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Yoga on High Adds Aerial Yoga

 Nancy Alkire Yoga on High Adds Aerial Yoga
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How do you like to go up in a swing,
Up in the air so blue?
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
Ever a child can do!

Up in the air and over the wall,
Till I can see so wide,
Rivers and trees and cattle and all
Over the countryside –

Robert Louis Stevenson, A Child’s Garden of Verses

Aerial yoga at Yoga on High

I was deeply skeptical about taking an Aerial Yoga class, but I came away favorably impressed. There are many positives, as well as some caveats and quibbles, with aerial yoga, but overall I found it an excellent way to enrich a yoga practice. Also, it felt good for my sore back.

Aerial yoga programs use a variety of devices to bring more depth and add new poses to a traditional yoga practice. At Yoga On High, they have 15 soft, nylon “hammocks” that can safely take up to 2000 lbs of force for three types of aerial yoga classes: Restore, which is wonderfully relaxing, and then Flow and Strength courses. All classes are taught by experienced yoga instructors who recently certified at an aerial yoga teaching program in Colorado.

Something that struck me immediately was how much deeper I could stretch into some classic poses like Warrior 3 and Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana that I usually find difficult. Having the hammock as a “safety line” let me lean into my hip joints more, and I was no longer limited by my meager ability to balance on one foot. The strength moves against gravity were seriously difficult as a gymnast friend warned me they would be. As expected, too, doing some Cirque du Soleil aerial poses and flips was great fun, but there were three things that really surprised and impressed me about aerial yoga.

First, doing inverted poses was amazing. With the hammock taking a lot of your weight, Down Dog becomes a great backstretch and not an agony in arthritic wrists. Although some aerial yoga websites caution against doing a class if you have back pain, specifically radiculitis like I do, I found that hanging head down gave me wonderful traction in my back. I felt really good not only after a class but also for several days thereafter. I saw videos on YouTube showing senior citizens doing aerial yoga programs, and I can see why this would be an appealing program for them.

Second, I noticed that I felt more “private” in an Aerial Yoga class. Although yoga is supposed to be about concentrating on one’s own practice, I find my eyes darting around a lot. In many aerial poses, the “walls” of the hammock block the views, so I paid a lot more attention to my own yoga and not other people’s moves. The below photos show me using the hammock.

Finally, many people love yoga for the relaxation and psychologically grounding narratives built into most classes. Traditional yoga classes include imagery such as feeling the energy from the earth rising up into your body. I wondered if being off the ground would divorce me from the usual relaxation I feel in yoga, but I was pleasantly surprised at how relaxed and grounded I felt in many aerial poses. Putting my weight into the hammock was about as effective at steadying me as matwork. In fact, the final resting pose in the “cocoon” of the hammock was so deeply restful that I could have slept there for hours.

There are some cautions with Aerial Yoga. The Yoga On High website lists many medical conditions, such as vertigo and glaucoma, that are “possible contraindications” to doing aerial yoga. I would add to their list super obesity (roughly weighing twice the recommended weight for your height) and fibromyalgia. Going upside down may be uncomfortable for the seriously overweight (if you have ever had your boobs smother you in Down Dog, you know what I mean). Also, if one’s fibromyalgia is not well-controlled, the hammock will put uncomfortable pressure on the shoulder blades and hips. The website also says you should avoid doing aerial yoga for 24 hours after a BoTox ™ injection, but neither a staff member at Allergan or my plastic surgeon could explain why. Overall, I would say that the 2 hours of Aerial Yoga classes I did at Yoga on High were less dangerous than one hour spent in Rocket Yoga.

I do have a few quibbles about Aerial Yoga. During the Flow class, I sometimes found that ratio of set up to workout time was unfavorable although that is likely to change as both students and instructors become more proficient. If you are using flow yoga as exercise, you will likely burn more calories with a fast and furious Vinyasa class on the ground. I think that it would be nice to have more than one teaching assistant available especially in the Restore class. Also, although the hammock makes some poses more accessible, one must ask if that is a good thing? The work of balancing and pushing up into an inverted pose is work; therefore, I think that ground-based yoga is superior for weight-bearing exercise. Finally, aerial yoga is pricier and the classes are shorter than some yoga courses. Certainly, there are extra costs associated with the program (the fabric has to be regularly cleaned and sprayed with disinfectant in addition to the capital invested), but as a yoga consumer I must admit that there are better bargains around.

As I said at the beginning I was overall favorably impressed with the Aerial Yoga progam at Yoga on High. If you want a fun, new way to relax and get some more stretch in your yoga, I would recommend the Aerial Yoga program at Yoga on High. There are many positive features that you will enjoy whether a beginner or yoga pro. The restoration poses are especially restful and you will find new angles for building strength. Aerial Yoga brings new depth and poses to a yoga practice, and it is a whole lot of fun!

$20 drop in fee. Parking available at 1020 Dennison or at Yoga on High, 1081 North High St. Two multi-toilet restrooms on the floor above but not on the 2nd floor where class is. There is a $20 fee if you register for a class and do not show up. Note also that T-shirts covering the armpits and pants covering the knee are required.

Special thanks to Suneetha Kurra for going to class with me and taking pictures. Very special thanks also to Jasmine Grace, Michelle Vinbury and Teresa McCarthy for their gracious instruction.

Photos provided by Yoga on High. Photos of the author by Suneetha Kurra.

For more information, visit YogaOnHigh.com.

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