Flying Yoga | Inside The Incredible World Of Aerial Yoga

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Have you ever dreamt of being able to fly? Well, now you can leave your yoga mat at home and defy gravity with flying yoga!

In this article we are going to dive headfirst into the world of aerial yoga and explore:

  • When aerial yoga was invented
  • 7 benefits of aerial yoga
  • 7 beginners tips for aerial yoga (read this before your first aerial yoga class!)
  • 3 fun aerial poses for you to try out
  • And stay tuned to find out whether you can practice aerial yoga from your own home

Ready to fly?

Let’s flow

Flying Yoga Inside The Incredible World Of Aerial Yoga

what is aerial Yoga?

Flying yoga marries dance, pilates, aerial gymnastics, and traditional yoga to create a unique anti-gravity yoga discipline.

Instead of a mat, aerial yoga uses a hammock (also referred to as a silk) which hangs down from the studio ceiling.

The silk provides support throughout a yoga flow, and can take the weight off pressure points, allowing yogis to achieve challenging shapes and poses with greater ease.

If you’ve come across flying yoga before, you’ve probably seen pictures of incredibly experienced yogis entirely suspended in the air. However, this is not always the case. Many poses in aerial yoga call for the practitioner to remain firmly rooted to the earth, only supporting one or two limbs with the silk.

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when was aerial yoga invented?

Aerial yoga is commonly credited to aerial performer, former gymnast, and Broadway choreographer Cristopher Harrison, who in 1991 founded AntiGravity Fitness in New York.

However, flying yoga isn’t quite so modern. Suspension props have been used by many yogis throughout history.

Notable figures include B.K.S. Iyengar, who throughout his life as a yogi developed a unique style of practice that involved props in order to focus on proper structural alignment.

In the 1970’s he became well known for ‘yoga kurunta’, which involved the use of ropes attached to the wall to suspend or support inversion poses.

Video example of a yoga kurunta practice.

7 Benefits of aerial yoga

What have you got to gain from switching up your standard yoga practice? Well, as it turns out, quite a lot!

#1: Increase Flexibility

The silk supports the body and allows you to go deeper into stretches. Flying yoga also allows you to use the power of gravity to your advantage. You can let the poses unfold naturally and be comfortably held in poses that would otherwise challenge you.

#2: Increase Strength

Aerial yoga is a full-body exercise. Whilst the silk can be supportive in certain poses, it also adds another element of resistance. At times you’ll find yourself holding the weight of your body through the silk.

#3: Improve Core Strength And Coordination

Those stabilising muscles have to work double-time to keep you from veering off centre on the silk. Flying yoga will develop your core stability and your ability to manoeuvre your body.

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#4: It Is Low Impact

Aerial yoga can offer an intense workout without any harsh impact on your joints.

And if you have knee or other joint issues, just like in a standard yoga practice, you can fold up a blanket to use as an extra layer of cushioning support on the mat.

#5: It Can Alleviate Back And Neck Pressure

In, fact, it can alleviate any joint pressure.

If you safely invert, with the guidance of your aerial yoga instructor, you can alleviate a lot of the pressure in your spine caused by prolonged periods of sitting or holding a poor posture.

You can experience a release in your neck and spine as they lengthen and decompress. It’s a wonderful feeling.

#6: It Builds Confidence

With the support of the silk, you’ll find that you can achieve postures that you’d never dream of on the mat. Tackle inversion poses with ease, and build up your confidence for when you practice silk-free!

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#7: It Is Fun!

Most importantly of all, flying yoga is fun! And there’s no way to find out just how fun until you give it a shot yourself!

7 beginners tips for aerial yoga

Before you turn up at your first aerial yoga class, keep the following tips in mind and make sure that you turn up ready to go!

#1: Wear Tight Fitting Clothes

Keep clothes nice and tight. Think leggings. The last thing you want is to be wearing baggy clothing that could get pulled, tangled, and ripped in the silk.

