When someone says aerial yoga to you what do you think of? I know I cast my mind back to beautifully framed, impossible looking Instagram pictures of incredible yogis upside down and suspended off the floor.
I am not afraid to say that as a discipline it can seem to be quite intimidating; it appeals to those who want an exciting, challenging experience of yoga. But in reality, I can confidently say that it isn’t like that at all.
I think the thing that surprised me the most was how calm and gentle it was. It's such a gentle, relaxing and open class environment! It encourages you to open your mind to becoming a beginner again and it promotes an immense respect for the use of the swing as a prop.
As a yogi, I barely use props—not because I think I’m too good, but because I have never seen where they fit into my practice. The swing, however, is a whole different story. By using the swing, you can open your body to stretches in entirely new ways. So here are the four top reasons I think you try practicing aerial yoga.
1. It takes the pressure off your neck and spine.
I never realised just how much tension I carried in my upper back, my shoulders and my neck before I came out of this yoga class. Quite honestly, I felt like I’d had an hour and a half of massage rather than a strong yoga class.
The elevation of the swing means that when you drop backwards, you can allow gravity to relax your head and neck gently and free up any tensions as well as increasing blood flow to your brain. Also, practicing backbends using the swing allows me to really open my back and rather than hingeing at the waist!
2. It increases your confidence for inversions.
If you are someone who is scared or unnerved by inversions, aerial yoga will help you get the benefits of inversions without the fear of falling because your body is fully supported and held in place by the swing. You have time to appreciate the sensation of being upside down instead of being preoccupied with the thought that you'll fall and hurt yourself at any moment.
Personally, aerial yoga has revolutionised my inversion practice, so maybe its exactly what you need to give you confidence!
3. It stretches you in new different ways.
The swing is a fantastic prop and can really change they way you stretch. We often allow certain parts of our bodies to take the strain in some poses and actually miss out on the stretch. I know I am guilty of resting on my joints in poses such as Anjaneyasana, and therefore i don't get much of a stretch.
However, when I do the same movement using the swing, the suspension forces me not to go so far into the pose and I actually get a totally new and intense stretch. This is just one example but honestly I found that it had a huge effect on my practice in general and it has changed the way I approach many postures.
4. The relaxation is amazing.
I have never experienced Savasana quite like this. It took me years to learn to enjoy and appreciate relaxation but even now I am still not 100% relaxed. In aerial yoga, you can perform Savasana inside the swing, which has a cocooning effect that I found extremely comforting.
You can also just lie on the mat and use certain props to position your body in a comfortable way. We used the second method in my first aerial yoga class; I lay in Savasana on the mat with my head in the swing, a bolster under my knees, a beanbag cushion on my stomach, and I was covered by a blanket.
I found this position so much more comfortable than traditional Savasana, as my knees and head were supported but my back was flat to the mat. It was the most comfortable I've been in a yoga class.
I urge you to try aerial yoga at least once. Even if you think or feel like it's not your "thing," you'll never know unless you try, and you just might end up loving it! I can promise that you will come out feeling like a brand new person and you will have gained an entirely new perspective on your own yoga practice.
Image credit: Andrea Taylor