fitness · yoga

Gonna fly now (sort of): aerial silks yoga and me

Last week was my spring break. I wasn’t traveling anywhere warm, so I decided to create my own heat through some new physical activities. I blogged about parkour class already, and am here to testify that you can work up a serious head of steam in a one hour class. 

Another class I’ve had my eye on has been aerial silks yoga. It’s basically yoga done with or in a silky nylon hammock that’s suspended from the ceiling. There are also loop handholds for more acrobatic moves.  

The yoga studio with an array of yoga hammocks, mats underneath them.
The yoga studio with an array of yoga hammocks, mats underneath them.

I went to a beginner class, required before attempting serious flipping around. I was the oldest person in the room by at least 25 years, I think. I was also the heaviest. I checked out the weight limits for the hammocks— they can hold 1000 pounds. Yay engineers! 

There seem to be two ways the silks function in these classes:

1) as a hammock. There’s helpful instruction for getting in and out of it (including backflipping with legs going over the head, feet landing on the ground. I tried it and it actually worked). You sit or lie down, with legs in many different configurations. For restorative classes the hammock turns into a cocoon, which may or may not feel soothing (I didn’t particularly enjoy being closed inside, but many people love it). 

One of my classmates lying in a purple yoga hammock.
One of my classmates lying in a purple yoga hammock.

2) twisted or bunched up, serving as a seat or swing or bind. We did downward dog this way, swinging forward and backward , then sat on the silk swing and lifted our legs to hang upside down. The instructor gave clear and very specific step by step instructions,  demoed the more complicated-looking moves, and came by to help us, making adjustments.

Some classmates getting into hammocks, with the one on the right bunching up hers.
Some classmates getting into hammocks, with the one on the right bunching up hers.

Some things I liked:

  • the novelty of using the hammock for movement 
  • Hanging upside down
  • The intense core exercises (at least in principle…)
  • Flipping around generally 

Some things I didn’t like:

  • The swaying motion of the hammock—I tend towards queasiness and sometimes felt vaguely so. This is common in their classes, and they have Altoid mints strategically placed all over the studio. Popping one took care of it for me.  Again YMMV. 
  • The lack of yoga-ness in the experience. Of course, it was my first time, so I was more preoccupied with getting this leg over there or making sure my hands were properly positioned on the silks than cultivating mindfulness. But, it just didn’t seem geared toward the body awareness I get in yoga classes. 

In the ropes yoga classes I’ve taken at Artemis, my local beloved studio, there’s a lot of instruction and demo to help you use the ropes to get in position. But once you are in position, the focus turns to the body— where you are in space, how you can choose to shift in small ways to feel differently, and how you might respond internally to the physical state you’re in. This is really why I love ropes yoga— it takes over some of the work my body usually does so I can shift my awareness and explore gravity, weight, weightlessness and the feelings those things provoke. 

I bought a two-class pass for aerial silks yoga, so next time I’ll try out their deep stretching class.    Will report back.

Readers, have you tried aerial silks yoga?  Ropes yoga? What do you think?  I’m feeling more than meh but less than whee.  I’d love to hear about your experiences.

8 thoughts on “Gonna fly now (sort of): aerial silks yoga and me

  1. I am a 100% convert to aerial yoga. I love being able to hand upside down gravity free. I love the strength. And, for me, the stretching has a gentleness that is kinder to my runner’s hamstrings. Plus, I find that it engages my body awareness in an intense way, because the balance of, for example, doing a lunge or a plank with one leg or the lower half of my body in a hammock is quite a challenge. I also do aerial pilates. But, I’ve taken friends and only 1 in 5 has any interest in ever coming again with me! The queasiness is definitely an issue that takes time to adjust to and ease.

    1. Now I’m super curious to try. Love the idea of gentle stretching. And I’m curious to see if I’m in queasy camp. Plus it looks fun!

      1. Candy ginger is the main choice for queasiness at most aerial circus studios where we often add spinning to the upside down experience! It also usually gets better with practice as your body adjusts.

  2. This sounds so cool! They just starting offering Arial Yoga at my studio and I have been too nervous to go! I loved your thoughts on it. I think I will try it soon!

  3. I’ve done both yoga and aerial classes for years. I tried aerial yoga once. It was fun, but also confusing because my body and brain were confused by the yoga-aerial combo. They kept trying to behave like this was either a pure aerial class or a pure yoga class. I’d like to try it again and I also want to try rope wall yoga.

  4. I used to practice rope yoga all the while daydreaming about silk instead. I loved everything about rope except it literally bites through your skin & the bruises ain’t gorgeous. . . planning to start aerial silk soon!

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