I love Yoga but somehow have never been able to get into a regular routine. I use a DVD at home but try to attend a few drop-in sessions and some workshops so that I get feedback from instructors and get a chance to try some of the different styles of yoga. I’m also enthralled by acrobatics – most of my Edinburgh Fringe Show choices include people swinging from the ceiling. So when I came across an introduction to Aerial Yoga class at Get Down Dog – I couldn’t resist the opportunity to finally swing from the ceiling myself and get a chance to perfect my spider man moves (you never know – they may make a spider woman movie!!)
Trying something new (especially by yourself) can be a bit scary – especially when it is physically challenging. Would my on-again, off-again yoga practice make me fit enough to do the class? Was it going to be ‘fun’ or ‘functional’? Would I fall on my face?
There was no need to worry because when I got to the studio I was put at ease by the calming environment, the small group and by the expertise of our instructor, James. The session started with hammock tips and things to watch out for so by time we began the yoga postures we all felt comfortable getting in, out and around the metres of fabric. Because there was a technique to getting the fabric in the right place for each different posture, full and clear instructions were given on how to move your body and the hammock. That meant that you didn’t really need to know all the yoga postures by name – a plus for beginners.
Besides all the questions, I also had a few expectations going into the class which all seemed to pan out, such as:
I thought that the class would be good for beginners as the hammock would provide support when doing the classic yoga postures. This proved true as the hammock helped to:
- take some of the weight off the legs when doing strong lunges in warrior pose
- allow us to hold this and similar postures longer and ‘teach’ our muscles the right position to be in
- keep us aligned and lifted in poses such as triangle, downward dog and upward dog.
- I had seen a brief demonstration in one yoga workshop (only by the instructor – we didn’t have a go) so I did expect us to do some inversions, hanging upside down with our legs wrapped round the fabric hammock. This was actually easier than I thought; there is really no way to fall out once you have your legs wrapped round. It’s also an amazing way to free up your spine – with gravity helping to lengthen every vertebra. I felt 6 inches taller by the end of the class!!
I was delighted that the Aerial Yoga Classes met all my expectations, but I actually got more benefit out of what I DIDN’T expect!:
- I didn’t expect the hammock to be 8 feet wide (I pictured a ‘ribbon’ of fabric maybe a foot or 2 wide)
- Therefore, I didn’t expect to climb inside the hammock – and be totally cocooned within the fabric. There were some poses where you could only barely see the instructor through the nylon weave – so you were in your own world – only guided by voice.
- I didn’t expect to feel so totally relaxed yet invigorated at the same time. By the end I felt as though every muscle had been stretched, cleaned of all stagnant fluids and flushed with fresh oxygen rich blood. The inversions helped spread this sensation from head to toe.
- I didn’t expect to LOVE the final relaxation pose – lying inside the hammock – gently swaying as you let the fabric take your whole body weight allowing all the tension to float away. I seriously considered hiding inside when the class was over.
- I didn’t expect to leave with a permanent grin on my face. It was hard work – especially for my arms as they needed to hold and grip the hammock – but the freedom and excitement of achieving new postures and feeling at times like the circus acrobatics that I’ve admired for so long left me in a joyful mood that lasted for days.
I definitely have the aerial yoga bug!! After attending the 4 part ‘Introduction to Aerial Yoga’ (once a week for 4 weeks), I also went back for a 2 hour workshop also at Get Down Dog. These workshops are repeated several times a year so keep an eye on their website for details of the next sessions.
I was also able to find another 3 hour workshop organised by Ashtanga Yoga Edinburgh, held at Union Yoga and led by Yoga instructor Hazel Sheppard of Aerial Yoga Scotland. This workshop had a stronger ‘Yoga’ element as it incorporated some mat work, breathing and chanting. The longer time meant we could really explore new postures and go deeper into stretches as it does take about an hour to be totally warmed up. We even used the hammock like a playground swing – only there was a catch!! We couldn’t use our arms to get the swinging motion started. The only way to get the hammock swinging was by using your core – far more fun than doing sit-ups!!
I would highly recommend trying Aerial Yoga, and both courses I tried were excellent. Because of the specialist equipment there aren’t many classes around so you do need to keep an eye out for them. However, once more people have attended the introduction classes, Get Down Dog is hoping to put on a regular class in the near future. Chances are you’ll run into me – I’ll be the one hanging upside down with a big grin on my face.
General info on Aerial Yoga:
Here are some useful websites if you want to find out more about aerial yoga. If you have any health concerns, these also provide information on precautions and conditions that may exclude you from trying a class:
Healthy Scale: Aerial Yoga
Mind: (+) Yoga is great for de-stressing and calming the mind. To achieve the poses you must stay focused and in the moment making yoga a form of moving meditation.
Body: (+) I think this was the best total body workout I have ever had. Every muscle felt that it had been used – but nothing was overly sore or strained.
Community: (-) An amazing personal experience