Up in the air
What springs to mind when you read: Aerial yoga?
Perhaps the gravity-defying feats of the daredevil troupes at Cirque de Solei? Well, you’re not too far wrong — only it’s not as intimidating as it sounds.
With roots in circus performance, aerial yoga is the latest in yoga.
The benefit of regular yoga is well known — boosting flexibility, cardiovascular fitness, blood circulation and easing muscle tension. Aerial yoga takes the gravity out of the equation.
Inversions — or going upside down — is one of the key factors in aerial yoga. Sayshie Poynton, studio manager at Rafters Aerial Fitness, says this part of the class is great for decompressing the spine — assisting with lower back pain and bulging discs.
“We’re walking around all day with gravity pushing down from the crown of our head, right down into our pelvis, ” she says.
“When you’re working upside down, gravity is working to help you lengthen that spine again and make some space.”
As well as decompression, benefits of inversions may include realignment of the spine, release of endorphins and an increase of neuroplasticity of the brain — helping our ability to learn.
Sarah McLachlan, AntiGravity Yoga instructor at Performance Pilates and Physiotherapy, notes flexibility and joint mobility, a reduction in muscular tension and core strengthening (plus increased self-esteem and mindfulness) as some of the top benefits.
A key component of aerial yoga is the hammock, which is used to take the weight and offer support.
“Using the hammock is a good way of introducing people to what we do, ” says Ashley Lau, co-owner of The Airspace.
“Aerial training can sometimes be quite intimidating but by using a hammock, you can be a bit more supported than just having to hold your own body weight.”
Mr Lau says it’s all about taking it as far as you want to go with aerial yoga.
“Because your body weight is partially taken by the hammock, it can add a level of stability — or, depending on where you place the hammock, you can also get more of a challenge, ” Mr Lau says.
Ms Poynton says aerial yoga is attracting professional dancers looking for greater flexibility.
“It’s a great tool to get an extra stretch, ” she says.
If you’re looking to break up your usual exercise regime, an aerial yoga class might do the trick.
“People are starting to look for safe and alternative versions of existing, traditional forms of exercise — everyone’s really enjoying the fun aspect of the class, ” Ms McLachlan says.
Trevor Aung Than, co-owner of The Airspace, says the classes are challenging — but rewarding.
“People like coming to the class because it’s fun. It’s hard and challenging, you build up a sweat and you’re sore for a couple of days but its fun, ” he says.
“It’s something very different, helping us explore a different movement vocabulary.”
Time to fly
When I went to AirYoga at The AirSpace, more than anything I was curious about whether I could get upside down without too much of a fuss.
With the help of instructor Trevor Aung Than, I soon learned the class was circus-like and fun from the get-go.
Using the hammock made me feel like the workout was coupled with performance, which made me more determined to move gracefully and with strength through the new exercises I was given. With each exercise we completed, the hammock felt increasingly settled around my body.
We began with simple exercises — for example, taking the hammock in our hands and moving from one side to the other in a lunge-like movement. Changing legs during some of these standing exercises was done using a swinging motion, which required a lot more strength than I expected.
I really struggled to invert the first time, but once I was in the right position it wasn’t as difficult as expected. I did find it quite disorientating though — up, down, left and right all required a bit more thought than usual and my body weight and balance felt different to normal. I tried again later the same day and it was already a lot easier.
My stomach muscles got a good workout, too — I was surprised that just one AirYoga session really seemed to boost my strength in general.
In the days following the class, I could feel my core muscles but nothing was overly sore or uncomfortable, despite the intensity of the exercise.
The verdict: This class is fantastic — I’d recommend it for all ability levels (due in large part to the patience of the instructor) and anyone interested in trying something different and fun.
AirSpace Leederville. Phone 9328 5481 or visit airyogaperth.com.au.
© The West Australian
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