Aerial yoga has been in the news a lot lately. Are you wondering what the hype is all about? Or what aerial yoga even is?
Mya recently opened Laramie’s first aerial yoga-equipped studio, Infinite Balance, and I was lucky enough to take an aerial yoga teacher training with her last month. As a “floor” yogi, I had no idea what to expect at my first aerial yoga class. Should I bring a mat? Can I bring water? Will we be upside-down the whole time?
Keep reading for answers to these questions and more, and I hope that you will enjoy aerial yoga as much as I do!
Aerial yoga is built on the same basics as your typical yoga class (breath + movement), but with the added bonus of an aerial silk, or a hammock.
The hammock is one long piece of super strong and somewhat stretchy fabric that hangs from a rig or the ceiling via a locking carabiner clipped through both knotted ends of the fabric. At Infinite Balance, Mya hired an engineer to construct the wooden rig you see, which can hold tens of thousands of pounds.
Because of the added expense of acquiring and caring for the aerial rig and silks (and additional training the instructor must have), aerial yoga classes are more expensive than your standard floor class, typically ranging from $20 to $30 per class, depending on where you live. In addition, class size is limited by the number of available hammocks, so be sure to either sign up for your aerial class ahead of time online, or to show up early (10-20 minutes before class start time).
You can prepare for your first aerial yoga class similar to how you would for any other yoga class: don’t eat shortly before class, bring a yoga mat if you have one and a water bottle, wear tight-fitting athletic clothing. One additional concern for aerial yoga is to not wear any jewelry, but especially anything sharp or bulky that could snag on the silk fabric.
When you first arrive at the aerial yoga studio, look around the room for a silk hammock that appears as if it might fall at your hip crease, or the line that forms across your hips as you bend over. If one looks right, approach it and find the “U” shape of the hammock, as demonstrated above, then walk under where the hammock is hanging and see if the hammock fits into your hip crease.
The instructor will have you set up your yoga mat underneath the silk you have chosen. If none work (i.e. if you are extraordinarily tall or short) the teacher can make adjustments using a ladder, so just ask. He or she may also ask you to pick up any props that you might use during any yoga class, such as blocks or bolsters. You can stay seated on your mat, or do any pose that feels good, until class starts.
If you have never been to an aerial yoga class, I highly recommend attending a beginners’ class, as it can be challenging to get the hang (no pun intended) of different wraps and body positioning the first time. Expertise in floor yoga can help in aerial, but it does not guarantee immediate success, so move slowly and listen to your body.
Here are some of the basic poses, wraps, and hangs you will see in an introductory aerial class.
1. Wrist wrap
The wrist wrap is great for stretching the chest and shoulders. You get into a wrist wrap by wrapping your hands from the outside (like you’re giving your hammock a hug) in. Once the karate-chop side of your hands are covered, slide them toward one another for the wrist wrap.
2. Hip hang
You can get into hip hang by approaching the hammock the same way you did to measure if it fit you. Standing behind the hammock, snuggle it into your hip crease, and bend over. From here you can come into many different, fun poses!
3. Rib Hang
For rib hang, come to standing in front of your hammock, facing away so the hammock is along your back. Reach behind you, spreading the fabric wide with your hands under the shoulder blades.
Then, begin to walk backwards, away from the plum line (where the carabiner holding the silk is located), until the silk becomes taut.
Relax your shoulders and keep the hips low as you walk forward, back under the plum line.
And there you have it! Feel free to walk backwards and readjust the silk if it is uncomfortable. Rib hang is a great starting place for many poses that require backbending while maintaining a lifted chest.
4. Back straddle
This hang is commonly used to get into inversions (poses where you’re upside-down). Supported inversions are, in my opinion, one of the biggest benefits of aerial yoga since, without the silk hammock, inversions are inaccessible for most people.
To get into back straddle, use the same “jazz hands” technique you used for rib hang to spread the silk wide. This time, align the silk with the top of the pelvis, or where the waistband of your pants typically sits. Lean back into your silk to feel it support you.
From here, many inversions or backbending postures are accessible because the hammock is holding you near your center of gravity.
When you come into an inversion from back straddle, you will hear your teacher tell you to keep your legs wide, like pictured above. Imagine with me, for a moment, that my legs were together in the above photo. What would happen? SPOILER ALERT: I would somersault out of the hammock and embarrassingly land on my butt/face/elbows. Moral of the story is LISTEN to your teacher, even if that means that you have to stop moving for a moment to pay attention.
5. Savasana, or final resting pose
If you’ve ever been to a regular yoga class before, you know this pose. It’s traditionally done at the end of every class for several minutes. Savasana (shah-vah-sah-nah) is Sanskrit for corpse pose, essentially meaning you just lie still on your back with your eyes closed for the duration of the pose.
In aerial yoga, this pose looks a little different.
Yes- that is me, enveloped in a silk hammock. Essentially, you spread your silk wide, then crawl into it, and lie down. The first time you try aerial savasana may be slightly uncomfortable because of the pressure of the hammock; feel free to do anything that feels good with your arms. I alternate between crossing them over my chest in a X-shape and letting them fall to my sides. The teacher will walk around the room to stop everyone’s swaying so that you can be truly still.
If the aerial version of savasana just isn’t doing it for you, feel free to always come out of the hammock and sit/lie down/mutter to yourself on your mat instead.
Great! Now you know the basic building blocks of aerial yoga, and what to expect for your first few classes. There are so many directions your instructor can take your class, so anticipate surprises!
If you live in Laramie and would like to try a class locally, please visit Infinite Balance’s website to check the schedule. As of the writing of this blog post, the aerial classes on the schedule are as follows:
- Mondays, 12-1PM: Aerial 1 with Mya
- Mondays, 5:30-6:30PM: Aerial for Flexibility with Mya
- Tuesdays, 5:30-6:30PM: Aerial for Strength with Mya
- Wednesdays, 12-1PM: Aerial 1 with Mya
- Fridays, 10-11:15AM: Aerial 1 with Mya
- Fridays, 6-7PM: Happy Hour Aerial with Jessie
- Saturdays, 11AM-12PM: Aerial with Jessie
Please remember to show up early and/or sign up online, as class space is limited, no matter which aerial studio you attend.
If you have any questions, leave me a note in the comments. I hope you try out aerial yoga soon! Namaste.