The 8 Most Common Misconceptions about Aerial Yoga
There are a few misconceptions around Aerial Yoga that we would like to talk about...
I've been teaching aerial yoga for more than 7 years, after doing the first Antigravity training in Australia with its founder Christopher Harrison. Now I teach at my own home studio Garden of Yoga, and I've really got to discover what an inclusive and accessible practice aerial yoga can be.
However, what I experience at my home studio is often quite different to how I see this practice portrayed online - and I get so many emails from people who want to try, but are put off by some the misconceptions I've listed below, or because they don't look like the pictures they see on the internet!
My words below reflect my own teaching philosophy, and every teacher is unique, but hopefully it will be helpful information for anyone who has been curious about this practice.
It is a miracle weight loss tool
All movement can be helpful for health and fitness - but for our mental health and emotional wellbeing, not just physical appearance.
And the best type of exercises?
The type we actually enjoy.
We are bombarded with messages about how we should look by advertising and media - I'd much rather focus on the aerial hammock as a respite from all this negativity and pressure - a safe space where we can focus on nurturing ourselves and tune in to how these movements feel in our bodies.
Sometimes that may take the form of some strength building movements that help us tap into our inner strength and power, sometimes a fully supported restorative cocoon - but yoga is a practice to explore who we are as a whole, multifaceted, amazing human being - not another aspect of toxic diet culture.
You have to be super strong and flexible
You may need to strengthen specific parts of your body (like grip strength) for certain moves but are always gentler options, and preparatory sequences to gradually build strength. Start with a Beginners, Fundamentals, or Restorative class and you'll be fine.
Aerial yoga is much less physically demanding than Tissu or aerial silks, because the hammock shape of the fabric can support your weight. This also means that it can actually be a more accessible practice than floor based yoga - especially since you don't have to get down on the floor for many of the moves, and can reduce the pressure on the knees, wrists and spine.
As with any yoga class, if you have any concerns about injuries, or are wondering if a class will be suitable for you get in touch with the teacher in advance.
I'm too big for aerial yoga and worried the hammock won't hold my weight
The equipment and rigging I use is strong enough to support 500 kgs, and can be used in a similar way to a chair (although sometimes even more versatile) to adapt yoga postures for larger bodies. There are also moves where you literally just lay in the fabric and are completely supported by it, but can still explore a wide variety of spinal movements.
I'm super passionate about sharing aerial yoga as an accessible practice for yogis of all sizes - and I'm always learning, sometimes it might take a while to find a variation of a movement or an alternative option that best suits an individual - but this is true for yogis of all sizes - and the fabric does give way more options and possibilities than the floor.
Just like with injuries, if you have any questions or concerns, just get in touch with the teacher before class.
I'm too uncoordinated - everyone else will know what they are doing
If this is a concern, start with a Beginners or Fundamentals class where everyone else is also new. In the first few sessions everyone has to wrap their brains around how to move in and with the fabric - and I think everyone feels a bit uncoordinated at times!
However this process of learning new movements is actually really beneficial for our brains, and the concentration and focus required means theres not much room for distraction - it can be a form of movement meditation. So embrace the challenge of learning something new, and exploring a little beyond your comfort zone. My teaching philosophy is that I will always make sure that everyone has a movement that is an appropriate level of challenge - if you don't feel ready for something I'll make sure you have another option!
Everyone else will be in designer crop tops and booty shorts
Actually the best clothes to wear are the ones that cover your arm pits, thighs and any other places the fabric might chaff you - so comfy leggings, track suit pants, t shirts and longer sleeved tops are the best choice. I've also been known to do my morning practice in my pyjamas - whatever you feel comfortable in is the best choice. Just remember to take off any jewellery and avoid clothes with zippers to protect the fabric.
I'm too old for aerial yoga
This is actually a fantastic practice for older yogis! You get to work on balance, stability and do weight bearing exercise to help build bone density in an adaptable and supported way. There are some movements that are contraindicated for bone density issues, but there are plenty of alternative options, and most people are surprised at how much they are able to do, and how good they feel after class. I regularly teach people who are in their seventies, and once had the pleasure of teaching an 82 year old grandmother (she was visited our studio while traveling from Canada).
It is only about the physical aspects of yoga
This is often what we see online - fancy circus type moves that don't really show the more subtle aspects of this practice. However, the fabric can be a really helpful way in to meditation, being cocooned in the fabric can give a literal sense of pratyahara (sense withdrawal, moving awareness inwards) and the focus required to move in new ways can be a means of cultivating dhrana (the concentration aspect of meditation). I've also found that people who are uncomfortable sitting or laying on the floor are able to relax and let go in the fabric, and other people say that they find meditation so much more easier with it's support.
Aerial yoga is just a gimmick or fad
Aerial yoga has certainly had a media moment, many of the moves are photogenic and there are plenty of articles about the different celebrities who do this practice. However, I believe that the benefits of this practice will outlive the hype. Ultimately this is just another (really helpful) yoga prop - like the chair, block or Iyengar rope wall (which it is pretty similar to in many ways).
I feel like some of the most powerful benefits of this practice are opening up new movement possibilities to people working with injuries and different needs, and giving everyone the opportunity to feel good in their bodies and nurture themselves. I'm super passionate about the possibilities and accessibility of aerial yoga and I hope that this article gives people who have been curious about this practice the confidence to give it a try!