What is Aerial Yoga and why do it?

For some people, the idea of aerial or suspension yoga sounds like an exciting adventure. Others are curious about the benefits, yet wonder if using a swing will somehow destroy the authenticity of yoga as a serious practice. The question is, why take a yoga practice off the mat and into the air?

Sometimes, the only way to break from overly worn grooves of negative behavior is to approach life from a different angle.  Viewing problems from a new perspective can reveal unique and different paths for shedding the habits or destructive behaviors that interfere with personal growth and/or happiness.  Yoga practice often begins with exercises on the mat designed to enhance physical stamina, stretching, stress relief and internal wellness. The alignment of poses combined with breathing techniques helps with circulation while stimulating glands and encouraging internal organs to function properly. On a deeper level, the discoveries students make on the mat can serve as a metaphor for life, a reminder that fears, frustrations, and physical or emotional pain is best addressed with patience, breath, and a constant striving for balance.

One of the greatest draws of yoga today is the philosophy underlying the physical practice.  The mindset encourages practitioners to view life from a different angle, one where patience, understanding, and seeing life’s challenges as an opportunity to grow can break the cycle of needlessly stressing or grieving over factors we can’t control. Applying the philosophies and lessons of yoga beyond the mat helps a practitioner find peace, but venturing forth doesn’t always come from stepping off the mat. Some yogi’s learn to address fears and celebrate discovery by hovering above the mat.  

Aerial yoga combines supported traditional mat practice with innovative variations done while floating in the air. The practice is done in on ropes or in yoga silks, slings or hammocks which may consist of individual straps or a single fabric sling that hangs from a ceiling support. As aerial yoga evolved, a dynamically designed, adjustable, padded hammock with two side straps offering three handles attached at various levels was designed to help students safely and comfortably maneuver into and out of poses while making it possible to control the depth of each individual pose. This comprehensive aerial yoga set-up allows for a larger variety of exercises and alternative stretches while also encouraging creative exploration. Students take their practice to a new level . . . literally.

Aerial yoga is gaining in popularity because poses can be achieved with little or no impact on joints, reinforcing the theory that a balance of effort and relaxation will anchor the effects of the practice into the body. This practice is artistic and innovative but most importantly, the emphasis on inversions stimulates brain functioning, helping reverse the effects of aging and revitalizing energy. With the support of a yoga sling, students gain all the benefits that come from challenging the normal circulatory systems, while also developing muscle awareness and a familiarity with the state of being upside down, the first step towards mastering freestanding inversions. The natural law of gravity allows students to fall deeper into back bends or hamstring stretches and many poses are designed to enhance balance, challenge the core, and build strength. Restorative poses are incorporated into each class to open the energy pathways and detox the system with cleansing physical movement.  Inversions, such as headstands, can be achieved without taxing the delicate upper spinal column, and handstands can be accomplished with little or no arm strength. In many cases, inversions require no contact with the earth at all because the body is wrapped in the sling in such a way that the yogi can effortlessly float in total relaxation.  

Best of all, aerial yoga can be practiced by new or experienced students, giving any individual willing to step out of their groove a chance to see the world from a new angle. Students are delighted to discover they can instantly do advanced poses, so they leave class with a renewed sense of self awareness and personal accomplishment. Aerial yoga is also striking to watch, which satisfies the yearning to connect and be a part of nature’s beauty. Issues such as an attachment to ego or over striving can be addressed thematically in the class as well, helping a teacher introduce the bigger lessons of yoga that might be less obvious or hard to hint at in a traditional mat class.  

Yoga done in a sling turns the world upside down, a good reminder that trying something new can help you see things from a different perspective. The chance to float above it all, catching a glimpse of the world from an entirely new angle, is not just uplifting for body, but for the spirit as well. Whether you want to reconnect to your inner child, learn to trust your internal balance rather than depend on familiar external elements to keep you grounded or you just want to face your fears of the unknown as a reminder that new experiences are everywhere around us if we just take a leap now and again, the aerial yoga class is rich in ideology while also being darn good for the spine, the lymph system and the physiology of the body.