Fusion workouts are all the rage these days. People want the benefits of two or more types of workouts rolled into one. As yoga spread to different parts of the world, people not only started adopting it eagerly but they also started combining it with other exercise forms. Aquatic yoga, pilates yoga, barre yoga, Zumba yoga, martial arts yoga – the examples for this are endless. And nothing can really stop one from integrating yoga into any other exercise form. Aerial yoga, also known as antigravity yoga, is a prime example of that.
Like the other fusion yoga forms, aerial yoga is relatively new. Its inception happened in 1991 in New York. Gymnast and choreographer Christopher Harrison combined aerial acrobatics, dance, callisthenics and Pilates with yoga to create a workout for gymnastics retirees. His group calls themselves Team AntiGravity. Soon, this radical new creation caught on, securing pride of place in various programs and events. In very little time, it made its way to gyms and workout studios. Today, training centres across the world teach aerial yoga to anybody eager to yoga on its head.
What is Aerial Yoga
The most prominent presence in this yoga form, besides the yoga, is, of course, the aerial acrobatics. Now, if we have to be absolutely true, we have to say that this exercise was already in practice in India since the 12th century. Many will also recognize it by the name of Mallakhamb, specifically rope Mallakhamb, a practice largely restricted to India. The only reason we mention Harrison here as the founder of this form is that he was the reason it got international acclaim.
Aerial yoga uses an aerial yoga hammock, a swing-like prop, especially for this purpose. The aerial yoga swing consists of a hammock traditionally made of silk. However, nowadays, synthetic or silicon fabrics have become more popular because they have over triple the weight capacity of silk fabrics. Some yoga hammocks also have trapeze-like attachments for extra support. The hammock is used to support the body when performing the yoga asanas, in the same way as props in Iyengar yoga.
What are the Benefits of Aerial Yoga
It is true that there are no medical studies to prove the benefits of aerial yoga. But, it is not hard to see that it will have most of the benefits of both yoga and aerial acrobatics. Some of these include:
- Aerial yoga has a high count of burned calories. Combining the exertive requirements of aerial acrobatics with the strength and flexibility for yoga, aerial yoga has immense workout value. An American Council on Exercise (ACE) study found that just three 50-minute classes a week for 6 weeks can help you lose over 1 kg, spending on a few other factors like your body type and diet. It builds your body and tones it to give a supple quality to it.
- You do not need any extra skills to master it. You might be under the impression that because it involves acrobatics, it is difficult. Nothing can be further from the truth. A few aerial yoga classes are enough for even newbies to master poses like the star inversion, pike or king pigeon. Thus, there is no threshold of experience you need to cross to start reaping its benefits.
- Aerial yoga makes it easier for you to master many difficult mats poses in conventional yoga. The extra support of the yoga hammock swing helps prepare your body to undertake complex mat poses like headstands or planks. Once the strength develops in the main supporting body part, you can easily perform the asana by yourself.
- The lower compression of body parts in aerial yoga ensures that people with pre-existing conditions like joint pain, weak muscles, etc do not need to sit high-power poses out. They can use the hammock to support their bodies and put less pressure on body parts.
- Aerial yoga is much more fun than conventional yoga. This helps to enhance serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin and endorphins in the body. Moreover, this fun factor is exactly why aerial yoga classes have far lower drop rates than others.
- Aerial yoga is better in enhancing body flexibility than conventional yoga. Unlike mat poses, aerial yoga poses do not have the ground coming in the way of extending your body further. The effect of gravity is somewhat negated too, allowing you to move more freely than in conventional yoga.
What to Keep in Mind when Trying Aerial Yoga
While aerial yoga has many benefits, it can seem intimidating for beginners. But, as long as you keep the following in mind, there is nothing to worry about.
- Have faith in your trainer. When you move from the upright or horizontal poses to the inverted and fully suspended ones, you might feel afraid. This is but natural. You must allow your trainer to guide you through the process and you must trust him when he instructs you to let go. After all, he is the one with expertise in that classroom and he knows nothing will happen.
- You must learn to trust the hammock. These set-ups are capable of handling close to 1000 kg. Stop doubting whether it will tear and drop you. Just focus on the exercise.
- Do not try to attempt or practise aerial yoga at home right off the bat. You are not experienced enough to detect when you go over the tipping point, making you vulnerable to accidents.
- Even after sufficient experience, when you are confident enough in your skills for home practice, stay cautious. Do not exert yourself too far.
- Always invest in good quality aerial yoga stands, hammocks, carabiners, chains and webbing straps. Frugality will not serve anybody here.
- Prevent friction burns by wearing full-coverage clothes, gloves and yoga socks. Use ice, cooling gels and moisturizers to tackle blisters and burns. You should also wear form-fitting clothes and tie your hair out of the way to prevent getting stuck.
Where can You Learn Aerial Yoga?
Aerial yoga has become quite a favourite with celebrities and A-listers in India. Naturally, common people are also running to get enrolled. But it is so important to join a school that has experience in teaching aerial yoga classes. Inexperienced teachers can cause more harm than good. Do thorough research and check out references before enrolling for the course. Choose a well-established yoga school like Aadi Yoga School or one specializing in aerial yoga-like Anaahat Yog only to ensure safety and health.