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Fitness trend: The benefits of aerial yoga

Ever wanted to move around suspended in the air like Pink during one of her concerts? Believe it or not, that dream may be just around the corner at your local yoga studio!

Aerial yoga

Would you like to swing on a star? Or maybe (a bit more realistically) on yards of silk suspended in mid-air?

This approach to fitness is what more and more women are taking up these days, as aerial yoga is literally lifting them off the floor of gyms and studios across the country.

Recent interest has been touched off by professional acts like the Cirque du Soleil, but aerial dance has been around for hundreds of years; an aerialist is someone who performs moves from a joist that hoists them into the air. Aerial yoga is the latest spin on this older type of workout.

What does aerial yoga involve?

While specific poses may vary from instructor to instructor, aerial yoga combines the basics of yoga with calisthenics, dance, Pilates and acrobatics. Developed by dancer/choreographer Christopher Harrison, this approach allows you to enjoy the more spiritual benefits of yoga along with the physical exercise, while having fun.

You’ll be suspended from the ceiling from silk fabrics tied together to create a “hammock.” The hammocks are hung at various heights, allowing you to try different types of yoga postures. The hammocks allow a greater range of motion and a deeper stretch than doing yoga on the floor.

“Aerial yoga helps you to move more freely, with less effort, by counteracting gravity,” says Heather Schafer of Kaya Wellness and Yoga. “Suspension in the air releases tension on the bones and muscles, increasing flexibility and deepening your practice. Suspended yoga strengthens core muscles, increases spinal and shoulder flexibility, and prevents back strain.”

Other health benefits

  • Positive alignment
  • Sharpened focus
  • Joint decompression
  • Increased endorphin levels
  • Cardiovascular fitness
  • Increased muscular strength
  • Weight loss
  • Increased blood flow
Aerial yoga hammock

Safety first

You’ll be trained in safety practices and get accustomed to hanging in the air. First on the agenda will be learning to become comfortable with a silk hammock that can actually support more than 1,000 pounds. Once you overcome your initial fear, you’ll practice simple moves such as sitting and holding onto the silks, followed by more advanced moves such as hanging upside down.

“Safety is of the utmost importance when it comes to aerial yoga, so it’s crucial to seek out a qualified instructor who will take the time to carefully review how to properly get in and out of the silks, as well as how to make adjustments within the fabrics to ensure proper alignment and integrity within each pose,” says Jessica Matthews, MS, E-RYT.

“It’s also important to ensure that the instructor is a registered yoga teacher who will be able to guide you through various physical postures while also offering modifications, progressions and/or alternate poses that best suit your ability level,” she says.

Final word: Have fun!

Play is one of the major principles of aerial yoga.

“Fun is an essential part of the classes,” says Jessica Lubin of Good Karma Studios, who uses an upbeat playlist and a gentle hand to help guide students into poses they never expected to find themselves in, including handstands and headstands.

More on yoga

The health benefits of practicing hot yoga
Moksha: A new kind of hot yoga
Yoga: Avoid beginner’s mistakes

Photo credits: Leslie Uhriss Spehar

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