A rush of blood to the head and suddenly you’re smiling. That’s the involuntary effect many people get from their very first Aerial Yoga experience. There’s something about being upside down that completely changes your perspective on everything.
“Every practice needs reinvigorating from time to time,” states Wendi Lynch, founder of Aerial Yoga Hawaii. “We are often stuck in an asana rut; we practice our favorite poses over and over and attend the same classes until eventually we feel the need for something new. Aerial Yoga brings that fresh inspiration to your current practice.”
Fresh and fun, Aerial Yoga is anything but ordinary. A feeling of levity, wonder, and weightlessness permeates this type of practice and adds an entirely new dimension to working out. Yoga is ultimately about finding an inner connection, and what better way to identify the true essence of yourself, then to challenge the very plain on which you currently exist?
What attracts most people to Aerial Yoga is the unorthodox ability of the swing to create a space of change. The movements you experience in this class are often simple, but moreover complex streams of flowing sensation. Most activities in our lives are linear–we walk straight lines to stand in straight lines—while aerial embraces a circular motion that is unlike any other form of exercise.
It uses small stabilizer muscles and complete systems of thought and concentration that challenge the body and mind in exciting and sometimes complicated ways. It’s not uncommon to confuse left and right and even up and down in these classes as you gently swing, sway, wrap, and wriggle into your postures.
“The movement of the hammock causes the body to make micro adjustments constantly; your body refines its movements. Many of the traditional poses performed in the air require extra awareness of the head and limbs to keep the body balanced,” explains Lynch.
Suspending your asana off the ground refreshes the ways you connect to traditional methods of alignment.
“It turns out we can fly, “expresses Lynch. “Embrace adbhuta, the Sanskrit term for wonder. Learning a new form of movement will encourage you to adjust, grow, and identify possibilities both physically and mentally. Wonder keeps us young. Your practice can always use more laughter, curiosity, pleasure and new communities. Not only will you have more faith in your ability to move your body through space, but these positive thoughts will transfer over to a healthier, happier daily life.”
Beyond the acrobatic elements and euphoric addiction that so commonly attracts participants, Aerial Yoga is incredibly beneficial to body and mind. We have often heard ruminations on the benefits of inversions, but how successfully, comfortably, and safely can the average person sustain long inversions? For most, hanging upside down has had some huge, well, hang-ups.
“The goal behind inversion is to reverse the effects of gravity. Gravitational forces are hard on the body and when you reverse gravity, you relieve incredible amounts of pressure and disrupt your normal rhythms, which carries with it benefits you cannot get with any other exercise,” explains Jen Healy, creator of Aerial Yoga Play.
Before Aerial Yoga, prolonged inversions were possible to such a decided few that the long-term benefits were hardly realized at all. Yes, inversions have been proven to relieve stress, reduce chronic back pain and improve posture, balance, flexibility, joint health, brain function, and even the lymphatic system. That’s a big body change for such a small addition to your practice, but what good is it if you can barely stay inverted for more than a few seconds?
Now, finally, inversions are accessible to everyone.
Yoga swings, hammocks, and other aerial apparatus are a gentle solution to the elusive inversion, a passive way to address imbalances and chronic pain. Inverted decompression creates an ideal stretch to improve total spinal health with the same force that compressed it while upright. Moreover, most aerial inversions can be achieved with little or no muscle activation, further allowing the body to adjust itself properly without struggle or strain.
“Aerial Yoga Play swings are one of the most effective tools you can use to suspend the body, open up the spine, and create more space in the neck and lower back which provides a unique advantage in rehabilitating these commonly strained areas, “notes Healy. “They support your body in your yoga practice and increase your ability to enter into challenging poses, like backbends and inversions, with more safety and ease.”
Aerial isn’t just about “hanging out” upside down, it’s about discovering something about your body, your mind, and your spirit. It excites change and inspires movement the way only dance could before. This is Aerial Dance, Aerial Art, Aerial Yoga. Don’t be shy. Take flight and elevate your practice. Seek out a qualified Aerial Yoga or Aerial Yoga Play instructor and unleash the truth of who you are from every angle.
Amanda Furgiuele is the owner of Body in Balance, a hybrid fitness facility and The Pole Room, Maui’s premier Aerial Arts and Pole Fitness studio in Lahaina, Maui. She enjoys all things aerial from Aerial yoga to silks, pole, and more and has been teaching multiple styles of yoga for almost 15 years. She strives to make fitness fun while empowering others to love themselves.