We all see the images of Aerial performances on social media and are mesmerized by the beauty and athleticism. However, we may be unaware of how aerial can be very beneficial for your physical body and your mind. About four years ago I started at home with my first apparatus. Having been a tomboy as a child I only wanted to hang upside down. Little did I know it would start me on a life changing journey.
I started practicing yoga when my first son was born and he is now 18. Yoga, my first love, made me stronger and ignited a fire within me to teach yoga. I had been teaching yoga for a few years when a friend and mentor of mine opened an aerial yoga studio an hour away. Excited I attended my first class. During this aerial yoga class I felt free and liberated and knew I had found a new passion. Immediately I ordered 5 aerial hammocks and started classes of my own. I had no formal training but knew yoga and invited others to practice with me. Within 8 months I had to move to a brick and mortar studio to share my vision.
We can see the beauty of this practice immediately however, what I started to notice deep within myself was more than I ever imagined.
Early in my yoga practice I tore the infraspinatus muscle in my shoulder. This was a nagging injury which would never heal properly and caused me constant ache and discomfort. A huge part of our aerial classes are strengthening and lengthening yoga postures incorporating the aerial hammock. Several weeks into classes I noticed less and less pain in my shoulder. Almost like a chiropractic adjustment for alignment and actual muscle repair. Empowered by this improvement I could also see my body change with added muscle tone and strength.
Improvements on the surface were enough to keep me motivated and to have the studio thrive, yet something more was blooming beneath the surface.
When you begin aerial it is uncomfortable due to the binding of the fabric. The fabric supports all of your weight and the places on your body where the silk wraps creates a breaking down of fascia, much like foam rolling. After a few classes the discomfort passes as the fascia is broken down and flushed away from the surface. Just as the benefits of foam rolling leave you feeling as if you had a massage so does your aerial practice.
Travel back with me when I was a new yoga teacher and began teaching yoga to seniors. There was limited training on the subject yet I used my personal yoga practice to lead the way. My class of seniors were an amazing group ranging in age from 50 to 90 years old. I noticed a disconnect when we performed right and left brain functions. As if the different sides of the brain were not communicating as they did when they were younger. I saw a piece on Super Brain Yoga (Using cross lateral body connection and movement to make you smarter) on YouTube. I began incorporating cross lateral movements heavily into our senior practice. After time these seniors began having stronger movement patterns and performed better with right and left brain movements.
Return to our aerial practice: An aerial practice is constantly switching between right/left side, and up/down motion, and forward/back. When aerial students pick their feet off the ground, right and left is a foreign topic. There is a problem understanding direction when inverted and off the floor. A disconnect similar to the seniors. However, after weeks of practice the different hemispheres begin to communicate and a deeper understanding evolves. “Practice and all is coming” A quote from Sri K Pattabhi Jois, rang true because with practice this disconnect or lack of understanding dissolves and a balance in the mind is achieved.
Inversions are effortless in aerial yoga and if you have ever been on an inversion table and practiced them in yoga you are aware of the way they make you feel. Inversions have proved to provide relief for back pain and compression in the body. However, inversions are not recommended for those with high blood pressure or glaucoma. Inversion can change your perspective and give you a rush of endorphins. Hanging upside down does have serious side effect, they make you feel like a kid again.
Just as in yoga, aerial increases your mind body awareness. There is a connectedness required for an effective aerial practice. Connecting the toes with the tips of the fingers, creating the energetic connection throughout the body provides the lift needed to float through the air.
Over the years I have noticed the change in myself physically and mentally. Aerial is a cross between flying and swimming which has created a practice on another level to my yoga. I have been humbled and felt like a kid on the monkey bars. My mental clarity and sharpness is elevated. If you have the ability to let go of your ego and let go of what you think you can’t do, try aerial and embrace the growth.