7 benefits of aerial yoga for booming fitness, according to a trainer
As a former gymnast, I spent a lot of time hanging out in the air. So, naturally, I’m quite intrigued by a certain style of yoga: air yoga. You also? No acrobatics are required on your CV to be curious or take flight in practice.
Many varieties of “yoga and” have emerged in recent decades, according to Kevin Biggere-RYT 500, aerial yoga instructor at Om factory and co-creator of the Om Factory Aerial Yoga Teacher Training Program. (Think: Yoga and Pilatesor even yoga and goats!) Aerial yoga is one of those hybrid styles, says Bigger; basically it combines traditional yoga practice with aerial circus performances.
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This combination makes for super awesome shots, yes, but also a solid workout. If you’re like me, you’ll be inspired to try some of these poses as soon as possible. Just be sure to consult a doctor before making lifestyle changes or returning for an extended session.
Trying out this new modality also has some nice perks. Aerial yoga offers tons of potential benefits, from enhancing a traditional yoga practice to introducing fun into your fitness routine and more. Read on for all the details on these top-flight benefits, plus tips for preparing your body and mind to get the most out of your aerial yoga experience.
What is aerial yoga?
Aerial yoga combines traditional yoga with aerial circus performances. Most aerial yoga studios use hammocks or aerial slings, which are typically suspended at hip height above your yoga mat, according to Bigger. You’ll use this hammock for most of what you do in class, says Bigger.
Exactly what you’ll do in class depends on your skill level and who’s teaching, says Bigger. (More tips for beginners in a second.) There are plenty of options, from traditional yoga poses with parts of your body touching the hammock (like a lunge with your back foot in the hammock) to aerial conditioning exercises ( like core work and pull-ups), according to Bigger. He adds that some teachers even include elements of Pilates and to cross in their classes. Make it a routine and you can even do aerial circus moves, like back flips.
7 benefits of aerial yoga
Aerial yoga may look and sound just plain fun, but there’s more to the gravity-defying modality. There are tons of potential benefits to practicing aerial yoga, according to Bigger.
- It is beginner friendly. According to Bigger, some part of your body is almost always holding the hammock. Thus, it can be a support for a person struggling with his balance. This support also makes it accessible to beginners.
- It can also challenge (and improve) your balance. “There are ways to strengthen the hip muscles that support balance and heighten your awareness of where your midline is so you can balance yourself better,” says Bigger.
- It can help you find new poses. Another major benefit of aerial yoga is that it can help people tackle inversion poses without putting weight on the neck, according to Bigger. Handstands, for example, are very difficult for people with upper back strain and neck problems, he explains. But the aerial yoga version offers the advantage of lengthening the spine without putting weight on the head. “In a classic yoga program, inverted poses are considered an integral part of the practice,” adds Bigger. “So [aerial yoga] gives more people the opportunity to get this benefit.
- It can complement a traditional yoga practice. Aerial yoga trains muscles you don’t hit in traditional floor yoga, per Bigger. In particular, he says aerial yoga strengthens your back muscles, like your rhomboids, traps, and lats, and circus moves can engage your hamstrings and glutes.
- It can invite playfulness into your workouts. “Yoga can tend to get really serious,” says Bigger. He notes that the rigor and seriousness of the discipline can be off-putting to new students, but the playfulness of aerial yoga can be more appealing.
- It creates a community. At some point during class, you’ll likely lightly pass someone else as you move around in the hammock, says Bigger. That’s not a bad thing! You almost have to recognize the other people around you during class, he explains. Aerial yoga, he notes, seems to amplify the community building you might experience in a regular yoga studio.
- It can be stimulating. “As adults, we often don’t do the things that scare us anymore,” says Bigger. “Most people in their first classes have a pose or two that require them to manage their fear response.” (Although the instructors try to make you feel safe during class!) For people who live more timidly, he explains, aerial yoga can be empowering in that it provides a safe environment to cope. things that make you uncomfortable.
What to expect during aerial yoga class
If you are a beginner like me, no worries. Bigger has plenty of tips to help you prepare for your first flight like an air practice pro.
