Yoga Styles 101: An Introduction to Aerial Yoga
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Ready to take your yoga practice to the next level? As you might already know, there are several types of yoga that can help you do it.
In the coming weeks, we’ll be sharing insightful posts that break down the main yoga styles. We hope that by doing so, you’ll be able to choose the one that suits your needs and preferences.
In the meantime, let’s talk about Aerial Yoga, which will literally take your practice to new heights. Also known as Antigravity Yoga or AG Yoga, it uses the same asanas as other yoga styles but uses a special hammock to help support the body through the flow.
You can try this fascinating style on an Aerial Yoga retreat where you’ll be guided by experienced teachers while surrounded by beautiful landscapes.
Read along to learn more about the history of Aerial Yoga, what makes it different from other styles and to find out whether this type of yoga might suit you.
What is Aerial Yoga
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Aerial is a style of yoga that has caught yogis’ attention in the past years thanks to its originality, playfulness and its many benefits. It combines traditional yoga poses with Pilates and dance, along with the use of a hammock.
It incorporates the same asanas as other yoga styles like Vinyasa, Iyengar, or Hatha; the main (and obvious) difference is that the poses are performed “up in the air” with the help of a hammock or a swing. This allows yogis to do more challenging poses without adding pressure on their head, shoulders, or spine.
History of Aerial Yoga
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While there isn’t a general consensus about the history of Aerial Yoga, it’s well known that the first teacher who used fabric as a prop was BKS Iyengar. He used to teach his students to hang upside down with ropes in order to make inversions easier to perform. However, back then it wasn’t considered a type of yoga, but rather a small part of the routine.
Later on, in 1990 a Broadway choreographer and former gymnast, Christopher Harrison, founded the Antigravity Movement. He was choreographing aerial performances and working with athletes and artists like Mariah Carey and Britney Spears.
Aerial Yoga wasn’t officially born until years later when Harrison found in yoga a relief for his many injuries. He combined the practice with his aerial skills and developed a routine that was part of his Antigravity fitness program – this was soon known as Aerial Yoga.
In the beginning, Aerial Yoga was only available for people living in L.A. or New York, but nowadays you can do it almost anywhere in the world. You can even buy your own hammock and do it at home. That said, if you’re new to the practice, it’s highly recommended to let a professional instructor guide you and keep you safe.
READ MORE: Yoga styles 101: An introduction to Hatha Yoga.
Elements of Aerial Yoga
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Aerial Yoga focuses on 3 aspects: asanas, breathing and balance.
As mentioned before, the yoga poses used for Aerial Yoga are the same poses you usually do on the mat for other styles, only with some slight variations. To give you an idea, here are some asana names for Aerial Yoga: anti-gravity warrior pose, plank with the feet in the hammock, anti-gravity pigeon pose, aerial splits pose, and inverted bow pose, to mention a few.
When it comes to breathing, as in any other yoga styles, you’ll try to focus on your breath during the practice. This will allow you to maintain a good balance and to be able to twist and stretch while suspended in the air.
Benefits of Aerial Yoga
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Aerial yoga is considered to be a cardio-intensive form of yoga. A new study from the American Council on Exercise (ACE) found that women who did three 50-minute Aerial Yoga classes a week, for six weeks, improved their stamina and lost some weight.
Moreover, Aerial Yoga is good for rehabilitating muscles and joints, improving balance and flexibility, increasing core strength, improving blood circulation, relieving stress, decompressing the spine and increasing self-confidence.
It helps open up tight areas, which is good for those suffering from chronic back pain or tension in the shoulders and neck. Also, students get more personalized attention since group classes are normally smaller and accommodate less than ten people.
Lastly, Aerial Yoga also offers emotional and psychological benefits. By triggering neurotransmitter production, it helps reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression, while increasing happiness and well-being.
READ MORE: Yoga styles 101: An introduction to Vinyasa Yoga.
Who should practice Aerial Yoga?
Image credit: Oasis Backpackers' Hostel Sintra Surf
Aerial Yoga is a beginner-friendly practice, which means that you don't need to be an acrobat or a committed yogi to do it. Even if it’s your first time doing any type of yoga, you’ll benefit a lot from it. Plus, it’s so much fun that you’ll totally forget you’re working out!
On the other hand, Aerial Yoga is not suitable for people with vertigo, heart disease, extremely high or low blood pressure, glaucoma, or severe arthritis. It’s definitely not recommended for pregnant women or people recovering from surgery.
What to bring and not to bring to an Aerial Yoga retreat?
Image credit: ME Yoga Villa
By now, you may feel curious to try Aerial Yoga. So, here are some recommendations about what to bring and not to bring for your first class.
- Toe socks or yoga socks to avoid slipping during the practice.
- Comfortable clothing but nothing too loose. A long-sleeve top and leggings are ideal to help with the pressure from the hammock on your body.
- Perfumes and lotions because these can stain or weaken the hammocks.
- Jewelry and belts since they can snag or tear the hammocks.
Last piece of advice
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Aerial Yoga is something you may be doing for the first time, so it’s totally normal to feel a bit nervous. In the end, you’ll be trusting a piece of cloth to hold your entire body while hanging upside down.
But fret not! Most of the aerial devices are tested and certified to hold from 150kg (330lbs) to 1000kg (2,000lbs). Also, remember to keep an open mind and let your curiosity guide you. Be aware that no one’s good at anything at first.
Finally, get ready to have fun and to keep coming back!
*Cover image credit: Oasis Backpackers' Hostel Sintra Surf
Want to experience the benefits of a yoga retreat but can’t travel right now? Join on an online yoga retreat and get ready to reset and recharge from the comfort of your home.