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Aerial Yoga – It’s taking Off!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Aerial Yoga – it’s taking off!

Originally developed as a conditioning tool for the athletes involved in Cirque du Soleil, Aerial Yoga is the latest development in aerial training, and it can be beneficial for all of us. Basically, you are performing exercises in fabric slings suspended from the ceiling, but close to the ground. It is not a trapeze class. There are a range of sling products available, they vary in their stretchiness and in the type of slings. Some just have a single sling, others have a range of slings for various holds and wraps, and some slings are attached to the top of a dance pole to be used more specifically for pole conditioning. The more slings you have the greater the number of variations you can create with the exercises. The rigging is far simpler than for other aerial arts, so aerial yoga classes generally have up to 10 slings being used simultaneously.

When you first try the slings you need to learn to trust them. Everyone starts off a little fearful thinking that they may break the sling or fall out of it. The fabric and fittings have been strength tested to hold over 450 kg – so even after your most indulgent chocaholic weekend you are nowhere near that weight! Classes start slowly and carefully with floor based exercises, and as your confidence and competence develops you become progressively more airborne. Every exercise has inbuilt progressions. The more fabric there is supporting you the easier it is. As you get stronger, your instructor will reduce the number of slings or the amount of fabric supporting you.

It is a yoga class, not a pump class, and it certainly hones your body awareness. You become very aware of exactly which part of your body you are working. Each class may have a different focus, depending on the instructor and the level of the class. Enjoy a gruelling abs workout, perform variations on traditional yoga poses to improve your leg strength and balance, indulge in a profound stretching experience, or try exercises that also incorporate the dance poles. You can use the slings to perform assisted static Vs, Hummingbirds, Butterflies and Iron Xs, just to name a few. With the security of the fabric supporting you these challenging pole moves are far less daunting. There are many aerial yoga exercises that specifically train the muscles that we use to lift and invert, one of the fundamentals of correct pole technique.

One of the great benefits to pole dancers is that all aerial yoga exercises are performed symmetrically and each joint can be taken through a 360 degree range of movement. Pole dancing is an inherently one-sided exercise, and we all tend to mostly work our “preferred” side, which can lead to asymmetry and tightness.  You can use the exercises either to achieve greater balance in your body, or to correct a particular weakness or tightness that may be holding back your progress with your pole dancing. It is an ideal cross-training tool for pole dancers.

Most importantly hanging out in the slings is fun. You can use the sling as a swing – it really takes you back to your childhood. Learn how to perform somersaults – either off the floor or aerially. You will get to try (and achieve) things that you may never normally do. An unexpected bonus is just being able to hang upside down in the slings, totally relaxed. This creates great spinal decompression which provides rapid relief for certain back problems. The main sling can be opened up into a full size hammock – gently swinging in a hammock listening to meditative music is total bliss, and you leave the class feeling very nurtured and grounded.

What are the negatives? Unlike dance poles, it is not that easy to set up a yoga sling at home. You would need either a very stable pergola or hooks in your nice high ceiling to attach it to. You may need a builder to install it safely for you. Slings can be set up on the climbing apparatus at the park if you have one near by. So for most of us, you will need to attend classes at studios for your aerial yoga fix. While there may be a downside in terms of cost and convenience, exercising in a group certainly keeps you feeling motivated and connected.

If you are considering booking in for aerial yoga classes, you should ensure that the studios instructors are qualified, and that the studio has complete insurance cover. Apart from location, cost and timetables for classes, see if they offer levels in their classes. Most studios will offer trial classes or you can attend as a casual while you decide if this form of exercise is something that you enjoy. Keep in mind that any form of exercise can result in injury. If you have significant health issues, make sure you get clearance from your health care professionals before signing up for any classes. Ensure that your doctor understands that you will be inverting, so sufferers of glaucoma, high blood pressure, or certain issues inside the skull may not be suitable for this activity. Also make sure that your instructor is aware of any of your health issues.

Give aerial a go – Flying is Fun!

Sarah Thompson

Level 2 Certified Fly Gym Instructor

Miss Fit Dance Studio


0431 244 162