Letter From An Aerial Yoga Student – Diane Black

Just a little background; this is a letter sent to the studio owner at Altamonte Springs Yoga in July, 2016 from Diane Black, who is a regular Aerial Yoga student at the studio regarding her experience with it.

Hello MyLinda,

Hope this email finds you well.

It has been 23 weeks since starting my first aerial class and I am 100% certain, it has become a part of my treatment plan!

I wanted to take this time to share with you the details, so I will apologize first, cause this will probably become a dissertation instead of

An informative email!!….LOL


A little back ground:

I’m 51 years old and my  yoga practice started in the 1990’s with the exposure to the Bhagavad Gita which lead to the study of the Mahabharata and spending the next 3 years reading the sacred texts.  My asana practice didn’t come till afterwards.


I am no stranger to the mind, body and spiritual benefits of yoga, as the past 15 years I have had extensive direct experience with all three. Although my practice has NEVER been about “mastering” the pose, but it would be misleading if I didn’t admit I often desired to achieve the next level of the arm balance, or strive to get deeper into the posture.


In 2002 as a young mother of two sons, age five and seven, I was diagnosed with  breast cancer . This was my first test which brought me back to my original roots of my practice. The readings and mediation provided me with all the insight I needed to recover and accept my new normal. First time I ever had to make modifications in my asana practice and it was oh so humbling!


Although my mediation practice had never wavered,  the stronger I became as time passed, I was able to return to a more physically demanding asana practice. My heart openers not quite as wide, and my back bends not quite as deep, but there was no denying the importance of getting back to my physical practice, and the benefits both on and off the mat!


In 2011, I received my second BC diagnosed and once again relied heavily on what I affectionately refer to as,” period of forced stillness”.  Again it was the “whole “ of my yoga practice that kept me present, got me through and helped me accept the changes to my body and asana.  A true lesson of “I am not my postures”.


Through it all, again and again it was my practice I leaned on and believe it is why I am still here today! I felt I had a moral responsibility to share with others what had served me so well! I believed teaching was my dharma. I was fortunate to receive a scholarship for a yoga teacher training and this I saw as a message to act upon my feelings.


2012 I received my 200 hr and began serving those who were ready to receive. 2013 I started to develop odd  and unexplainable symptoms. Suffering from severe leg and joint pain, muscle aches, and fluid buildup behind the knees and on the hips caused me to have sleepless nights for the next three and a half years. Orthopedic doctors had no explanation, lymphatic massages didn’t help and as time went on , I began to develop other strange symptoms. I became dizzy, foggy, loss of memory, and passing out. Eventually ending up in the hospital and having every cardiology test ran possible.  Still nothing detected.


The summer of 2015 additional issues arose, nausea, low bp, extremely low basal temperature of 96, elevated heart rate, lung infections, difficulty forming words, swallowing, G.I. complications, extreme fatigue and a sensation of electrical current running through my body . By winter of 2015 I could not teach, work, hold myself up, eat , in extreme pain, severe dry eyes, stiff  joints, went from 130 lbs to 123 lbs and spent 18 out of the 24 hours a day sleeping. Finally, receiving a diagnosis of collagen vascular disease, an autoimmune condition known as Sjogren’s Syndrome.  A rather bleak and chronic condition , one in which the Rheumatologist informed me, “there is nothing you can do. You will have to live with it” end of conversation. He clearly doesn’t know whom he is speaking to!


I took it upon myself to research and implement diet changes and in time I saw some slight improvements, but I was still a long way from having a functioning life. Only able to work 6 hours a week and not even the most gentile of asana practice was an option!


Visiting with a friend one day she asked if I had considered the Aerial class. I had but didn’t know much about it and was nervous to ever try it alone. She suggested we go together and it seemed like it would be easy enough for me and not very demanding . We could lay in the silk hammock an relax, let go. Boy did this sound exactly like what I needed! Little did I know , my world was about to be turned upside down……literally!!


Now, as a yoga teacher, you would  think I would read the description of the class before taking! Understand,  I barely had enough energy to get through the  necessities of my day!

The moment I walked into the brightly colored silk hammock forest, I knew this was not going to be what I had envisioned! Nor did I know it was going to be exactly what I needed!

Within the first 10 minutes of class I found the lovely energetic teacher instructing us to hang upside down! With tremendous hesitation I followed her guidance. Immediately panic set in, followed by tears and my friend calling across the room to the teacher to come help me. To say I was embarrassed is an understatement.  She was kind, sweet , lighthearted and reassuring.

None the less, this was not a fit for me!


Finishing the class, I thanked Danita for her patience and it was a lovely class, but not for me. She encourage me to give it a second try, but I had absolutely no intention of doing so! In addition to the fear of inverting, it aggravated my hip pain, definitely not for me!


After returning home exhausted, sharing with my husband, then  going straight to bed and try to get some rest before the cycle of waking periods of pain would start. I was out like a light! I woke up and immediately noticed there was no pain. Checked the time and it was 7:12 a.m. ! This could not be! For the past three and a half years I have woken up every two hours to intense pain requiring me to draw a bath at 4;00 a.m. and relocating to the coach.


