Why Should I Try Aerial Yoga? – Part 3 of 3

Why Should I Try Aerial Yoga? – Part 3 of 3

Part 3 – Inversions!

In Part 1 of this series, I wrote about how we use the support of the aerial yoga hammock to improve our alignment in the postures or asanas. In Part 2, we learned about building strength, increasing flexibility, and improving balance are also great benefits of aerial yoga. The 3rd and final part of this series is devoted solely to inversions and why we should practice them.

Inversions 101 – Any posture in which the heart is above the head is considered to be an inversion. Yes, this includes downward facing dogs and standing forward folds. Anytime we are in an inverted position, many benefits happen. Here’s a list of a few:

  1. Activation of the parasympathetic nervous system, which has a calming effect as it is the opposite of our sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight response).
  2. Decreases systolic blood pressure when done regularly.
  3. Detoxifies lymphatic system
  4. Increase in VO2max which is the maximum rate of oxygen consumption as measured during incremental exercise
  5. Improves HDL cholesterol levels
  6. Decreases weight, body fat %, and waist circumference
  7. Improves mood
  8. Improves flexibility
  9. Improves back pain
  10. Aids digestion
  11. Improves memory
  12. Improves blood circulation
  13. Improved posture

 

As you can see, the benefits are many. If you’d like to read in detail about any of these, visit www.FlyingBeachYoga.com/News to reference the studies in which this information came from.

In a Flying Beach Yoga aerial class, we use the hammock in many different ways to support us in inversions, one of which is an unnata viparita baddha konasana, or bound angle pose, which is pictured below.

Baddha-ASY-256x300 Why Should I Try Aerial Yoga? – Part 3 of 3

Here in this secure environment, we get decompression of the spine, allowing fresh oxygenated blood to infiltrate the area. When this happens, it sets up an environment for healing to occur. From this posture, we can venture into other postures including backbends and handstands, all with a decompressed spine. These are postures that may not be within the realm of practice for a newer yogi, but can be the most beneficial for both the body and the practitioners’ awareness.

If this sounds like something you would like to try, I would highly recommend finding a highly trained instructor to guide you through this practice. You can ask your local yoga studio for the aerial yoga teacher’s credentials. There are many home kits for aerial yoga available, which is okay once you have been to some aerial classes and are knowledgeable and comfortable with the hammock. You can subscribe to the Flying Beach Yoga channel on YouTube -https://www.youtube.com/results?q=flying+beach+yoga – for more information on aerial yoga in general as well as hammock installation and maintenance. Or you can visit www.FlyingBeachYoga.com for more answers to your aerial yoga questions. Namaste.

 

Part 1 — Part 2 — Part 3

 

Written by Michele DiPetrillo, PharmD, RYT, Owner and Instructor for Flying Beach Yoga

 

 

I

Why Should I Try Aerial Yoga? – Part 2 of 3

Why Should I Try Aerial Yoga? – Part 2 of 3

Part 2 – Strength Building, Flexibility, and Balance

In Part 1 of this series, I wrote about how we use the support of the aerial yoga hammock to improve our alignment in the postures or asanas. In this installment, I’ll share how that same support can also help us with strength building, flexibility, and balance.

Let’s refer back to the example of a forward facing lunge, also referred to as Crescent Lunge or Anjaneyasana. Unlike being in this posture on the floor, the fabric again is under our thigh just behind the knee on the front leg. When the front foot is unable to touch the ground a few things start to happen.

