Besides being one of the most fun, challenging, playful physical activities you can practice, aerial yoga offers many health benefits – both physical and mental.
BUT do not be intimidated, aerial yoga is not only for the acrobatic gymnast or Cirque-du-Soleil alumni. Although it looks very impressive, aerial yoga is appropriate for the beginner to the well-seasoned yogi.
Let’s take a look at what all the fuss is about!
What to expect with aerial yoga
Classes are taught by a skilled instructor who will begin by measuring your ‘silks,’ so it is important to show up to class early so you can get the right set up. Be sure to leave your jewelry at home, because you will be asked to remove it all before you begin class, as it can easily be caught in the silks and cause damage to your jewelry or the silks, which are quite expensive.
You can expect to be asked to sign up in advance, as the number of silks is limited, and you will likely pay a little more than a traditional yoga class, seeing that there is extra specialized equipment rental and specially certified teachers to take into account here- all making your class all the more safe and exciting.
Once you arrive, your teacher will adjust the silks to a length that is appropriate to your height. There are typically two kinds of setups your studio may have – a one-pointed or two pointed silk and this number reflects whether it is a loop hanging from one point on the ceiling or two.
Two pointed silks tend to be more stable and easier for beginners, but both are quite suitable for all levels of yoga students. And as in any class, make sure to let your teacher know if you have any injuries, health conditions, or are taking any medications that might make it unsafe or risky for you to practice. If you are pregnant, make sure you are in a class designed for prenatal yoga, as many of the aerial yoga poses are not safe for pregnancy – at any trimester.
You will also have a yoga mat underneath your silks and perhaps even a cushion that your teacher may incorporate into some relaxing poses during the class. You can expect the silks to perhaps feel a bit different across your hips, and sometimes a rolled up towel can be used to pad the hips to make you more comfortable, which most studios provide. Wearing comfortable yet tighter fitting clothing is a good idea, as loose fitting clothes can get bunched up and can be awkward once you are moving in through your poses.
Most classes will begin with some poses based on the floor, using the silks as a support for the body but not completely off the floor quite yet. Often some beginning breathing and stretching will help you get familiar with the silks and learn about your body position and how to best sit in the silks. After this, you are off for a fun adventure of flying yoga!
The benefits of aerial yoga
Trying something totally new has great benefits for your body-mind connection. You begin to fire up brain patterns that have been dormant perhaps since you played on the jungle gym as a child.
Your spatial awareness is improved, as you are challenged to feel yourself 3-dimensionally in space, from the top of your head to under your floating feet.
Depending on the type of class, you may also be in for a very challenging strengthening workout. There are many yoga poses and ‘tricks’ you can practice that challenge all of the large and secondary muscle groups in the body- leading to some serious improvements in muscle tone and fitness over time. Most importantly, Aerial Yoga is a chance for us adults to PLAY! Floating upside down is so simple, yet so much fun, and we get to see the world from a completely new perspective and reconnect with the stress-free, playful child within. And, as a side effect, all of this fun leads to lower cortisol levels, which improves your sleep, aids in weight loss, and slows the aging process- and who doesn’t like some of that?!
(Left: Plank pose with silks for strength building)
There are also specialty aerial yoga classes that are available for those with specific goals or needs. For example, classes can be designed for pre-natal care, as the silks can be lowered and opened (resembling a hammock) for a relaxing, restorative yoga class that relieves pressure from the joints and helps expecting mothers feel calm, secure, and relaxed.
There are aerial yoga classes designed for joint decompression and stretching, in which the silks are used to help elongate the limbs and decompress the spine with less focus on traditional yoga poses or ‘tricks’ and more emphasis on therapeutics. Children’s aerial yoga is also becoming more and more popular as children take to the silks without hesitation, and they love all of the tricks and fun poses that can be taught playfully to them. Some creative teachers are even making aerial Yoga fitness classes, where the silks are used similar to a TRX apparatus, and the focus is placed on traditional fitness exercises like supported push ups, lunges, etc. As you can see the possibilities are endless!
If you are curious and want to know more, I suggest signing up for a beginner or all-levels class, bring a fun friend, and enjoy the play. Most people in the class will also be brand new to the silks, and everyone is there to have fun, after all, it’s still yoga- and not a competition! Relax and enjoy the flight.