Five Big Surprises About Aerial Yoga
When Paulette Florio invited me to try aerial yoga at The Studio in St. Michaels, I figured it was divine intervention. Ever since I injured my lower back two years ago, I’ve shied away from the yoga mat, even though intellectually, I knew it might help.
Those of us who have injuries tend to protect ourselves, to a fault. We know regular yoga or swimming might be good for us, it’s just hard to get started.
Paulette and her team discovered aerial yoga at Rehoboth Beach, were immediately hooked, and knew that they had to bring it to the Eastern Shore wellness community. Paulette, Cindy Browne and Carole Derry took the teacher training, were certified, and spent a year practicing.
The hammocks are securely bolted up through big beams above the ceiling and extend up toward the roof. Each hammock can hold 1000 pounds. Bright turquoise, green, purple and blue, the silky fabric hammocks hanging from the ceiling are gorgeous and look like fun. Once I saw class members climbing in and twirling around, I was ready to try it.
Surprise #1 – It’s really easy.
Usually, 15 minutes into a regular yoga class, I’m inwardly groaning, as I feel gravity work its way with me, and I notice that my arm and wrist strength isn’t what it used to be. 15 minutes into aerial yoga, I felt like I was flying, and I started relaxing deeply with the support of the silky hammock, holding me upside down in mid-air. I noticed how different it felt to hold yoga poses without pressure on my hands, wrist and shoulders.
Later, lying on our sides in the hammocks, we did some abdominal crunches. Paulette said that we’d get the full benefit of those crunches, even though we weren’t straining as we would be if we were lying on our backs. It was hard to believe, since it felt completely effortless. But the next morning, I realized that those ab crunches did, indeed, work. (oof!)
Surprise #2 – Almost anyone can do it, regardless of age and physical condition.
The Studio draws a wide demographic, but there wasn’t a 25 year old in sight at the class I took on Sunday morning. There were however, a group of adults who had a variety of physical conditions – one woman recently had knee surgery, one gentleman had a bad shoulder and others had back problems like me.
Aerial yoga allows practitioners to invert without strain to the neck or joints, and sink into yoga poses with support. You’re not holding yourself up in the pose, but you gain the same benefits as if you were.
I was surprised at how easy and comfortable it was to hang upside down. The silk hammock supported my body as I stretched, and inversion in the hammock decompressed my spine. It can actually stretch one’s spine up to an inch and a half.
The inverted stretching offered more immediate and positive benefits than any other exercise or stretching I’ve found.
My lower back actually felt good during the class.
Surprise #3 – There are spiritual benefits to aerial yoga.
In Sanskrit, aerial yoga is known as “VaihAyasa”or “sky-dweller”. It allows you to sink into yoga practice quickly, deepening stretches and finding proper alignment naturally, led by gravity. As a sky-dweller, you’re airborne, and in a different dimension.
Comforted by the total physical support, floating, your mind clears quickly, and moving into the heart-center is easy.
Your mind will relax and you’ll become aware of the present moment earlier in aerial yoga. The restorative relaxation response is quick, deep and long-lasting.
Surprise #4 – It’s empowering.
I felt stronger, bolder, balanced and very aware of how my body moved through space for a full day after trying aerial yoga.
While I was floating in mid-air during the class in the Studio, I felt exhilarated and delighted the entire time.
Afterwards, I was confident that I could do anything.
Surprise #5 – It feels incredibly private.
You know how, sometimes in a yoga class, you realize that your shirt has drawn up over your middle section and an unsightly roll of fat is hanging out over your yoga pants? In an intro aerial yoga environment, for the most part, nobody sees much inside the private cocoon of your silk hammock. And because your own head is inside the cocoon of your hammock, you don’t see anyone else’s body parts hanging out much either. Perfect!
Once you reach a certain level, of course, you’ll move on to more of an advanced practice that extends beyond the privacy of the hammock, and into some of the advanced poses you see here. But to get started with the intro aerial yoga classes, you’ll appreciate the private, comforting, supported cocoon.
Aerial yoga helps you attain proper alignment, decompresses your neck and spine, helps you achieve more advanced yoga postures while being supported at the same time, and lets you have fun while you “strengthen and lengthen”.
Three days later, my lower back feels terrific. I’m definitely going back.
The Studio offers a broad range of yoga, dance, t’ai chi and back care clinics. Intro aerial yoga classes ($15) are held every day except Friday. Pre-registration is required – call 410-924-2443.
See The Studio website here.
933 S. Talbot St. St. Michaels, MD
<reprinted from the Talbot Spy>