What is aerial yoga? Are there any risks for students? What can teachers and students expect to gain by this modern practice?
Wendy: “But, Peter, how do we get to Never Land?” Peter Pan: “Fly, of course. It’s easy”.
The very name anti-gravity aerial yoga will inspire curiosity in most people. Certainly many questions will arise.
Does aerial yoga feel like flying? Is it equivalent to a circus class? Can anyone do it? Moreover, is it safe?
As yoga studios begin to overpopulate, many jump onto whatever the latest trend is that will set them apart from the masses. The flavor “du jour” just may be aerial yoga. Sporting names like “Fly” or “Defy Gravity,” these unique specialty studios are offering something new and exciting for yoga practitioners.
Christopher Harrison, who trademarked the term Antigravity Aerial Yoga, developed the technique in 2007. Aerial yoga utilizes silky hammock style contraptions suspended from the ceiling in combination with traditional yoga poses. According to advocates of this style of yoga, it is appropriate for all levels of yoga students.
1. Suspension in the hammock allows engaging in postures without compressing the spine or putting pressure on joints.
2. According to Harrison, you will leave the class stretched to your fullest height, which could be up to a 1½ inch non-cumulative increase. This could be a positive for those who wish they were taller.
3. Many have expressed remarkable results with healing chronic back pain.
4. It is very effective in building core strength.
5. It makes inversions easier for some. Inversions create a rush of blood to the head, which is good for the thyroid and pituitary gland.
6. You will feel a sensation of lightness, flying and fun.
7. Inversions in a hammock decompress the spine, which brings about a state of physical and mental euphoria. As far as asana practice is concerned, this sensation is “worth the trip.” The spine really needs a break like this.
1. The list of contraindications is long. It is recommended to avoid aerial yoga if you suffer from heart disease, extremely high or low blood pressure, glaucoma or severe arthritis, to name a few.
2. Some with a propensity towards dizziness may not feel comfortable hanging upside down.
3. Those with poor balance may feel unstable and be frightened of falling.
4. Aerial yoga is definitely not safe while pregnant or if recovering from surgery.
5. Aerial yoga is the same as any other physical activity regarding warm ups. That said, due to the intensity of asana practice during an aerial session, skipping warm ups is a recipe for disaster. Late entries to class should never be allowed, because asana practice without a warm up raises the odds for risk of injury.
6. When considering risk management in aerial yoga practice, it is in your best interest to practice with a partner or group. When there is potential for injury it would be wise to avoid practicing alone.
Rewards and Precautions
If you always dreamed of feeling the weightless sensation of flying, then you may have fun with aerial yoga. Most people report a feeling of excitement and bliss at the end of class. Hammocks in beginner classes may be lowered to a few inches above the floor, so risk of injury from falling is minimal in a safety-oriented class. As always, start slow and go at your own pace.
Side Note for Teachers
Should we be honest with students about the risks in aerial yoga classes? There is a reason why the risks are listed in detailed small print on a waiver form. Falls, sprains, fabric burns, strains, overuse injuries, dizziness, pulled muscles, and joint injuries happen. Inversions have always been risky, but students didn’t traditionally worry about falling on their heads from the ceiling.
Now you’re thinking about risk. Does the average Yoga teacher know how to hang an aerial hammock from ceiling? Who hung those hammocks and did they read the manual before installing them. Some people actually like to build things without reading the manual, but that’s one way to have more or less parts once the hammocks are assembled. Will I practice aerial yoga again? Of course, but students should realize that asanas in a hammock are not risk free.
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