Very disoriented by the time on my clock, surely there had been a power outage that changed the display time. I woke my husband to ask what time he had and he too had 7:12 a.m! HOW COULD THIS BE POSSIBLE!!  We were both shocked! Unable to make any sense of it, I proceeded to start my day with my shower. As I was lathering my legs, I noticed the bulge behind both knees were significantly decreased! Okay, stop the train! I’m getting off! THIS IS CRAZY!


Reflecting back on the previous day the only thing that was different was attending that crazy Aerial class! My dietary intake is so limited, there was nothing new I consumed. Could it be……?

The only way to find out was to go back! UUghhhhh…..gulp!! So I mustered up the energy to  fly again and this time my friend was on vacation, which meant I was going it alone …..Oh Ganesha protect me! I made it through and to my surprise the same results occurred! Slept through the night and the fluid on my joints were less!


Well, the only way to really know if I was truly medicinally benefiting from the Aerial yoga was to put it to the test for an extended period of time and document  my daily symptoms.

I gathered the strength and began my experiment. When I first began attending the Aerial classes on February 8 , I had 18 symptoms I was dealing with! As the weeks went by they started to improve or go away all together!


Now My bp and heart rate are regulate at 109/68 and 77.  My body temperature has elevated and maintained at 97.9, the joint pain has dissipated, I sleep through the night, head aches gone, G.I function is normal, the electric current gone, lungs and breathing are clear, significantly increased energy and no naps needed. Muscle and bone pain alleviated, lymphatic fluid buildup is gone! My knees are measuring 1 inch smaller then when I began, the dry eyes are slightly more lubricated. My thoughts and speak are clear, I’ve gained 7 pounds back and am working .


With the extensive direct experience and knowledge I have on the benefits of yoga, I fully understand how significantly the benefits can be, but I can honestly say this has blown me way. I don’t even really have the words to adequately express the impact the Aerial yoga has been on my life! Although, I am limited in my floor practice ,as it will aggravate the fluid back up, the Aerial yoga has not only aided in managing my symptoms , it has given me a means to continue my asana practice. I have had two periods of time when I missed a week without taking  class  and have noticed the fluid begin to build, sleep becomes restless, pain creeps in.  I have no doubt in my mind and heart the lymphatic drainage of the inversions with use of gravity is a HUGE component in my returned health.


I don’t think I ever shared with Danita, Michele or Michelle my health issues, but I cannot thank them enough for being the guides in my practice and am forever grateful for their knowledge, patience and teachings! I love them so!


Turning myself upside down has turned my life right side up again!


So grateful to you for offering the class at your studio and energy you bring to the space!

Peace and Namaste,

Diane Black

ASY-Aerial-Class-300x116 Letter From An Aerial Yoga Student - Diane Black

Learn to Fly with Aerial Yoga



YOGA 101




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 
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.

Top 10 Health Benefits of Aerial Yoga

Top 10 Health Benefits of Aerial Yoga

A combination of traditional yoga poses, pilates and dance with the use of a hammock, aerial yoga defies gravity and allows you to perform various yoga poses that may be difficult to do on the ground, but easier in mid-air. It’s fun and acrobatic, so for those of you who dreamed of being a trapeze artist as a kid, this can give you a taste of what it is like.

Here are the Top 10 Health Benefits of Aerial Yoga:

  • Total body workout: Due to the nature of aerial yoga movements, almost all the body parts are forced to move and stretch. Muscles are toned and redefined, and joints are regenerated and strengthened due to these movements.
  • Psychologically beneficial: Just like almost any other workout, aerial yoga helps rebuild your emotional system because it clears the mind and relieves stress due to its meditative state. It also helps you combat stress throughout the day and increases your creativity, which leads you to develop your own artistic skills.
  • Improves flexibility: Aerial yoga helps you to move more freely, with less effort, by counteracting gravity. Suspension in the air releases tension on the bones and muscles, increasing flexibility and deepening your practice. Suspended yoga strengthens core muscles and increases spinal and shoulder flexibility.
  • Heals back problems: It gives you the chance to hang freely, allowing your spine to lengthen. With less strain on your back while doing the exercises, it eases tension in the spinal cord and hip joint, helping you feel better.
  • Increases strength: Aerial yoga improves strength and flexibility, which carries over into other daily activities. The core workout is a beneficial cross-training, as it helps runners increase stamina and be able recover faster.
  • Puts you in a great mood: Another key benefit of doing aerial yoga is that it gets your adrenaline going while going against gravity. It also releases “happy” hormones like serotonin, endorphins, oxytocin, dopamine, which boost your mood and help you feel more energetic.
  • Improves balance: While going against gravity can be exciting, aerial yoga also helps with balance and stability in daily activities. Balance is a key component in daily activities, and aerial yoga helps maintain a good balance both inside and out.
  • Aids digestion: The different types of stretches and movements help improve the digestive system, thus helping in healing various digestion-related issues, including constipation and indigestion.
  • Old age and heart disease: Aerial yoga improves the circulation of blood, thus combating aging and its symptoms. Aerial yoga also helps detoxify the circulatory and lymphatic systems, which lowers the onset of various cardiovascular issues.
  • Improves memory: Aerial yoga fortifies your neural connections, thereby, rendering better memory power. In a way, practicing aerial yoga can make you smarter!