7 Aerial Yoga Benefits: From Spine Decompression To Improved Balance

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Over the last 30 or 40 years, the asana practice of yoga has gone under many transformations and there are now hundreds if not thousands of variations.

Aerial yoga is one of these variations, having gained popularity in the 1990s and early 2000s.

This combination of aerial arts with ancient yoga has a myriad of benefits that can help you deepen your practice and enhance your relationship with your mind and body.

In this article, we’ll cover the basics on aerial yoga and introduce you to the benefits of this modern practice:

  • What Is Aerial Yoga?
  • History Of Aerial Yoga
  • Benefits Of Aerial Yoga
two women doing aerial yoga on purple silks

What Is Aerial Yoga?

Aerial yoga is a unique form of airborne exercise that combines traditional yoga postures and philosophies with elements of the aerial arts. 

In aerial yoga, silk fabrics or ropes are suspended from above, forming a hammock-like apparatus that supports the practitioner’s body weight. 

This setup allows for a range of movements, from fully supported positions to wrapping the silks around specific body parts while keeping others on the floor. 

By utilizing the silks, practitioners can experience gentle and intuitive traction, which helps to open the body in ways that may be more challenging to achieve on the floor. 

Additionally, the silks aid in improving balance and provide a fun and dynamic element to the practice. 

While some aerial yoga classes have an acrobatic focus, an increasing number of instructors are incorporating therapeutic approaches. 

Aerial fitness, as it is also called, goes beyond traditional yoga, incorporating elements from Pilates, dance, and other exercises while defying gravity. 

Despite being practiced in mid-air, aerial fitness still involves some floor work, teaching participants how to use both the aerial apparatus and the ground. 

In advanced classes, practitioners may even perform aerial arts-inspired movements by staying suspended in the air. 

Overall, aerial yoga or aerial fitness offers a unique and exhilarating way to explore movement, build strength, and challenge both the body and mind. 

Whether you’re seeking a fun and acrobatic workout or a therapeutic and mindful practice, aerial yoga provides a diverse range of benefits and experiences.

a woman doing aerial yoga on a purple silk

History Of Aerial Yoga

The concept of using props in yoga, including suspending students from the ceiling in yoga swings, can be attributed to the pioneering work of B.K.S. Iyengar, the creator of Iyengar yoga.

However, a modern form of yoga known as antigravity yoga started making waves in the late 1990s.

The evolution of this aerial practice has a milestone of the creation of the first yoga swing in the early 2000s, comprising silk harnesses connected to handles and foot holdings. 

This innovative equipment, which has evolved into the colorful silk hammocks seen today, offered a revolutionary way to support yoga practitioners in exploring challenging poses, inversions, and stretches with added safety. 

The term “aerial yoga” started gaining popularity around 2011, signifying the growing recognition of this unique practice that combines the principles of yoga with the thrill of aerial arts. 

The aerial hammocks, now an integral part of this practice, play a pivotal role in facilitating both acrobatic and therapeutic movements. 

From its genesis until now in aerial yoga classes, instructors and practitioners continuously experiment with various aerial poses and transitions, showcasing the versatility and adaptability of this dynamic discipline. 

While some aerial yoga classes focus on acrobatics, pushing the boundaries of physical prowess, others adopt a more therapeutic approach, harnessing the hammocks’ potential for relaxation, decompression, and gentle stretches. 

As a result, aerial yoga as it stands today captivates people from all corners of the globe, offering a blend of yoga, aerial arts, and fitness. 

With its ever-evolving nature and diverse range of experiences, aerial yoga continues to inspire and engage practitioners worldwide.

an aerial yoga class doing inversions

Benefits Of Aerial Yoga

#1: Improved flexibility and deeper stretches

Aerial yoga offers an enhanced experience of stretching, granting practitioners the ability to explore a broader range of motion beyond what traditional mat-based yoga allows

Using a fabric hammock, this form of yoga provides vital support and traction, enabling individuals to delve into deeper stretches in multiple directions. 

On top of this, the hammock facilitates secure and controlled inversions, a technique that aids in decompressing the spine and enhancing flexibility in the back and shoulders.

Consistent engagement in aerial yoga can yield remarkable benefits, fostering heightened flexibility throughout the entire body while promoting suppleness and alleviating muscle stiffness. 

Taking on this practice can lead to a more agile and resilient physique.

two people doing aerial yoga on a beach

#2: Improved stability and enhances core strength

Aerial yoga presents a dynamic avenue for enhancing core stability. In this form of yoga, numerous poses demand active engagement of the core muscles to sustain balance and control while suspended in the air. 

The inherent instability of the hammock compels the activation of stabilizing muscles throughout the entire body. 

As one strives to find stability during aerial maneuvers, the efforts made result in strengthened core muscles, ultimately yielding improved overall stability and posture. 

Embracing aerial yoga nurtures a strong and well-aligned core, fostering greater physical prowess and poise.

#3: Improved balance

Aerial yoga requires an elevated level of body awareness and balance. While executing poses in mid-air, practitioners must continually adjust to the changing support of the hammock, making subtle modifications to retain their balance. 

