When I did Aerial Yoga the first time, I was out to try the newest thing, and my expectations were certainly not that this would be a practice-changing moment. An hour later I lay weeping profoundly in my hammock (not just a lonely tear rolling down my cheek, nope, full on sobbing in a studio where I had never set foot before :)) For some people Aerial Yoga has this effect. I believe the intense release in the spine does something very profound to us, on a neurological level. Maybe this is especially true for people with an already highly sensitized spine (I have 20 years of steady yoga practice). A lot of you have questions about Aerial Yoga, and I have tried to sum up a bit here:
AERIAL YOGA HISTORY
(Pronounced : Air-EE-uhl, which just means up in the air, like aerial photography, aerial warfare etc. It has nothing to do with a certain Disney princess… sorry) Aerial Yoga is a new yoga style, which is practiced in a customized hammock hanging ca. 1 m above the ground. The hammock is made of a non-elastic fabric, similar in strength and texture to the fabric used by aerial acrobats. In Aerial Silks, as the circus-discipline is called, the fabric is half as wide, and you use two very long fabrics to create beautiful shapes and exhilarating drops. The yoga hammock, however, is one wide piece of fabric, about 6 m. long and 3 m. wide, making it possible for a grown-up to lie stretched out in it.
The history of Aerial Yoga is a little unclear. Several teachers claim to be the originator of Aerial Yoga, and it seems plausible that people separately, but simultaneously started tyeing a knot on their two aerial fabrics and mixing Aerial silks with yoga during the 2000s. From here the idea of making an actual yoga hammock evolved, and now the hammock is actually also used in circus as just another choice of aerial apparatus. So, in the same type of hammock people may practice Aerial Dance, Aerial Yoga or Cirque, and the disciplines overlap, obviously.
Pioneers include: Carmen Curtis of Aireal Yoga, Christopher Harrison of Anti-Gravity Yoga, Rebekah Leach, Michelle Dortignac of Unnata Yoga. They each have their different take on yoga in the hammock, seamlessly blending dance, acrobatics, fitness and yoga. Our take on Aerial Yoga here in Blue Sky Yoga is that the hammock first and foremost is a new yoga prop that we use to practice yoga. We keep all the mind-body awareness that we have in “real” yoga, but add an element of play, acrobatics, elegance and fun.
BENEFITS OF AERIAL YOGA
- It is an ideal vehicle for inversions, also for students who are less inclined or able to do inversions. Since all the body weight is hanging from the hips, the spine gets a unique release, and the nervous system is affected, sometimes instilling a deep spontaneous meditative state, or a feeling of being re-set, neurologically. Inversions bring lots of blood to your head again and again – This improves blood pressure and cholesterol, reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, and brings a rosy glow to your skin.
- Improves your balance and sense of space (proprioception), keeping your nervous system flexible and young (and reducing sea-sickness).
- Makes you play, smile, laugh and release “happy hormones”. It surrounds and supports you like a cocoon, giving an incredibly calming relaxation. The happy hormones, oxytocin, are released by touch, and that can be touch from a yoga prop, too.
- Improves your concentration – Aerial yoga forces you to be completely present and aware in your body. You will not be thinking about your to-do list when you are hanging 1 m. above the ground.
- Strengthens your Deep Core muscles – Aerial yoga gets you out of your yoga comfort zone and forces you to engage your deep core muscles in order to balance and stabilize the hammock.
- Brings back pain relief – Hanging upside down from the hip depressurizes the spine and evens out any imbalances over time.
- ADDED BONUS: Effectively smooths out cellulite and detoxifies the tissue by massaging the tissue, fascia and lymphatic systems.