What Is Aerial Yoga?

If you’re looking to spice up your yoga practice, step out of your comfort zone, and even defy gravity, you might consider giving aerial yoga a try!

Below, we cover exactly what Aerial Yoga is, its benefits, how to practice it, and more. Plus, check out our follow-along videos so you can start Aerial Yoga today!

Aerial Yoga Definition

Aerial Yoga, also known as anti-gravity yoga, circus yoga, or flying yoga, is a practice that draws inspiration from circus arts. It uses a special piece of equipment known as a yoga hammock or yoga swing that supports your body weight instead of the more traditional yoga mat on a floor.

In the studios, yoga hammocks are typically attached to the ceilings, but Aerial Yoga can also be practiced outdoors, with the hammock attached to a metal frame or even a tree. Some yoga hammocks have extra straps with slots for hands or feet, expanding the number of poses you can practice.

Aerial Yoga instructors must undergo special training to teach this type of class. As well as being quite different from traditional yoga, it triggers different biomechanical processes even in familiar poses, and it comes with certain safety procedures.

Did you know…
Aerial Yoga originated in New York, founded by Christopher Harrison, a former dancer with experience in acrobatics.

Benefits of Aerial Yoga

Benefits of Aerial Yoga include:

  • Anti-gravity assistance. Some poses are difficult to execute because they put a lot of pressure on the joints or spine. With Aerial Yoga, practitioners can enjoy the benefits of backbends, arm balances, and even basic poses like Downward Facing Dog without overexerting themselves.
  • Extra flexibility. The yoga hammock can be used to manipulate the body in a way that challenges one’s flexibility. It’s not dissimilar to using other yoga props, such as blocks or straps, to help you get into the desired position.
  • Accessible inversions. Inversions can be physically challenging, as well as kind of daunting. Plus, they inevitably put a lot of pressure on the grounding point, e.g., neck in Shoulderstand or wrists in Handstand. Aerial Yoga is a great way to experience the inversion benefits without fear and with a lesser risk of injury.
  • Fun! Who says yoga has to be earnest and quiet all the time? Aerial Yoga is a great way to spice up your practice, challenge the body, and make new friends.

Aerial Yoga Poses

Some Aerial Yoga poses draw inspiration from traditional yoga sequences, while others are inspired by aerial circus disciplines. Aerial Yoga poses include:

  • Anti-Gravity Warrior I and Warrior II: These asanas can be adapted in a couple of ways. For example, the weight of the front leg can rest in the yoga hammock with the back foot on the floor. If the yoga hammock has additional straps, the Warrior poses can also be performed entirely off the ground, with feet resting in the straps.
  • Easy Pose: An accessible beginner pose where the practitioner sits upright in the yoga hammock, with their legs crossed and their back against one side of the hammock.
  • Inverted Bow Pose and Wheel: Aerial Yoga is a fun way to add a twist to your backbends. For instance, you can use the yoga hammock to support your back in Wheel Pose. If your backbend practice is more advanced, you may opt for the Inverted Bow Pose, with your chest facing up, the back across the hammock, and hands and feet connected.
  • Aerial Downward Facing Dog: Similar to Aerial Wheel Pose, you can support some of the weight in Downward Dog by placing a yoga hammock at the hip flexor area. An additional variation is to float your feet off the ground.
  • Bound Angle and Inverted Bound Angle: To enhance these poses, the yoga hammock is wrapped around the feet, ankles, and hips, bringing the heels close to the groin and opening the hips. In the inverted variation, the practitioner hangs upside down, which allows the spine to decompress.

How to Practice Aerial Yoga

If you have never tried Aerial Yoga before, it is important to do it with proper supervision. Find a studio that provides this type of yoga and book a beginner-friendly session.

Bear in mind that just like with other types of yoga, you may want to try Aerial Yoga in different places or with different instructors to find the pace that suits you. This is especially important if you have any special circumstances that may affect your practice.

Avoid wearing clothes that are too loose so that they don’t get caught in the yoga hammock. Some of the Aerial Yoga poses may create friction between the fabric and your body. To avoid friction burns, wear sportswear that provides enough coverage (e.g., leggings and top). It is also a good idea to tie your hair back to clear your vision and stop it from getting tangled in the fabric. Check out our guide on what to wear to aerial yoga for more tips.

When the practice starts, paying attention is key. Being in the air is very different from being on the ground. Listen carefully to your instructor to position yourself correctly and transition from one pose to the next. You should also listen to yourself. If the pose becomes uncomfortable or intense, be sure to let the teacher know so that they can guide you out of it.

Start Aerial Yoga at Home

If you already have some experience with Aerial Yoga and would like to try it at home, check out these follow-along videos. Be sure to check out our guide on how to do aerial yoga at home for some important tips!

Bear in mind that you need special equipment for this type of yoga.

Aerial Yoga FAQs

What Equipment Do You Need to Practice Aerial Yoga?

If you attend an Aerial Yoga class, you need virtually nothing. Make sure to wear comfortable clothes that give you a full range of motion. Avoid clothing that is too loose to prevent the possibility of clothing getting tangled in the yoga hammock. It is also advisable to bring some water as Aerial Yoga can be quite challenging.

However, if you decide to practice at home (or in your yard), you will need to invest in aerial equipment. You will need a yoga hammock and means to properly install it.

Some people attach their yoga hammock to an anchor point embedded in the ceiling specifically for this purpose. Some people like to practice outdoors with the yoga hammock attached to a tree branch or a metal frame.

For safety, ensure that whatever the hammock is attached to will not break or fall. It’s also best to have some foam matting available in case of a fall. That said, a yoga hammock is usually installed fairly low to the ground.

What Are the Contraindications for Those Who Want to Practice Aerial Yoga?

Aerial Yoga includes many elements that are absent from traditional yoga routines. For example, Aerial Yoga creates many opportunities for inversions, even for beginner practitioners. If you struggle with vertigo, tension headaches, or blood pressure issues, being inverted in a yoga hammock might exacerbate those. Additionally, some poses, including inversions, are not suited for pregnant women.

If you are hypermobile, you may need to take extra care to avoid dislocating your joints. Because you are being housed up in the air, you may find that the yoga hammock puts pressure on a particular body part as gravity pulls you down. It is crucial that you pay attention and check in with yourself every step of the way.

That said, Aerial Yoga can be adapted to include practitioners with health conditions, in some cases even relieving the symptoms. Be sure to inform your Aerial Yoga teacher of any special circumstances you may have and get clearance from your physician before your first lesson.

Is There a Weight Limit for Students Who Want to Practice Aerial Yoga?

A standard yoga hammock typically supports up to 330 lbs. in weight, and a good Aerial Yoga studio will ensure that the hammock is installed to be used at its full capacity. However, some yoga hammocks are designed to carry more weight, with some (like this YOGABODY Trapeze Swing) can support up to 600 lbs. in weight. The best thing to do is call the venue in advance and inquire.

If you reside in a larger body, you may struggle with certain moves or poses. However, a good Aerial Yoga teacher will be able to advise you on how to modify the practice for maximum efficiency (and joy!). The reverse side of the coin is that the yoga hammock may make certain poses more accessible for people who reside in larger bodies by alleviating the pressure on the joints.

Important: Check with your doctor before trying Aerial Yoga for the first time if you have any injury, illness, pain, or you are pregnant.

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