You’re hanging upside down a few feet off the ground, in a stretch you never thought you’d be able to do, swaddled in a fabric swing, and you’re thinking..."how in the world did I get here?"
Aerial yoga is a relatively new exercise regimen inspired by aerial gymnastics, pilates, calisthenics, and yoga movements. While that might sound scary, it’s really accessible and quite similar to the yoga you do on a mat. Aerial yoga can make a big difference in your flexibility, strength, and mental health, but with a unique—some might say topsy-turvy—perspective.
How Does Aerial Yoga Work?
In aerial yoga, your body weight is supported by what most practitioners call a ‘hammock’. This swath of soft fabric, suspended from the ceiling, supports your body in the poses and allows your body to work against gravity, helping you get deeper into stretches.
It also means you can do many supported inversions, which results in health benefits unique to aerial yoga. Being upside down, supported by the hammock, is a little bit like being in traction—it can help lengthen your ligaments, relax your muscles, and decompress your spine.
Benefits of Aerial Yoga
All day long, your vertebrae sit stacked, being pulled down into each other by gravity. This is why flipping yourself upside down and allowing your spine to be free of that pressure can help you feel lengthened and relaxed, at least in the short term.
The positions you can achieve in aerial yoga also temporarily improve circulation, just like regular inversions in yoga asana on a mat can. This can bring you focus and improved energy following a class, and usually brings a huge smile to your face because of the big mood boost it can give you.
Like any form of exercise, aerial yoga will boost your brain’s production of endorphins and dopamine, but some physiologists posit that being suspended above the floor, upside down, in a silk hammock during an aerial yoga class may have the added benefit of helping your brain release even more serotonin, which may make you feel serene and euphoric.
Like Other Yoga Styles, Aerial Yoga is Not a Cure-All Solution
It’s important to note that some sources may say that aerial yoga will combat aging by permanently and continually improving overall circulation. While these benefits may materialize for a few hours after class, your overall circulation will not be improved over and above any other what any other kind of exercise would offer you.
However, the short-term benefits are incentive enough! And if the health pluses weren’t enough...it’s also simply a really fun way to work out.
Because you’re essentially floating above the floor, you get more full-body engagement, and especially core work, as your body keeps itself steady and works against gravity to transition between poses—this makes aerial yoga a great body weight cross-training exercise that improves flexibility, strength, and stamina.
In addition to improving your balance in daily life and asana practice, the support and suspension that you receive in aerial yoga can also uniquely aid in digestive issues, stretching and relaxing your abdomen and providing relief for any symptoms of irritable bowels.
Aerial yoga is a great way to mix up your usual yoga routine, and push your body to go deeper and be stronger in poses you’re familiar with from mat yoga. Have you tried it? Let me know how you liked it down in the comments below!