As traditional yoga has branched out over the years into many contemporary forms, we find people are asking more and more, what is aerial yoga?
Modern yoga is generally more fitness focused and the popularity has grown significantly in the west along with this progression.
The benefits of yoga are well known to those that practice regularly.
Even those that don’t are generally aware that it good for us in many ways.
Aerial yoga is part of this movement of fitness based yoga styles bringing diversity and additional benefits to your practice.
A little history..
The use of the silk hammock as an aerial prop was first discovered by Christopher Harrison in the early 90’s.
First as an aid for his dance choreography that incorporated acrobatics, artistic sports and contemporary dance.
Over the years he continued to experiment with movement and stretch.
He soon realized the benefits of stretching in a suspended fashion as a natural addition to his performance warm-ups.
Aerial yoga became an officially recognized practice at the turn of the Millennium using the hammocks.
At a similar time, Tone Cardenas a Physical Therapist put together a fabric hammock hung from a metal frame, with rope handles while experimenting with inversion therapy to relieve back pain.
These contraptions with a spring suspension system first went onto the market in 2001 for people to use in the home, and therapists to use in rehabilitation settings.
The Gravotonics Yoga Swing
The Aerial Yoga Swings that we all know and love today however were created in 2003 on the island of Bali by the founder of Gravotonics.
Kerrie Neal was living in Bali at the time when she met a small crew of sewers who were hand making hammocks from parachute material for local shops/resorts, tourists and yoga studios.
After becoming passionate about the hammocks, Kerrie who was involved in the yoga community on the island, designed this versatile apparatus.
Featuring two handles sewn with the parachute nylon and added the 3 padded grips for maneuverability, safety and comfort.
You need not worry about the hammock tearing as most hammocks/swings can support 200kgs quite safely.
Unfortunately, these days there are many copycat manufactures with quality sadly lacking, so its best to check reviews first.
Kerrie began hosting aerial yoga workshops in Bali with both the aerial hammock as well as the yoga swings.
They have since become popular props for yogis all around the world.
You will find both aerial hammocks and yoga swings used in different studios and gyms depending on the style and teacher.
Styles of Aerial Yoga
There are quite a few options now when it comes to the types of aerial yoga classes.
There’s the “fun” dynamic styles, with high flying tricks which could be considered more yang.
Then there are those that are slower, more meditative and restorative, which you would say is yin.
Just as with traditional yoga practices, aerial yoga incorporates breath work and generally will finish with savasana.
Depending on the studio, they may include spirituality teachings and/or chanting as well.
So What Exactly Is Aerial Yoga?
I’m sure if you are reading this you have some idea of what aerial yoga or anti-gravity yoga as it is also known, is all about.
However, its a yoga practice that combines Traditional Yoga and Pilates exercises with the use of aerial slings.
Most poses are simply done on the floor like regular yoga, with the sling used for support purposes only.
Suits All Levels & Styles
For beginners, it offers a level of support in each pose to help students learn and practice proper alignment as strength improves.
Difficult floor postures can be performed more easily and with less strain on the body, while suspended.
Those with solid yoga experience will find the extra assistance the perfect addition during more challenging postures.
An example of this is helping to improve alignment and flexibility while performing Warrior II pose..
Standing in a sling suspended above the floor, an advanced yogi will need to recruit a new level of core muscle stabilization and balance to control any wobbling.
The sling is generally hung from the ceiling, about three feet off the ground.
Practitioners are able to feel supported in back bends and in partial inversions such as downward facing dog.
However there are also many adaptations of traditional asana that allow you to practice suspended in the air.
As well as aerial only poses like full inversions and flying spider pose.
So Is It Better Than Floor Yoga?
Aerial yoga classes and studios are opening all over the world, bringing the benefits of the yoga practice to a new setting.
Through the use of the yoga swing, practitioners are able to go deeper into poses, challenging their flexibility in a safe manner.
Along with building core strength and balance during static holds and transitions, it also strengthens the arms and legs.
Another benefit that is relatively unknown is that it provides the action of pulling, a movement that is lacking in normal floor yoga.
Not to mention, it helps to decompress the spine with inversions, relieving back pain and over time improves posture.
Aerial yoga is also beneficial in improving circulation, boosting digestion and lifting one’s mood.
Isn’t it an amazing feeling to fly in the air?
Wouldn’t it be awesome to be a “trapeze artist” while actually doing your workout or yoga practice?
Quite simply, aerial yoga takes traditional yoga practice to a whole new level!
If you have not tried it yet, what are you waiting for?!