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Posted on Feb 25, 2014 in Dear Diary, Working Out | 9 comments

Aerial Yoga

Alas, I fear I must now face the stark reality that I will never, ever be a Cirque du Soleil-style aerialist.

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My coworker Kimberly and I went on a fitness adventure by trying out Aerial Yoga at Spark Yoga in Arlington.

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As you can see, aerial yoga is yoga that utilizes aerial silks in all of the moves. The description on the website reads:

Ready to fly? Decompress your spine and your mind by practicing yoga from a hammock suspended above the ground. Classes may include inversions, upper body exercises, and adventurous tricks using aerial hammocks.

Now, I’m no yoga pro, but I’ve been to enough classes and done enough at-home DVDs to know my way around a sun salutation or two, and my understanding was that this “beginner’s” level aerial yoga class would actually make things a little easier because the silk helps to support your weight and whatnot.

Plus, hello! It just looked fun!

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Weeeeell, as it turns out, my assumptions were both true and not true. But mostly not true. Sure, certain stretches were made simpler (and deeper!) by utilizing the silk. It was cool to do things like put your foot into the fabric while sitting on the ground (so it was kind of like up in a sling) and stretch, or putting the silk under your arms and falling leaning forward into a cobra pose. Plus, doing child’s pose while sitting in the “bucket” felt pretty fab.

But all the other stuff we were expected to do? Nottttt so much. As it turns out, putting a strip of fabric underneath your pelvic bone and downward-dogging on top of it actually kind of hurts. Not to mention the part where the instructor told us to then lift our legs off of the ground, so ALL OF OUR BODY WEIGHT was being balanced on our pelvic bone. And since I obviously have quite a bit of weight on me still, I couldn’t really do that (it REALLY hurt!), so then I started feeling pretty bad about myself when I saw all the other girls in the class suspended over the ground with ease.

I think the biggest problem with the class as a whole was that the instructor is so advanced in her aerial abilities (she was — is? — a professional aerialist and pole dancer) that I don’t think she considered giving out any modification suggestions. I mean, even when I did CrossFit and P90X and all that ridiculousness, there were always modifications for folks who weren’t as strong or as fit, and I didn’t get any of that at aerial yoga. And, hey, maybe it’s just that there aren’t really modifications possible with aerial yoga, but if that’s the case they should probably advertise that the class is for those who are already a little more advanced in yoga to begin with, right? I mean, throughout a large percentage of the class, I just kind of sat/dangled there not really knowing what to do (and feeling worse and worse about myself) while all the other girls got their Cirque du Soleil on. Womp womp.

Thankfully, the last 10 minutes of the class were somewhat redeeming. You end with savasana, but you do it inside the silk, so it’s basically like lying in a hammock/being wrapped up in a little cocoon. The instructor comes by and swings you gently back and forth, and you get to just lay there. Unfortunately, while I think the goal of savasana is to clear your mind and get into a good mental space, all I could do was fixate on how crappily I performed throughout the entire class. It was still nice and comfy though.

Anyway, as you can tell, aerial yoga really didn’t end up being for me, but I think a seasoned yogi or just folks who are lighter and more flexible might have a more enjoyable experience. And I guess for now, I’ll just stick to regular on-the-mat yoga whenever I need a fix. Blessedly, while I was whining to Kimberly after the class, she reassured me that she faced a lot of similar problems, so it does help to know that I wasn’t alone in my misery, haha.

Have you ever tried aerial yoga?

9 Comments

  1. Bummer! I haven’t done aerial, but I would love to try it. As a yoga instructor its always hard to know what modifications to show each class. I have started teaching a slow sculpt class that really breaks things down. And when my students have injuries, once they tell me I start with suggestions for extra modifying. Bummer that instructor didn’t notice. Was it a free or special event class? I would be extra bummed if I paid for something and wasn’t given the modifications.

  2. I’m sorry you had a bad experience, but I appreciate the review. As I was reading, I started with “I didn’t know there was beginner aerial yoga, I always assumed you had to be an expert! I should try that!!” to “Oh nope, not for me, I’ll stick with regular yoga, thank you very much”. So thanks for taking one for the team (so to speak).

  3. It looked like it would be so much fun, I’m sorry it didn’t really turn out that way.I would imagine that there should be some way to modify moves for beginners, even in aerial yoga, but what do I know. Keep your chin up and just cross this one off your list.

  4. Gretchen – you are SO inspiring to me!

    We’re pretty close to the same weight, and I allow my weight to hold me back from SO many things. I would never even go to a normal yoga class because of my fear of being “the fat one”… let alone an AERIAL yoga class!

    You are amazing and fearless, and I hope that my journey can help me embrace a little of that joie de vivre that you have.

  5. I know very little about yoga, so would have no idea about what modifications she would give you, but I think it’s a shame the instructor didn’t offer any, or notice you were having troubles.

  6. Aerial yoga is one of my favorites!! It does hurt that is for sure….but I will say your instructor should have helped you more! The place I go will offer many modifications during the whole class. Dont give up just find a new class :)

  7. Please don’t give up on aerial yoga. Just find a new teacher! I have been taking aerial yoga for the past year and have experienced the pain you mentioned. There is a very simple modification for this: place a blanket over the silk for cushioning before getting into the downward dog position. Makes a world of difference! The other thing to know is that the pain actually goes away after a few times. I never would have believed it myself, but I have experienced this myself and now flip over smoothly and pain-free!

    One more modification: for the “back straddle”, where you place the silk at the low low back (top of the booty) and flip back upside down, you can reduce discomfort by folding up your yoga mat and placing it over the silk first. Don’t use a blanket for this one as they can be too slippery in this position.

    Hope you experience a better class environment someday. :-)

  8. I thought your article was spot on. I just tried this class and felt as you did. My instructor was 20 years in and fit she made it look easy and it wasn’t. I’d like to add that if you get motion sickness its not for you. Also acid reflux … Well inversion might not be good. I ended up in a panic from my motion sickness and wondering if I would vomit during the slight swinging during sevasna. A day later my hands hurt and I have marks on my thoughts from the silk. I’d say a no go for me. Not sorry I tried it. Also does anyone else think about the person who used the silk before them with their bare feet all over it. Yuk!!

    • Marks on my thighs!

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