What to wear for aerial yoga
You can walk into your first aerial yoga class looking like a regular. Here’s what Bigger recommends wearing to feel comfortable and perform well.
- Dress in more fitted sportswear. You’ll probably be more comfortable, advises Bigger. That way, you don’t have to worry about your wardrobe malfunctioning (and potentially feeling embarrassed) when you turn around.
- Cover up with longer pants/sleeves. It’s also a good idea to wear at least capri pants (like these best selling leggings). Shorter shorts can be uncomfortable, says Bigger, because the hammock wraps around the back of your knees and thighs. (Fabric burn? No thanks!) “Likewise, there are a few times when the hammock gets close to the armpit,” he says. Sleeve shirts are better than tank tops.
- Wear a sports bra. It’s not a HIIT class, but don’t forget a good sports bra. Bigger notes that you will need good support while you move with the hammock.
- Leave the jewelry at home. As for the accessories, it is better to leave them aside (for the most part). “The jewelry will damage the hammock,” says Bigger, so don’t be surprised if your instructor asks you to remove it. Your fitness tracker may be comfortable to wear, but some people find them uncomfortable, he adds.
What to do before an aerial yoga class
When it comes to physical preparation, Bigger recommends coming to class well-hydrated to avoid getting dizzy and dizzy. And, don’t arrive with a super full or empty stomach. For example, “if you’re coming for an evening class, make sure you don’t skip lunch,” he adds.
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On a mental level, acknowledge that you’re doing something new, advises Bigger. Even if you’re a yoga teacher on the mat, he adds, the aerial hammock will change the nature of the poses and might make you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing.
Expect to feel some discomfort during class (and that’s okay). For example, the first time you have the hammock wrapped tightly around your body isn’t comfortable, says Bigger. Your teacher should know how to adjust or add padding to the pose to make you feel comfortable, but you should ask for a modification, he adds. Do not be shy !
Finally, you don’t want to jump into your first aerial yoga class right away, notes Bigger. He suggests arriving about 10 minutes early so you can get comfortable in the studio and give your instructor time to adjust the height of your hammock.
What Happens in an Aerial Yoga Class
An aerial yoga class at Om Factory looks like this: students are invited into the room when it’s ready. They will each place a mat under their hammock, and the instructor will adjust its height accordingly.
The course often begins in a manner similar to a typical yoga class: Instructors can choose to start with centering and grounding and breathing poses, or perhaps an opening meditation. Then the 75-minute class—again, a combination of stretching, strengthening, yoga poses, conditioning, aerial circus, and dance—begins. The exact class structure depends on a variety of factors, including teacher preference. For example, Bigger could devote 45 minutes to yoga and devote the last half hour to aerial circus. Sometimes it even incorporates an in-class moment where people can pull out their phones and take a picture of something they’ve learned.
“Class usually ends with a floating Savasana for about five minutes,” says Bigger, adding that it’s basically like a nap in the hammock. (Count on me!)
How does aerial yoga compare to mat yoga
You might be wondering how your favorite yoga mat class compares to an aerial session. The structure may actually look quite familiar, according to Bigger, but it’s also going to have a few differences.
For example, something akin to a sun salutation, he says, is more of an intermediate level of aerial yoga. So while many Vinyasa yoga classes begin with seated meditation, seated stretches, lying dog, walking up your mat, Sun Salutation A, you can probably expect a different kind of warming up in an air course.
Where to find aerial yoga classes
Let me guess: you can’t wait to try aerial yoga. (Same, girl.) To help you out, here’s a list of some of the studios around the country that offer aerial yoga classes.
Chicago/Denver/Los Angeles/Phoenix: AIR
Dallas: blue feather
Los Angeles: Fly Fit Lenise
New York: Om factory
New York: Christopher Harrison’s Anti-Gravity Lab
Orlando: Elevated Yoga Center
Seattle: Seattle flight room
Erin Warwood is a San Francisco-based writer, runner, and sparkling water enthusiast. She holds a BBA from the University of Notre Dame and a Masters in Journalism from Northwestern University. In her free time, you can find her watching Survivor, trying new Peloton workouts, and reading Emily Giffin novels. His ultimate goal: to become a morning person.