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