  1. Strength building – Crescent lunge in the hammock engages the quadriceps, glutes, and hamstrings, along with the abductors and adductors to hold this posture since we do not have the aid of the earth to help ground us. The core (psoas) is also being activated to keep from swinging. In yogic terms, the mula bhanda (contraction of the pelvic floor muscles) and uddiyana bhanda (contraction of the abdomen into the rib cage) are activated. Finally, we can get the 3rd body lock, the jalandhara bhanda (tucking the chin close to the chest) so we activation of all these muscles throughout the body just to hold this one lunge posture. Once all these bhandas are engaged, you have the option to let go of the fabric with your hands so the only body part touching the floor is the ball of your back foot.
  2. Flexibility – Remember the front leg is being held up under the thigh behind the knee. We start to use gravity to our advantage by letting the earth pull our pelvis down, stretching our glutes, hamstrings, quads, and psoas.
  3. Balance – We’re still in our Crescent lunge, balancing our body’s ability to lengthen and strengthen while we remain upright and true in our posture. Enter the breath. The easiest way to balance the mind is to balance the breath. Breath work, or pranayama is practiced from the 1st moments of class, and really come into play when postures are held and become difficult. The more we practice balance in aerial yoga, the better we become at practicing that balance, by using our breath, in our everyday lives. And right there, is where some of the juiciness of yoga lies.

 

So we just went through one posture, and not even in full detail (believe it or not)! For purposes of demonstrating differences between Anjaneyasana on the mat and in the hammock, the discussion was limited to mainly the lower half of the body. There is much more to both this one posture, and to a Flying Beach Yoga aerial class. We haven’t even touched on inversions yet which is one of the best parts of aerial yoga! The 3rd and final part of this series will be devoted solely to inversions and why we should practice them. For more information, visit www.FlyingBeachYoga.com/News for more great articles on aerial yoga.

 

Part 1 — Part 2 — Part 3

Written by Michele DiPetrillo, PharmD, RYT, Owner and Instructor for Flying Beach Yoga

 

 

Why Should I Try Aerial Yoga?– Part 1 of 3

Why Should I Try Aerial Yoga?– Part 1 of 3

Part 1 – Practice yoga with support to help with our alignment

The yoga hammock serves many purposes, one of which is support. Even though an aerial class may seem very intimidating to a beginner yogi, it may actually be the perfect place to start your yoga practice. In any Flying Beach Yoga brand of aerial class, we use the hammock to support our postures or asanas. We have these beautiful fabrics rigged from the ceiling supports that can easily support all of our body weight, so why not use it to help hold us up off the ground while we practice our poses.

For example, a forward facing lunge, also referred to as Crescent Lunge or Anjaneyasana is much different when practiced using the hammock. With the fabric supporting you under the thigh of the front leg, (and with the option to hang on with your hands to the fabric as well), we can work on the alignment and engagement of our feet, legs, hips, torso, arms, and gaze (or dhristi), all while this fabric is supporting half of our body weight. All of this information is very transferrable to a floor or mat yoga practice.

As the Flying Beach Yoga aerial class progresses, we transition from being partially supported by the hammock, to being fully supported and elevated by the hammock. So as we have worked on our alignment on the floor, we revisit some of those postures or asanas while elevated, which gives us an opportunity to practice correct alignment while having full core (and beyond) muscle engagement. We will dive further into the benefits of strength training, flexibility, and balance in Part 2 of 3 of this series “Why Aerial Yoga May Be Worth A Try”. For more information, visit www.FlyingBeachYoga.com/News for more great articles on aerial yoga.

 

Part 1 — Part 2Part 3

 

Written by Michele DiPetrillo, PharmD, RYT, Owner and Instructor for Flying Beach Yoga

Learn to Fly with Aerial Yoga

www.yogajournal.com/article/types-of-yoga/learn-fly-aerialyoga/

YOGA JOURNAL

YOGA 101

TYPES OF YOGA

BY KAREN MACKLIN  |  JUN 17, 2015

 

Aerial yoga combines 
acrobatic arts and anti-gravity asana, but
 it’s also an accessible 
practice that can help you find more length 
in your spine and safe 
alignment 
in your poses.

Flying yoga—forms in which you’re suspended off the ground Cirque du Soleil–style—may have seemed faddish at first, but it’s still gaining momentum. That’s in part because of its surprising physical benefits, including spinal decompression, pain relief, and ease in inversions and other challenging poses, and also because it’s a potent teaching tool for finding better 
alignment in most any asana.

