In 2014 I did my first Aerial Yoga class. At that time I only knew one method, that of Christopher Garrison’s Anti-Gravity Yoga. It was 1.15 Hours long, Pranayama to start, Savasanah to close–standard stuff. What wasn’t so typical was floating in midair held only by a 7.5 meter semi stretchy fabric as you explored different positions to harness yourself. It was painful, frightening, exhausting, and I loved every second of it. It was an exhilarating experience. I knew I needed to learn this. Right after class, the game was on. I scoured the internet for the fastest certification I could find. Nevermind the fact that I only had 1 month experience in the aerial arts, all I knew was that I had the gumption of to come at this like a raging bull.
So What happened to that raging bull? They ran into a china shop. As soon as I finished my 200h Vinyasa training, I took the nearest Aerial yoga certification I could find. Maybe I should have done more research, maybe I should have taken cirque classes before committing to a program. The reason I say this is because I chose a shoddy course that gave me a very limiting scope of practice. To this day, I am still making up for it by advancing on my own. Through Instagram videos, books and cirque classes I was able to develop myself as a practitioner, moreover as a teacher. I applied what I learn in my circus training to my aerial classes. In doing so, I came out stronger, more flexible and agile. Something i didn’t think was possible especially when one starts in her mid 30’s. In this blog piece I will share the many benefits I gained from this wonderful medium of exercise.
Benefits I Personally Gained from an Aerial yoga practice
1. The hips don’t lie
Nope they don’t. The hips, in my experience is probably the most stubborn part of your body. After months of building mobility, the moment you skip a day in your workout––you are back 2 spaces. you feel the rigid all over again. The thing is, hips don’t only demand to be trained, they need a full spectrum of exercises ( Flexibility, strength, and mobility). Another thing, Working your hips means working the parts around it as well like your core. The only form of movement that works your body from all these directions is the Aerial arts. To transition to the next position you usually need to fan your hips. To hold yourself steady on a hammock assisted handstand, you need to push you foot down while squaring your hips. To back flip you need to throw your hips back and land in a squat. The more I did any form of flying I felt my hips move like they weren’t connected to my torso. within 6 months I could fan my legs while doing a pull-up.
2. I can make cider with my hands
My forearms felt like they were about to fall off the first few days of class. I hung on for dear life for 1.5 hours 3 times a week. Eventually the fear abated. Then a curious thing happened. My handshake became more powerful (people noticed). Another was an improved ability to climb shelves. My hand strength had such a positive effect on my activities of daily living that I surprised myself every day. Grip strength is not developed in a traditional yoga practice. While wrist strength is honed with developing a handstand practice, your grip is left by the wayside. That is where Aerial yoga shines. From day one, you will work on your your ability to grasp whether you like it or not. later you reap the benefits.
3. Body Awareness improves your sense of body mechanics
I like trying out new things especially when it’s something adventurous and physical. 4 years ago when I found out that the Aerial arts were trending in my country, I jumped at the opportunity to try it out. Fast forward to today–no regrets there. As an added bonus, simply knowing and feeling each muscle that must be activated to get through a sequence has honed my skills as a teacher and practitioner. The precision you need in Aerial yoga carries out to other activities. Whether I’m on silks, lyra or the playground with my family, I can move with proper body mechanics and alignment to ensure the protection of my muscles thereby preventing injuries.
4. I feel pretty oh so pretty
The difference between aerial silks and the yoga hammock is that the latter can execute elegant movements from the first day. I remember my teacher took a picture of me on my first pigeon pose. Upon seeing my body in this very graceful posture I was amazed at my accomplishment. I’m all about body positivity in my classes and I am very vocal about how everyone can perform well in Aerial Yoga. In my classes I always come up with a sequence that pleasantly surprises my students and their new-found ability. After which we polish the movement and take a video snippet or photo so that my clients can see how pretty they look in a pose. Basically, I turn into a stage-mom when I see my a student realise that she is in her element. the hammock is instant elegance.
5. Better Posture, Mobility and Flexibility
Studies show that with an inversion practice, you decompress your spine and improve circulation. This goes for your handstands on a floor practice. In Aerial yoga, you are suspended so you’re hands relax and there’s no force fighting the gravitational pull like in a floor practice ( a.k.a. your hands). This means your spine can let go while you are upside-down. What does this do? This creates space between each vertebrae. Releasing tension and relieving stiffness in your spine. As for flexibility, you maintain your balance by using your body to keep the fabric in tension. In doing so, you get a deeper stretch, you release all the good stuff like serotonin, endorphins, all those yummy neurotransmitters that leave you feeling like you’re walking on air. Each time I teach or train, I walk out of the studio and step into a cloud all the way home.
6. Confidence and Body Positivity
I grew up as the big kid in class. I was ridiculed, humiliated, picked last
or uninvited completely. It was rough but I surpassed it with the belief that it is my job to promote body positivity as a yoga teacher. From what I see these days especially in my country, The Philippines–is that big girls still get a lot of flack from their family and peers about their weight. The expectations are so high.. you had to be skinny and beautiful as well. Through The Aerial arts I present the fact that anyone can be beautiful and strong when they fly. This is why there are more pictures of my students than of me on my social media. When men or women of a certain build come to my class, they get intimidated by the hammock. They say the fabric can’t hold them, or that the ceiling will give out, etc. In that class I make it my mission to prove them wrong. In class, you won’t hear serene music or see swanlike movements. You will hear screaming and yells of encouragement as I challenge each person to climb, drop and hang. Yet the magic happens after savasanah. I’ve seen tears of joy, a lit up look on their face and a smile for days. This form of yoga takes away the the weight that held them back for so long because during class it just didn’t matter.
This apparatus has helped me in so many ways: From better health, mobility including improving my mental state. I have unlocked skills I never dreamt of ever doing in my lifetime. I recommend it to anyone who wants something different from their practice. I use it as a form restorative practice for people with injuries, I also use it to combine with a floor practice. that way my students have a better understanding of their alignment. Overall, This form of yoga, new as it may be has earned its place with the rest of the other forms of yoga. I encourage anyone to try it out at least once.
Til Next Time Misfit Yogis!