As a yoga fan, I have enjoyed trying a variety of types, including Bikram, Hatha, and Vinyasa, and I even do power yoga from time to time. But I admit my adventurous side balked a little when I learned about aerial yoga, a type in which you swing, fly, and hang upside down with the help of a suspended silk hammock.
However, figuring that you only live once, I recently tried an aerial yoga class at Asphalt Green in NYC. I was instructed to wear a shirt with sleeves so that the hammock wouldn’t rub my skin, and to not wear anything made of silk or other slippery materials.
Why a hammock?
Although at first, the idea of combining yoga and hammocks might conjure up images of peacefully perfecting the art of savasana (relaxation pose), the Antigravity Yoga class was one of the most exhilarating and challenging classes I’ve ever experienced.
Using the hammock as a "trapeze," aerial yoga allows you to stretch further and hold positions longer than other types of yoga. Suspension yoga also helps to decompress tight joints and relieve pressure.
At the start of class, the instructor reassured us that each hammock was built to hold up to 2,000 pounds. Knowing this, however, didn’t make it any easier to let go of my hammock and allow myself to morph into a handstand, backwards somersault, flying cannonball, or any number of acrobatic moves I would normally not be able to perform.
I quickly learned that my biggest obstacle was learning to "trust the hammock" and likewise, to "trust myself." Regardless, the first time I hung upside down, I closed my eyes and prayed I wouldn’t crack my head on the floor.
Hanging upside down, I didn’t love the feeling of the blood rushing to my head, but I was amazed I was able to pull off these moves in one class (with help of course). Plus, using the hammock to do various arm and leg lifts gave me an intense enough upper body and core workout to leave me sore the next day.
But by far, my favorite positions were the ones where I was able to swing. After all, I figured this was the closest I’d get to flying.
At one point, I was able to lean over the hammock at the waist and swing through the air. It was like being on a playground, but better. Another position, the flying cannonball, involved wrapping your hands around your knees and swinging upside down (screaming optional).
Like traditional yoga, the end of class involved meditation and relaxation poses. But in aerial yoga, you are able to enclose yourself in a hammock cocoon.
By the end of class, I was happy to be on my feet again, but giddy from my hour of flying.