece of fabric that can come in funky colours. It looks almost like a broad and long scarf or pashmina, that is hooked at the ceiling of the room.
You may find other terms for ‘aerial yoga’, such as ‘anti gravity yoga’, ‘flying yoga’, or ‘yoga in the hammock’.
Why Aerial Yoga?
Joints: I think one of the main reasons to practise arial yoga is the decompression of neck and spine, shoulders and other joints.
Let me give you an example: cat & cow is a great movement and you will find it in many yoga classes. However I always observe participants (including myself) that are not very comfortable with the pressure on their knees when in a table top position for a longer period of time. In my aerial class, we practised cat & cow sitting in the hammock, which was just as nice on the back and much more comfortable on knees and wrists.
Flexibility: Since their is more freedom in range of motion, you can get your body in new and different positions compared to mat work. I experienced this in a standing pigeon pose, with one leg (the ‘back’ leg) on the floor and the front leg in the hammock. By shifting my body weight, I was able to go into a deep stretch without having my body weight squeezing into the front leg like I usually feel in the mat-version of pigeon. Through the support of the hammock, it is easier to achieve more advanced postures.
Stress relief: aerial yoga is great for stress relief. I loved the shavasana inside the fabric!
My Aerial Yoga Instructor
I have signed up for the Sunday mid-day introductory aerial yoga class in Rehoboth with Nate. I have taken flow classes (floor practise) with Nate over the past weeks in Lewes, and I got to know him as a great and patient and knowledgeable and experienced instructor.
Usually I do not take classes at DimitraYoga Studio’s Rehoboth location, as I would need to take the car to get there. The beautiful and fairly new Lewes location however is only a 15 min bike ride from the house, which I much prefer.
So usually I don’t get to experience the aerial yoga, as the Lewes location cannot accommodate for aerial classes.
My Aerial Yoga Experience
I always try to be at yoga class 15 minutes ahead of time, just to set up and arrive in the space. This way I can set my mind towards the coming practise, and maybe do some limbering exercises on my own prior to starting class.
As always for studio classes I brought my own yoga mat along and placed it under my hammock. This is not mandatory, but more comfortable to have something to stand on.
With the help of the instructor I then adjusted the straps and buckles of the hammock to suit my body size and height.
The idea of having to surrender to a piece of fabric at first is a little strange. However it is totally safe (although there is a weight limit of 350 lbs per hammock).
We started off by sitting in the hammock like on a chair. Nate took us through his intro and set the intention for the practise.
You must be kidding me
After some gentle upper body stretching, he suddenly says: ok, lets do the back flip, one of the funniest transitions.
Back Flip? What? Are you kidding me? Suddenly my gentle yoga awareness changed to full survival mode, eyes like soup saucers, heart rate up.
I was really surprised he offered such a seemingly difficult move right at the beginning of an introductory class. And I was a little worried.
Should I really go for it? Can I do this? I am no longer a gymnast, I haven’t done a floor back flip in years, maybe decades… and so on my inner voice rambles along.
But then somehow and whilst some part of my brain was still talking to me to find more excuses to back out, I listened carefully to Nate’s precise instructions (how to place the fabric, where to hold on to, when to lean back) and swoosh… here I was standing on my feet behind my hammock! I did it!
Which was in fact a great confidence booster for more moves to follow.
Nate took us to some of the well known asanas and vinyasas, such as a down dog, bridges, upper body twists, a pigeon, an inversion, and so on.
Core strength is important
Some were super easy and comfortable, other strenuous (core strengths is instrumental for stabilising in the fabric which comes with practise), others a little uncomfortable. I just could not go into a down dog position with the fabric in my hip crease and my full body weight on it. It just really hurt me. However I seem to be rather an exception, as all the other participants did not seem to mind.
On the other side, I loved the standing pigeon (with the front leg in the hammock). And definitely the inversion, an imitation of a hand stand (without the hands touching the floor).
Gentle swaying for deeper relaxation
At the end of the class, Nate invited us to take a lie down in the hammock for the final relaxation in shavasana. How beautiful! The fabric is large enough for an adult to entirely submerge in it. It is super comfortable to lie in it with both legs straight or bend, and a gentle rocking motion provides extra soothing. This is truly the position I could have stayed in forever.
Especially as Nate distributes his own essential oils to students (something he does in all his classes) for shavasana.
So there I was in my little cocoon, breathing in, breathing out, gentle swaying, my mind in a far away place…
So whats next? Would I do it again?
Hell, yes! Absolutely. I thought it was a lot of fun! And whilst some of the positions were maybe not my favourites (as is in regular floor practise), others were superb. The extra support in some positions, the extra challenge in others, the weightlessness in some, makes this practise different and interesting and challenging. Somehow 4 dimensional. If yoga floor practise is 3 dimensional, aerial yoga is 4.
It definitely helped that I do yoga regularly, I did not feel overwhelmed at any time in this class.
I would love to have one of those things at home. I would enjoy the hammock for relaxation and meditation, for some stretches after a work out, and to try out new things.
Ok, let me run and speak to my husband about putting those hooks on the ceiling downstairs in that room…..
Restrictions and Preparation for Aerial Yoga
As with all physical exercises, it is recommended that you should speak to your instructor, or even a doctor, prior to starting. Especially if you have any medical issues.
Otherwise, most of common sense applications that apply to floor practise apply to aerial yoga too. Just think of not applying body or hand cream before class (have you ever experienced that sliding down dog haha). Or not eating a heavy meal, not wearing anything dangling or baggy that can get caught or be uncomfortable.