Before I get into all the benefits and things to know about aerial yoga, let me first start by painting you a little picture:
When I was a little kid, one of the many things that fascinated me was aerial acrobatics. I was always inspired by the amazing grace and flexibility that these people who considered themselves to be aerial acrobats. There was always a certain magic that came within watching these people do all these beautiful moves and poses while being suspended so far off the ground by only the support of silk fabrics. In wanting to be like them, I got a little imaginative and strung a blanket from the highest part of my outdoor swing set and tried to suspend myself upside-down like one of those people that I have looked up to in amazement. Let's just say, however, that it did not end well, and I immediately flipped over and banged my head on the ground - killing my dream of being just like them.
Flash forward to a few years ago - I am in my early twenties and I started becoming interested in yoga. I attended classes at my local studio, blissfully trying to master a full vinyasa or maintain my balance and pose on the barre. While I was beginning to blossom into a die-hard yoga fanatic, I soon became alerted to a new practice that was slowly taking over: aerial yoga. I was so increasingly interested in what it would entail. Do you actually do poses in the air? How to you even get up into the air? These were all questions that had first hit me before my research.
When I was finally able to join my first class, I entered into a room that presented itself with multiple silks in a row for you to choose from. The instructor, so diligently wrapped up in hers, flipped down so utterly gracefully and helped me sit into the silk. She gave me a quick overview of what to expect - and from the moment on, I was able to once revitalize my childhood dream of being an aerial acrobat.
Aerial yoga was something that had closely won over my heart. There is something so incredible in not only being able to suspend in the silk and use it has a hammock to cradle your body for the ultimate relaxation session, but an utter excitement and coolness that comes from being inverted and supporting yourself only by your ankles and legs. If you are looking to do your first aerial yoga class, this is everything to expect:
What Exactly Is Aerial Yoga?
Aerial yoga was first introduced in New York by Christopher Harrison, a dancer with an acrobatic background who founded the first AntiGravity yoga studio in New York City. It first involved using a hammock or yoga swing to allow aerial yoga practicers to perform certain positions and poses that are not readily available to do with a simple yoga mat. It combines traditional yoga with acrobatics, pilates, and dance - allowing for an effective workout that can help promote flexibility, alleviate joint pain, and lower the risk of back pain and arthritis.
In aerial yoga, the hammock is kept close to the ground, becoming a swing the supports the hips and allows for forward or backward bends. For many, this hammock allows you to do many positions that are harder to do on a mat with ease, providing less strain on the back and body. Aerial yoga is said to also have particular benefits in strengthening and stretching the spine and body, decompression, circulation improvement, boosting digestion, and promoting a healthier and happier well-being.
Wear The Right Clothes
Within your first practice, it is heavily advised to wear something tight fitting that covers the knees and the armpits. The silk fabric used to make many yoga hammocks are soft, but with overtime use, especially when you might get sweaty during your practice, can cause chaffing and irritation to the skin. Must instructors I've seen do not even let people into the class if they aren't wearing proper attire, so be sure to wear a short sleeve shirt or long sleeve shirt and tight fitted capris or yoga pants that cover the back of the knees. You wouldn't want to itch your leg due to an irritation when you are hanging upside down!
When choosing the right clothing as well, be sure to not wear anything that has extra zippers, buttons, or anything the can snag onto the fabric. Extra accessories such as watches, fitness trackers, jewelry, and even piercings should be taken off or out before your practice as well, as they can snag onto the fabric or even cause tears - which may cause some scary and avoidable accidents. If you question whether or not you should wear an article of clothing to class, you probably shouldn't. Just stick to the basics - no one is judging your look.
Class Can Incorporate Different Levels of Practice
What is really great about aerial yoga is that it is almost completely customizable between person to person. This means that the hammock allows for a variety of different poses that can be done on various skill levels depending on your skill level. Aerial yoga also can be different among instructors as well, some focusing more on a standard traditional flow-based class that centers on realignment and adjustment. Some, however, may choose to focus on more restorative practices, that allow for more lift and support.
Inversions Can Be Scary - And Can Come With Some Side Effects
I am not going to lie to you and say that inversions aren't scary the first time you do them. I will admit that even me - the boy who literally dreamed of doing inversions - was nervous the first time around! There is a ton of trust you must place within yourself, your body, and your instructor. Usually within your first class, you are presented with an introductory level class, and may only perform one inversion during your session. Most likely, the instructor will go over the inversion and the steps to it multiple times before allowing you to go into your first inversion. They may even ask questions or ask the group to repeat the steps to ensure they were fully paying attention! Once everyone fully understands how to do an inversion, your instructor will then go through the steps and perform them with you. They will take things slowly with you though, one step at a time until you finally find yourself being upside down.
Usually, you are holding onto the hammock when you first are inverted, mainly for safety and security reasons. During this time, your instructor will go around an ensure that everyone is safely in position, where they will then allow you to move on to stretches while being inverted or other poses - only if you feel comfortable doing them. It is here you may even find yourself being able to remove your hands from the silks and just hang freely.
Within those moments, it is truly freeing and inspiring. It is silly to say that being flipped upside down maybe 4 feet of the ground can be so invigorating, but it is. There is such an amazing feeling of accomplishment and trust within yourself that you never knew you had - and it is an incredible self-confidence booster.
If you are ever upside-down and find yourself being lightheaded, tell your instructor. They will immediately help you come out of the inversion and usually will suggest to either just sit on your hammock or lay down in corpse pose. Your inversion can cause some dizziness, especially with all the blood rushing to your head, but it usually passes. It is extremely normal to feel nauseous during and after your practice, so drink water and even take a moment to eat a peppermint after your practice to soothe any symptoms.
Aerial yoga is definitely an amazing addition to your workout or normal mat yoga practices. Share with us whether or not you'll ever try an aerial yoga class by tagging us on Instagram @itouchwearables and Facebook @itouchwearables. Also, be sure to check out our new articles published daily!