Aerial-yoga practices started more than a decade ago, as teachers began combining traditional yoga with aerial acrobatics in the occasional class. Today, there are several distinct schools, and classes appear regularly on studio schedules and 
at yoga festivals around the world. The aerial-yoga family now includes in-gym or studio practices that go by the names of Air Yoga, AntiGravity Aerial Yoga, and Unnata Aerial Yoga, as well as portable systems from companies OmGym and Gorilla Gym that are popular at yoga festivals and conferences, and that are sold for personal use at home.

See also Prep Poses for Inversions: Yoga Practice Tips + Video to Defy Gravity

Though these brands and styles may vary, they all share the use of a suspension system with therapeutic value: An aerial yoga “silk,” or hammock—suspended from the ceiling or a metal frame—that can support your weight, ease pressure, create space in your joints, decrease compression in your spine, and help you find more mobility. Hanging upside down may seem risky, but you can invert in the hammock without putting pressure on your head or spine as you would in classic inversions, which can lead to back and neck pain and injury over time, explains Joe Miller, a New York City–based yoga teacher who leads anatomy and physiology trainings around the country.

The hammock can also be used to strengthen muscles and find correct alignment in most poses, not just tricky inversions. “Research on suspension training indicates that you have to use your core muscles more when you’re suspended than when you’re on the ground to keep yourself stable,” says Miller. And then there’s the arm strength you gain by hoisting yourself into and around the silk. “Because students have to pull down on the hammock to lift themselves up, they build a kind of core and upper-arm strength that they don’t build in traditional yoga, where most arm movements are about pushing, not pulling,” says Michelle Dortignac, founder of Unnata Aerial Yoga, a practice that emerged in 2006 when she combined her yoga teacher training with an interest in aerial acrobatics.

Aerial silks can also provide natural alignment adjustments. For example, if you were to do a suspended variation of Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend) or Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose), with the hammock at your hip crease, the placement of the sling helps glide the heads of the thighbones back—which is how they should move when you fold forward at the hips, but is hard for some people to achieve on the floor, says Miller. For these practitioners, “the sling could help relieve pinching at the front of the hip joints in 
forward bends,” he adds.

See also Two Fit Moms’ Inversion Preps for Beginners

Using the silks is especially useful to beginners, says Dortignac, who has trained more than 200 Unnata teachers in the last nine years. “When a new student drapes over the hammock, in Down Dog, for example, gravity does the work for them,” she says. “The hammock helps with lengthening and creating internal space. Once we give students that feeling in the hammock, they’ll have the memory of what that was like, and take it with them to their floor practice.”

Or maybe you’re struggling in Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (One-Legged King Pigeon Pose). In an inverted King Pigeon in the hammock, you can explore important actions of the pose, such as lengthening the spine and the hip flexors of the extended leg, while avoiding pressure on the front knee, which can make the regular pose problematic for some people, says Miller. The sling also helps with the backbend in this pose, while decompressing the spine. “In the normal version of the pose, you have to work against gravity to lengthen the spine,” adds Miller.

For all of its therapeutic and 
alignment value, an aerial practice 
is also fun. “The word ‘antigravity’ can also mean ‘against graveness,’” says AntiGravity Aerial Yoga creator Christopher Harrison. “So we practice ananda (or extreme happiness or bliss) while inverted, using laughing breaths, or forcefully exhaling with a laugh.” People are also naturally curious about what it might feel like to fly or be suspended, adds Dortignac. “Aerial yoga is a chance to dream and to play, to try something different and put yourself 
in a position you never thought you could be in,” she says.

See also The 30-Minute Yoga Sequence to Help You Recharge

Follow Dortignac’s seven-step sequence for getting into King Pigeon in an aerial silk to learn a pain-free way to liberate your spine and hips. 
No aerial setup at home yet? Stick with 
her suggestions for poses on the floor 
that mimic the work in the silk.

 

Karen Macklin is a writer and yoga teacher based in San Francisco.