Anti-gravity, aerial, air or floating yoga is huge right now. Signing up for a class? Read this first. By Li Yuling
Ready for an adrenalin rush? Try aerial yoga. Photo: Nejron / www.123rf.com
After hearing rave reviews and watching celebrity Bernice Liu give aerial yoga a go, I was too curious not to try it myself. My verdict: It’s fun but it’s hard work, and it’s definitely something you should personally experience – to decide whether it’s your cup of tea.
Aerial yoga is arguably the biggest fitness trend in town right now. Whatever you call it – anti-gravity, aerial, air or floating yoga – the workout is not that new, but it’s definitely gaining popularity. If the growing number of centres in SG offering aerial fitness classes is any indication, I don’t think the craze will die down any time soon.
So what’s aerial yoga, really?
Expect to do yoga poses while suspended in mid-air. Props like stirrups and hammocks will be used. Because your limbs or entire body will be off the ground, conventional yoga poses are adapted accordingly. Gravity helps to deepen stretches, while the instability of suspension pose a greater challenge so you get a more intense workout. The rig typically comprises support chains or beams, webbing straps, a silk hammock and carabiners – like those used in mountaineering activities. You will feel like an acrobat during the class.
Who’s it for?
Aerial yoga is generally recommended for people with experience in yoga. Newbies should attend basic / intermediate yoga classes before moving on to an aerial class to make the most of it. You should be comfortable doing poses like downward dog, plough and shoulder stand. Skip anti-gravity classes if you’re having your period.
Not the same everywhere
Aerial yoga may be interpreted and conducted differently, so you can expect a degree of variation across studios and instructors. Some centres dedicate a good amount of time to working the upper and lower limbs with stirrups before progressing to core-centric moves in the hammock. Others get you in the hammock within five minutes of starting the class.
Expect to… sweat
Depending on the images you’ve seen, you might be thinking: how difficult can swinging in a hammock get? Well, you don’t actually get to relax in the hammock until the end of the class. By then, you’d have earned it. At one class I attended, I was literally dripping within 10 minutes. And I wasn’t the only one mopping up my sweat halfway through the class. But don’t let this put you off. The classes will be as hard as you allow them to be, and the instructors encourage you to do what’s comfortable.
Expect to… feel afraid
If you think handstands are scary (what if you fall?!), doing inversions while floating several inches off the floor will probably make your heart race. I used to rock-climb, so I’m quite used to hanging on a rope attached to my seat harness, and even falling from height during a lead climb. BUT. Being upside down, supported only by a hammock wrapped around the hips and legs – and in some poses, only the hips – was actually scarier than I expected.
How does one describe the sensation? That blood rush to the brain and immense pressure on the hips… Try not to feed your insecurity with mental images of yourself slipping or your head splitting like an egg on the floor. Like your instructor will invariably say: Don’t worry, you won’t fall out if you do it correctly.
My best advice is to follow the teacher’s instructions closely. When in doubt, do not attempt any pose until the teacher is right beside you, guiding you through it. Don’t be tempted to mimic the experienced student next to you. And don’t be intimidated into trying to catch up with everyone else who seem so pro. And yes, it gets less daunting as you take more classes.
(Note: If getting into a shoulder stand on the mat is scary for you, then your first aerial yoga class might be a bit freaky. But – do you want to overcome your fear? If your answer is yes, aerial yoga is something to work towards.)
At one aerial yoga class, my classmates and I spun around in this pose. Photo: Nejron / www.123rf.com
Expect to… feel a bit sick
Not everyone gets it, but you’re more likely to feel dizzy, lightheaded or nauseous if your body is not accustomed to doing inversions or if you’re prone to motion sickness. At one class I attended, the teacher had us spinning 360 degrees around – quickly! – while hanging upside down from the hammock. That left me and a few other participants feeling a bit woozy, but hey, our other classmates seemed more thrilled than pukey.
Expect to… ache the next day
Especially if you haven’t done any kind of suspension exercise (read: TRX). That’s because your muscles have to work harder to stabilise the entire body while being suspended. At one point of a class I attended, the instructor had everyone in plank position holding on to the wobbly stirrups. Later, he had us doing sets of push-ups followed by reclined pull-ups. The next day, my pectorals ached whenever I pushed at heavy doors.
Expect to… feel really good later
As with any good workout, you’ll feel lighter and more energised several hours after aerial yoga. One instructor spoke of how the practice helped a student overcome insomnia, while another instructor talked about its calming and relaxing effects. On a personal note, I noticed that my bowel movements improved after each session – and yes, I’m super glad about that!