While the term aerial yoga refers to yoga suspended off the ground using various equipment and props like hoops, silks/tissue/fabric, poles, straps, and trapeze lines, specifically aerial yoga in hammocks/slings has soared in popularity.
Aerial yoga in a hammock combines traditional yoga poses and postures with a hammock, also known as a sling. Whether you are brand new to yoga or a serious yoga junkie, here are some important things you need to know about aerial yoga before you take flight!
1. Hammocks can get snagged and ripped, so it is best to practice without jewelry, lotion or perfume.
To keep the hammock strong, and to protect you and it from snags, slipping, and the overwhelming scent of a million different mingling perfumes, it is best to take it all off! Avoid wearing perfume, cologne, essential oils, or anything with a strong smell that can linger on the hammock long after your practice.
Watches, jewelry, and protruding piercing(s) are examples of things to take off prior to class to avoid ripping or tearing the hammock. It is also a good idea to make sure your fingernails and toenails are trimmed. Lastly, wearing lotion, sunscreen, or other cremes can stick to the hammock and make it difficult to grip the slings.
2. Wearing fitted clothing that covers the armpits and backs of the knees prevents chafing and promotes movement in the slings.
As mentioned in the section above, hammocks snag and can tear so it's best that your clothing is also free from any embellishments, buckles, or things that can get caught on the fabric. To avoid chafing and irritation of sensitive skin, it is best to wear fitted capris or full-length yoga pants/leggings and shirts that cover the armpits.
Some people also recommend ankle and wrist braces for protection, since some studios require you to go barefoot to practice.
3. You get to choose your own adventure with different styles of aerial yoga.
There are many different options for aerial yogis, and it's best to find the unique teacher and style that works best for you. For example, there are traditional flow-based classes with emphasis on adjustment and alignment with the hammock set at hip height. There are also restorative classes with the hammock lowered closer to the ground (6-10 inches from the floor) to provide a gentle support and lift from the mat.
While instructors are likely to cue various pranayama, or breathing techniques, it is most important to remember to breathe comfortably throughout each pose and transition.
4. The hammock can hold up to 2,000 pounds, and with instructor assistance, this class is easy for beginners.
Hammocks are made from a high-density nylon material that can hold up to 2,000 pounds. Like with any new relationship, it takes time to trust the hammock and learn how to move your body in connection to the sling.
One of the major benefits of aerial yoga is that you can generally expect smaller class sizes (under 10 people), individualized attention, and focus on alignment and safe transitions. Most studios will also require new students to take introductory aerial yoga classes, so you know everyone is also a beginner.
The intro classes are great places to speak up and ask questions. Being educated and feeling comfortable are key to a thriving aerial yoga practice!
5. Aerial Yoga offers benefits that include improved flexibility and reduced back pain.
While rest and relaxation from sleeping in a hammock is one traditional benefit, practicing aerial yoga flows has been shown to benefit the mind, body, and soul. Learning to move with a sling challenges the body to move in a new way, and the mind to create new neural connections.
Building new neural connections is how the mind stays active, fit, and healthy. Aerial yoga also drains the lymphatic system which aids in improved lymph flow and better immune functioning. Flipping and flying improves the circulatory system and even nourishes the skin with all the increased blood flow.
6. Aerial yoga may not be for you if you have had a recent surgery or are prone to motion sickness.
For instance, if you suffer from vertigo, inner ear conditions that impacts balance, have had a recent surgery or head injury, or the tendency for fainting or extreme fatigue, aerial yoga may not be the best practice for you.
In addition, it is best not to practice within 24 hours of having botox. Aerial yoga is also not for anyone beyond the first trimester of pregnancy, unless you're taking specific classes tailored for pregnancy and you've been cleared by the doctor.
7. Drink plenty of water and avoid soft drinks and other acidic liquids prior to flight.
Because the nature of aerial yoga is likely to have you flipping upside down, it is best to be kind to your stomach by nourishing it with calming foods like banana and oatmeal, or ginger tea and ginger candy about an hour prior to class.
Alcohol, soft drinks, and other acidic liquids can make the stomach work overtime to try to be settled in an aerial yoga class.
It is not uncommon to feel nausea during aerial yoga so an acupressure wristband or “sea-band” that aids in nausea relief can help as well. A peppermint after class may help relieve nausea symptoms and effects as well.
Aerial yoga is an excellent complement to mat practice and an amazing stand-alone full-body work. Hope these tips help prepare you for flight, feel free to share your experience or suggestions in the comments below!
Image credit: Aneta Gab