Aerial yoga can take your fitness regimen to new heights—literally. Combining the “acrobatic arts” with more traditional yoga asanas (poses), aerial yoga is perhaps the latest, trendiest iteration of the ancient mind/body/spirit integration practice to sweep the nation. While untraditional, the marriage between the acrobatic arts and yoga seems one made in heaven. Yoga already emphasizes grace, breath control, and core strengthening. And what could be more graceful than slipping the bonds of gravity to swoop and dangle like a swallow above the earth?
Ascend toward Heaven
The benefits of aerial yoga are numerous, according to proponents. Achieve spinal lengthening and ensure safe alignment while combining acrobatic arts with anti-gravity yoga poses. The practice is taking off not just because people are intrigued by the chance to recreate their favorite moments from the last Cirque de Soleil performance they witnessed, but because they’re discovering that spinal decompression and even pain relief are possible using this somewhat exotic, but graceful practice.
The growing practice is cropping up in yoga studios and gyms across the country, and features “silks” suspended from the ceiling or a suitably stable metal frame. Also called a hammock, it’s possible to tackle certain inversion poses without putting any pressure on the head or neck, as you might be required to do during ordinary earth-bound yoga. Being suspended in space requires the body to find and achieve balance and equilibrium. As a result, core muscles are strengthened, and alignment is ensured.
“Silks” are actually composed of high-density nylon, so they are capable of supporting about ten times more than the average person weighs. There’s no danger of ripping the fabric and falling to earth—or the studio floor. Silks, or hammocks, are suspended using a system of chains, webbing straps and mountain climbing-style carabineers.
In addition to promoting flexibility, strength, focus and mind/body integration—all benefits already attributed to yoga—this version claims to further intensify one’s focus, since balance and alignment are inherently more crucial when you are suspending all your weight in the air. And, like earthbound yoga, it’s especially good at promoting stress relief. The latter, of course, is an important part of cardiovascular health maintenance. Markers of chronic stress, such as blood cortisol levels, have been associated with increased heart disease risk.
It should be noted, however, that aerial yoga is not recommended for people with certain pre-existing health conditions, including pregnancy, vertigo (dizziness), cardiovascular disease, or eye disease. Check with your doctor first if you have any reservations. Otherwise, you’re free to slip the surly bonds of earth and boost wellness at the same time.
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