What Is Aerial Yoga and Is It For You?

Aerial yoga may seem like it is only for the Olympic yogis among us, but in reality it is a fun practice, full of benefits we can all enjoy. Most of us have a yoga practice that exists firmly on the ground – such as Hatha or vinyasa flow – and most would never have thought of taking our asana skywards. However, taking the gravity-defying leap might do more for your yoga practice than you think.

The class takes place elevated off the ground, your body supported by wide nylon hammocks. You progress from sitting 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.

Before you decide to try this new practice, you may have a few questions that need answering; Is aerial yoga safe? What do I need to do to prepare for a class? And what are the benefits?

yoga swing trapeze girl

First and foremost, the accessory being used in aerial yoga are called yoga swings (also called yoga hammocks or yoga trapezes). The swings are wide and strong enough to fully support your body weight, and you are only a foot or two off the floor. The only danger can come from over working yourself, pushing your limits to the point where you pull a muscle or ligament. Remember that to have a safe practice you need to listen to your body. Be as vigilant as you are as in a ‘regular’ class by keeping your alignment strong and paying attention to the subtle shifts in your body.

Preparing for a class is relatively easy. All you need is your body, breath and preferably loose, comfortable clothing.  Mentally, just be ready to try something new. Aerial yoga is about being open to experiences outside your comfort zone. Once you break down any initial pre-conceptions about what yoga should be or how your practice should look, you will be ready to reap all the benefits an aerial practice has to offer.

Preparing for a class is relatively easy. All you need is your body, breath and preferably loose, comfortable clothing.  Mentally, just be ready to try something new.

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.

Build Strength

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. 

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. 

Gets You Out of Your Comfort Zone

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.

Mood Booster

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 swings 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. 

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.

As humans we are creatures of habit, and our habits play a crucial role in how we orchestrate our lives. Making your yoga practice a habit is not an easy feat. If you have managed this, try shaking up your routine with something new. 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. Partaking in a yoga style you are less comfortable with increases your abilities both on and off your mat. What’s more, aerial yoga brings about easy acrobatics to those of us whose two feet are stuck firmly on the ground. 

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