Aerial Yoga – Supporting Your Practice at Any Stage

Author: Kelly Foong | Photographer: Jamie QZ | Yoga Demo: Jowing Zhang

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Aerial Yoga

Supporting Your Practice At Any Stage

Figure 1: Supported warrior 3 pose

Have you ever been interested in trying aerial yoga but you weren’t too sure if it was for you? Maybe you thought you’re still a beginner and not strong enough to attempt aerial yoga yet? Perhaps you’re committed to a more traditional mat practice and don’t think aerial yoga is for you?

Aerial yoga can support your practice at any stage – whether you’re new to yoga or a seasoned yogi. Think of the aerial hammocks as another helpful learning tool such as the more familiar yoga blocks and straps!

Let’s look at some ways the aerial hammock can support you at the various stages of your practice.


Stage 1: The Discovery of a New Movement Practice

When you’re newer to the practice, there’s so much new information to take in and process – learning names of body parts (or discovering muscles you didn’t know existed); trying to not only not hold your breath but somehow coordinate it with your movements; AND somehow balance on one leg???

The aerial hammock can make the practice a little more accessible by taking away some of the balancing component so you can focus on the other aspects of your practice such as your breath and engaging the right muscles. Try these poses below and then see if you can incorporate the same feeling without the aid of the hammock.

Warrior 3 (Virabhadrasana III): Placing the hands into the hammock gives you something physical to push down and forward. Think of reaching in opposite directions (see figure 1 above).

  Figure 2(a) : Full expression of extended hand-to-big-toe pose

Figure 2(a): Full expression of extended hand-to-big-toe pose

  Figure 2(b) : Supported extended hand-to-big-toe pose

Figure 2(b): Supported extended hand-to-big-toe pose

Extended Hand-To-Big-Toe Pose (Utthita Hasta Padangustasana): In the full expression of the pose, as the name suggests, you would hold onto the big toe of the extended leg (figure 2(a) above). The hammock allows you to feel the pose without being limited by hamstring tightness and takes away some of the balancing challenge so you can learn to push the hips forward and concentrate on building strength in the standing leg.


Stage 2: Riding on a High – The Honeymoon Period

Now that you’ve been going to classes more regularly and are starting to get a hang of this whole yoga thing, maybe you’re wondering why you still can’t float into your first crow pose (figure 3(a) below) – which you hear a lot of teachers say is the gateway pose into other arm balances. How do you start on this arm balancing journey?

  • Tip 1: Focus on your foundation and read our chaturanga dandansana article here.

  • Tip 2: Understand that it’s more than just your abs by learning how to engage your real core here.

  • Tip 3: Using the aerial hammock to learn and feel the importance of weight transference and protracting your shoulders (rounding your upper back) – see figure 3(b) for reference.

 
  Figure 3(a) : Supported crow pose

Figure 3(a): Supported crow pose

 
  Figure 3(b) : How to get into supported crow pose - Think of shifting shoulders past the wrists and pulling knees as close in towards the armpits as you can whilst rounding the upper back. Bonus: This is a great core workout too!

Figure 3(b): How to get into supported crow pose - Think of shifting shoulders past the wrists and pulling knees as close in towards the armpits as you can whilst rounding the upper back. Bonus: This is a great core workout too!

Using the aerial hammock in this way makes the pose accessible as it removes the fear of face planting and no matter what level of strength you have, anyone can get the feeling of floating. It doesn’t matter if you can’t pull your knees all the way in to the back of your arms as pictured above – over time it will come!

Once you’ve gotten a hang of crow pose, why not give Eka Pada Koudinyasana II (figures 4(b) below)a try? Most people find difficulty getting the back foot lifted off the ground. The modification with the aerial hammock in figure 4(a) allows you to feel the pose whilst having the support of something to press into to keep you lifted. With the extra support of the hammock, you have a little more freedom to work on making sure the shoulders are not dipping down towards the mat. Keep the shoulders lifted in line with the elbows.

  Figure 4(a) : Supported eka pada koundinyasana II

Figure 4(a): Supported eka pada koundinyasana II

  Figure 4(b) : Eka pada koundinyasa II without support. Make sure to not lift the back leg too high and dip the shoulders down.

Figure 4(b): Eka pada koundinyasa II without support. Make sure to not lift the back leg too high and dip the shoulders down.


Stage 3: The Committed Lifestyle Habit – Overcoming Plateaus

You’re out of the honeymoon phase where excitement fueled your practice. Instead, yoga is now a lifestyle habit and you practice just because. However, sometimes you feel as if you’re no longer advancing in your practice and things have reached a plateau.

Aerial yoga is something that you can incorporate into your routine to help you grow your practice on the mat, as it can deepen your inversions and backbends practice.

If you’re newer to handstands or find that you have a hard time avoiding a banana back, the fully supported version with the aerial hammocks in figure 5(a) below gives you the chance to find your straight line and still put in all the work whilst removing the fear of falling over.

  Figure 5(a) : Fully supported handstand

Figure 5(a): Fully supported handstand

  Figure 5(b) : Less supported version

Figure 5(b): Less supported version

  Figure 5(c) : Start in a plank with both feet on the hammock. Slowly transfer shoulder over wrists and pike the hips up (think hips stacked above shoulders, shoulders above wrists). Then maybe play with lifting one leg up.

Figure 5(c): Start in a plank with both feet on the hammock. Slowly transfer shoulder over wrists and pike the hips up (think hips stacked above shoulders, shoulders above wrists). Then maybe play with lifting one leg up.

If you’re more confident with your handstand practice and don’t need as much support, try just having one foot pressing into the hammock whilst the other leg is lifted straight up (see figure 5(b) and (c) for reference). The hammock is great because it moves forward with you as you try to stack your hips over your shoulders.

Do you normally feel compression in your lower back when practising backbends such as Ustrasana (camel pose)? Hanging on the aerial hammock allows you to decompress your spine by using gravity to lengthen your spine. You will find that backbends tend to not only be more accessible on the hammock but also pain-free. Try it on the hammock and see if you can replicate the same feeling of lift in the chest when practising camel pose independently on the mat.

  Figure 6(a) : Camel pose (ustrasana)

Figure 6(a): Camel pose (ustrasana)

  Figure 6(b) : Supported camel pose using gravity to help you lengthen your spine instead of dumping into lower back

Figure 6(b): Supported camel pose using gravity to help you lengthen your spine instead of dumping into lower back


Not Just Fancy Tricks – A Complementary Practice

There is a common misconception that aerial yoga is just fancy tricks and manoeuvres. Yes, it can be fancy at times but what makes aerial yoga (keyword: yoga) different from the aerial arts is that fundamentally, it stems from a yoga practice and so incorporates many of the traditional yoga poses with a focus on breath. The hammock is just another prop to have in your toolbox to help advance your practice.

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Why not try an aerial yoga class for yourself to see how it can help your mat practice? If you’re completely new to aerial yoga or to yoga in general, try one of our aerial intro classes. If you’re a more seasoned yogi, come to one of our aerial flow classes. Or build core strength using  your real core muscles, try our aerial core classes. Book a class here.