This unique experience of being suspended challenges proprioception, enhancing the body’s ability to perceive its position in space, thereby leading to progressive improvements in balance over time.

Engaging in aerial yoga poses fosters the development of equilibrium, coordination, and spatial awareness, all of which extend their benefits beyond the mat. 

These acquired skills become valuable assets in daily life and other physical activities, contributing to a greater sense of stability and control in various movements and challenges. 

Ultimately, aerial yoga allows individuals to cultivate a heightened sense of bodily harmony, both in the air and on solid ground.

a woman practicing aerial yoga in a studio

#4: Releases tension in the body and mind

Aerial yoga is a therapeutic practice that offers a unique and effective way to release tension in both the body and mind. 

By incorporating elements such as inversions and hanging positions, it relieves pressure and promotes a sense of lightness and ease in the body and mind.

The use of a fabric hammock provides gentle support during stretches, allowing for deeper stretches without strain, which helps release tension in tight muscles and connective tissues. 

Moreover, the feeling of being cradled and supported by the hammock triggers the body’s relaxation response, creating a sense of comfort and security that encourages practitioners to let go of physical and mental tension.

#5: Joint and spinal decompression

Aerial yoga achieves remarkable joint and spinal decompression due to the hammock when mat-based yoga cannot. 

Through the strategic incorporation of inversions, where the head assumes a lower position than the heart, this practice effectively creates valuable space between vertebrae, providing much-needed relief from pressure on spinal discs. 

Classes often include specialized spinal decompression techniques, such as elongating movements, twists, and backbends, fostering said freedom in the spinal column.

Hanging freely in the hammock distributes body weight, gently pulling and releasing tension in joints, especially the spine, shoulders, and hips. 

The hammock also provides a stable surface for gentle stretching, promoting relaxation and deep release in muscles and joints.

a woman meditating in a hammock doing aerial yoga

#6: Low to moderate intensity calorie burn

Aerial yoga, a captivating blend of dynamic movements, muscle engagement, and the artful use of body weight in suspended poses, fosters a low to moderate intensity calorie burn. 

Although it may not match the fiery calorie-burning intensity of high-impact cardio exercises, this unique form of yoga offers a plethora of valuable fitness benefits. 

As practitioners gracefully flow through an array of aerial poses, multiple muscle groups come into play, while the fabric hammock lends resistance, elevating the level of challenge and necessitating effort against gravity.

Each aerial yoga session, typically lasting between 45 to 90 minutes, provides sustained activity and continuous muscle engagement, resulting in moderate calorie expenditure. 

On top of this, the act of balancing and stabilizing within the hammock activates core muscles, contributing further to the overall calorie burn. 

While it may not be a high-octane calorie torcher, aerial yoga holds its own as a rewarding and enjoyable way to boost fitness and promote a healthier lifestyle.

a woman hanging upside down doing aerial yoga

#7: Improves breath awareness

Aerial yoga enhances breath awareness by incorporating conscious and focused breathing techniques throughout the practice. 

Instructors guide students to synchronize their breath with movements, creating a harmonious rhythm that deepens the mind-body connection. 

The practice of aerial yoga empowers practitioners to maintain a centered and grounded state, especially during challenging poses that demand balance and stability. 

Crucially, inversions, a key aspect of aerial yoga, compel individuals to attentively attend to their breath while experiencing the novel sensation of being upside down.

Breath serves as an anchor during moments of difficulty, assisting practitioners in maintaining composure and focus while exploring aerial movements. 

On top of this aerial yoga provides a secure environment for emotional release, and the mindful breathing practices enable individuals to navigate and process emotions that may surface during the practice.

Further Information

If you’ve enjoyed reading about the benefits of aerial yoga, why not check out our other articles:

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Born and raised in London, Luke is a passionate writer with a focus on travel, yoga, philosophy, and meditation. As a certified yoga teacher having studied under a swami in Rishikesh, Luke now lives in India pretty much just practising yoga, meditating and writing articles! Luke's life arc has gone from somewhat turbulent to peaceful, and he considers yoga and meditation direct methods to sustain introspective insight to manifest peace and happiness, despite life's challenges. Luke's passion for meditation has led him to complete multiple meditation retreats, where he spent almost 40 days in silence in the last two years. He practices various meditation techniques such as Vipassana, Anapana, and Metta Bhavana, each adding to his knowledge and experience of the true self. Most recently he meditated in Jaipur, India, and before that lived for a short spell in a monastery with forest monks in Northern Thailand. To Luke, yoga is more than just a physical exercise; it's a way of life that helps him cultivate a stronger mind-body connection. As a young man with arthritis, Luke understands the importance of observing and controlling his body, and yoga has been a vital tool in his journey to better health and well-being. The practice of yoga has not only helped him manage his symptoms but has also given him a new perspective on life. Luke's love for yoga and meditation is not limited to a single tradition or practice. He's fascinated by the spiritual teachings of all types of religious philosophy, including Buddhism, Hinduism, and Christianity for their essence and wisdom. His passion for spirituality is what drives him to continue learning and growing, and share his knowledge with other people. Luke in his spare time is an avid chess player, cyclist and record collector. He also has experience with addiction, and so sponsors multiple people from different walks of life in their recovery programmes.

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