Aerial Yoga 101Need a fresh perspective? Try flipping your yoga practice upside down.
Intrigued by aerial yoga, but intimidated to give it a try? Turns out you don’t have to be an expert yogi or an acrobat to reap the benefits of the practice.
PRO TIPS interviewed Monica Kessler, E-RYT 200, aerial yoga instructor at Movement Studio Pittsburgh, for her advice on trying the trending exercise.
Ready to take flight? Here’s what you need to know.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Be prepared for the same yogic philosophy, rhythmic Ujjayi breathing, postural alignment and benefits found in a mat-based class.
Equal parts challenging and restorative, aerial yoga “allows you to stretch farther with less strain on the body. It creates better body awareness, while increasing overall agility,” says Kessler.
That’s because of the yoga silk, which is secured to a weight-bearing mechanism, typically installed in the ceiling.
“The silk can take your practice to a new dimension and new level,” says Kessler.
It also helps to eliminate the compressive nature of a typical floor practice, and can help to decrease the effects of gravity, improve alignment and increase your range of motion while practicing.
The material is not as stretchy as it may appear at first glance. “Instead, it works like a supportive hammock, aiding in stretching, strengthening, supporting and inverting the body,” she explains.
It may take a little time to get the hang of gripping the silk, but try your best to relax. “Don’t let your mind get the best of you. When fear sets in, students really can waste a lot of energy gripping the silks.”
Using your own body weight and the support of the hammock, this practice engages your hands, arms, legs and hips. You may experience some next-day soreness in your hip flexors and arms.
Beyond the potential physical rewards, Kessler loves to see her students conquer their fears — and release some stress.
WHAT TO BRING:
- Hand Towel
- Yoga Mat (most studios offer rentals)
WHAT TO WEAR
Form-fitting yoga clothing. Be sure to wear a t-shirt that covers your armpits to help avoid chaffing.
A TYPICAL 60-TO 75-MINUTE CLASS INCLUDES:
- Upper body stretches and strengthening poses: You’ll utilize your hands and upper body quite a bit to grip the silk. A thorough upper-body warmup sets you up for a safe and effective practice.
- Lower body stretches and strengthening poses: Same goes for the lower body. Your instructor will gradually guide you through poses that warm the joints in preparation for deeper stretching poses.
- Core work
- Savasana: Kessler compares Corpse Pose, or final relaxation, to floating in a cocoon. “It’s like you’re being cradled. It feels so comforting.”
PRO TIP: As a beginner, take it slow. If you feel like you need a break, Kessler recommends placing your feet on the floor or taking Child’s Pose.
READY TO GIVE IT A TRY?
Plan to arrive at least 15 minutes early to set up. Introduce yourself to the instructor and let him or her know of any injuries you may have.
As with any exercise routine, listen to your body. “Trying anything new can be a challenge,” says Kessler. “You’re tapping into different muscles than in your regular yoga class.”
Last but not least, approach the class with a positive attitude and an open mind! Take your time and do what you can. Remember: it’s a practice — and it’s meant to be fun. “Let your inner child come out to play,” says Kessler.