I remember being a little girl and going to see Cirque du Soleil for the first time. The aerial acrobats were my favorite. They swung through the air, light as a feather, full of grace and strength. Their big silk ribbons added romance and awe to the spectacle.
Fast forward 15 years, and aerial yoga is introduced on the fitness scene. Ok, the silks aren’t suspended quite as high and you’re essentially practicing yoga, but this is the chance to fulfill every childhood dream. Surprised by how accessible the classes are, I quickly signed up at Amrita Yoga & Wellness, a local Philadelphia studio offering the discipline.
My first class was a whirlwind. There I was – a five year yoga practitioner – again a beginner. Starting all over. Like a child. Watching the teacher and taking every queue.
Setting my intention, I pronounced to at least try to do everything, but when it came time to flip upside down, the fear washed over me. In a stalled moment of apprehension, I went back to my intention, “just try,” and there it was, I flipped upside down. Hanging there brought all the freedom I could imagine, feeling my spine extend and stretch in entirely new ways. It was an enlightening experience, and one I think that everyone should try.
So today I sat down with my dear friend Stacia Nero, an aerial yoga instructor; I asked Stacia to give us a brief intro to aerials. Below she tells us the basics and what we can expect when heading to our first class:
WHY DO AERIAL YOGA?
It’s more than being upside down: It’s allowing your body weight to be taken on by something else, so you can fine-tune areas of your body that are weaker, and finesse those that are stronger.
A different way of playing with Asana: The silk ribbons help you refine yoga poses. Whatever muscle group is active – the part of the body that is not putting its weight on the ribbons – has to work much harder. It’s really easy on the floor to sink into a pose and forget about the structure. When you do that in the silk, you lose all balance. It shows you where your weaknesses are.
It’s therapeutic: Aerial yoga is a deep fascia release, just like a deep tissue massage. Always drink a lot of water afterward to flush out the toxins that get released.
WHAT TO EXPECT IN AERIAL YOGA
You are capable of a lot more than you think: Stacia once had a class with a man who weighed 280 lbs. and another with someone who had multiple surgeries and knee issues. Neither of them thought they were going to be able to do it, but they could. The only people who shouldn’t be doing aerials are people who shouldn’t be practicing inversions in the first place (i.e. women in some stages of pregnancy, people prone to nausea, those who have had a stroke, people with vertigo, certain spinal issues, or high blood pressure). Stacia says that 75% of the time, aerials are better for you than not.
Getting upside down changes your perspective: both physically, but also spatially. You may confuse your right from your left, so be really patient with yourself and listen to the instructor closely.
There are many ways to do aerial yoga: There are different setups that you can have with the silks. There are those that attach to the ceiling in one spot, and those that have two points of contact. You can lower the silks to have a great yin practice, or you can bring them to hip level where you can practice a nice strengthening asana flow.
Shavasana is the best part: Get ready to bliss out because you’re sitting inside of a hammock. It’s seven minutes of being embraced by something that lets you levitate and float. You can choose to have a little push from your instructor if you want a little swing as well.
You may not like it the first time: It doesn’t always feel 100% lovely until you consistently start doing it, and your body gets used to the pressure. Eventually that tension breaks up and it feels completely euphoric, but you have to get there. As you begin to trust yourself more, you release tension and are able to relax into it.
Expect to pay a little bit more: Most aerial classes are $20-$25, a little higher than your regular yoga class.
SUGGESTIONS FOR FIRST TIMERS
Stretch the spine: Always make sure that you’re not compressing the spine. Go for stretching and decompression in every pose.
Give it a chance: Stacia always suggests coming at least three times within a month before you decide that aerials aren’t for you. It can take a couple tries to get into the joys and benefits.
+Have you tried aerial yoga? Would you? Sound off in the comments!
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