#2: Wear Clothes With A Lot Of Coverage

It’s a good idea to wear long leggings or shorts that go over your knees on your bottom half. On your top half, longer sleeves with more coverage is the way to go.

The more coverage you have, the less friction there will be between your skin and the sling, making for a much more comfortable practice.

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#3: Leave Your Jewelry At Home

For the same reason as the loose clothing…

That goes for piercings too, avoid snagging them on the silk at all costs!

#4: Trust The Ceiling And The Sling

Incredibly, aerial slings can hold up to a couple of thousand pounds! This makes aerial yoga inclusive for all bodies.

All you have to do is learn how to trust the process.

#5: Don’t Turn Up Straight After Dinner

You might find your stomach turning along with you if you’re too full when beginning an aerial yoga class.

The pressure of the silk on a full stomach is not a feeling to strive for.

That being said, it is important to turn up to class with energy. Aerial yoga can be a seriously strenuous workout after all.

Eat a good meal a couple of hours before you turn up to a class. And a light carby snack half an hour before practice is a good idea too. Think- a banana or an energy bar.

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#6: Don’t Wear Perfume

Although studios will wash their slings, aerial slings are often used and re-used. So turn up to practice clean! And avoid heavy perfumes, you don’t want to leave your scent on the sling for the next person.

#7: Don’t Drink Too Much Water Before Practice

As you spin around and invert, you don’t want your stomach to be sloshing around with water. So no glugging large amounts of water before heading to the sling. That being said, make sure that you turn up hydrated and ready for action.

Aerial Yoga and motion sickness

As you can imagine, all that swinging around in a silk can leave you feeling a little worse for wear and motion sickness can be a common side effect of aerial yoga for beginners.

If you experience motion sickness during a class, put your wellbeing first, step back, drink some water, and come back to the sling when you feel settled.

But if you do experience motion sickness in your first class, don’t let that put you off going again! You’ll notice this nasty side effect will be conquered over time.

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3 aerial yoga poses to try out

#1: Aerial Star Inversion (Utthita Tadasana Viparita Aerial)

This pose is an amazing hip opener whilst at the same time allowing for your spine and neck to lengthen and decompress.

The Aerial Star Inversion is a great introduction to aerial inversions as the position of your legs help you to feel completely in control.

How To:

1. Get into the Aerial Star Inversion from a seated starting position with the soles of your feet touching.

2. Lean back, engage your core, and bring your knees in towards your core.

3. Spread your legs wide into a straddle position.

4. Keep leaning back until you flip backwards in the silk.

5. Guide your hands down towards the floor so that the backs of your hands rest on the ground beneath you.

#2: Inverted Bow Pose (Inverted Dhanurasana Aerial)

The inverted bow can challenge your core and your balance as you lower into the pose. But once you’re there you will experience a generous stretch down the length of your spine, all the way down to the crown of your head.

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How To:

1. Begin this pose in a seated position, feet on the floor, with the silk around your waist and under your bum.

2. Hold each side of the silk in your hands, and lean back, making sure that you are stable.

3. Once you are stable, slowly let go with your hands, so that you are completely suspended ny the hammock on your bum and waist.

4. Making sure that you are still stable, reach back and grab the tops of your feet or your ankles with your hands.

5. Hold here for 4-6 cycles of breath, feeling your chest open and your back bend.

#3: Aerial Savasana

Aerial Savasana offers you a comfortable cocoon and can be one of the most deeply relaxing experiences.

As you lie back in a fully supported savasana and gently swing side to side, you can give yourself permission to let go.

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How To:

Hook the silk around the soles of your feet and the crown of your head, lie back, and get comfortable. It’s as simple as that. Enjoy.

Looking to shake up your yoga practice?

There are plenty of awesome styles and types of yoga to keep your practice ever interesting.

How about checking out one of the following:

Photo of author
Maria Andrews is a 200h Registered Yoga Teacher, long distance runner, and adventure lover.

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