Did Somebody Say “Flying”?
Aerial Yoga will sweep you off your feet!
by Seda Özsoy
cover photo by Yusuf Akçura
Human beings have always dreamed of flying though I assume no one has imagined flying while doing yoga asanas and relaxing. Well, aerial yoga allows you to fly, exercise and sometimes even, it will make you sleep…
You are probably asking: How? Thanks to circus hammocks! A circus hammock is a simple but very comfortable, safe and well-supported hammock capable of carrying around 450 kg. These hammocks able you to enjoy being in the air without the need of wings while practicing any yoga posture against gravity.
Combination of yoga with the hammock creates a quite extraordinary experience. Via this technique, it becomes an entertaining, creative, strengthening, healing and relaxing practice. The technique is also unique as it guarantees 5-6 mm extension in body length at the end of the class.
The history of the hammock
The hammock was founded by André Simard, an acrobatic research and development specialist and the director of aerial creation at Cirque du Soleil and it started to be used in the art of acrobatics which is called “aerial”. Later on, by using that texture as a swing, a new technique, “aerial yoga” revealed. Antigravity Yoga is one of the most important schools having developed this system. While the form of “swing” is not an invention for yoga, it still is a very comfortable system for practicing inversions. The famous yoga master B.K.S. Iyengar is the person who integrated the idea of the swing to the yoga system.
Inversions are the most important postures for a yoga practitioner but it is not possible for everyone to do. For this reason, B.K.S. Iyengar designed a swing with the ropes, hung himself and made the inversions doable for everyone. In addition, performing the inversions by using swing puts no pressure on the spine which makes the inversion more relaxing, restful and nurturing for the spine. Today, the hammocks are even more comfortable and effective compared with the ropes of Iyengar.
Therapeutic effects of aerial yoga system
As a pilates instructor as well as a yoga teacher and fitness practitioner, I design my aerial yoga classes with a more comprehensive and broader perspective. Thereby, this practice includes all the benefits of those systems while having numerous specific benefits which you can never feel in another kind of practice.
- Expansion and opening of the spine by hanging with the hammock helps the spine to be renewed and nourished (diffusion) by soothing the pressure on discs with a deep and strong effect.
- This overall creates a therapeutic effect on the spine ailments by making even the tiny muscle fibrils relax and ease.
- Inversions done without pressure renew the blood circulation and lymph system by stimulating while also relaxing the neurotransmitters in the brain. This enhances relaxation and delightfulness. Inversions provide the body’s hormonal balance by activating pituitary gland and pineal body and help to improve the concentration.
- Movements improve the muscle flexibility.
- Relaxes the tension in the muscles through the strain and thus creates a massage effect.
- Strengthens the core area.
- Improves joint mobility.
- Provides a low impact cardiovascular practice.
- Allows us to become more relaxed and self confident by liberating from some of our structured fears.
- Provides a new, pleasant and creative yoga experience.
- It is a unique system which makes you leave the class more relieved and 3-6 mm taller after a joyful and delightful session.
When a yoga student who has never tried an inversion posture before practices it by using the hammock, he/she gets genuinely surprised and happy afterwards. During the inversions, the hammock lengthens the spine and reduces the pressure on the nerves. Also in other postures practiced with hammock, if there is an imbalance in the body which means that one side of the muscles is pulling more than the other side, the hammock helps to you to equalize. The hammock helps you to pull and lengthen your spine from both sides equally. For instance, I work with people suffering from scoliosis and herniated disc. One of my students who is more than 60 years old, said that every morning she was getting out of the bed with so much pain but after practicing aerial yoga she has no complain at all. Such improvements make me very happy because each and every experience makes me learn one more benefit of aerial yoga.
As in every system, there are some risky situations in aerial yoga. It is not recommended to be practiced in the following conditions:
– Surgery (Especially in the shoulder, waist, hip, hand, elbow and eye area)
– Heart problems
– Very low or high blood pressure
Now, you probably ask:
“It seems so hard, can I do it?”
“Can it carry me?”
“I haven’t done yoga before, how can I do it?”
“I haven’t done any inversion before, how can I do it?”
And my answer is: “Yes, you can do it.” Every day, many practitioners come with similar questions and situations and my answer is always the same. You may not believe me until you experience it because our experiences are always the best resource for our opinions. So, why don’t you try it once?
Testimonials: What did they say about Aerial Yoga?
“The main effect of Aerial Yoga on me is making me free from short-time dizzinesses I had.” Serdar
“When I first saw an Anti gravity Yoga video on Internet I wondered if I would be capable to do it and felt a little worried. But thanks to my yoga experience I did not have so much difficulty at the beginning. Although it has been just 4-5 months that I started doing this yoga style, I realize that my speed and ability are improving and some of my muscles which were relatively not working are getting more and more active. In addition, I have seen that the inversions have a healing effect on the low back pain which made me suffer for years.” Naci
“For me it is:
adrenaline because inversions make me excited and a little scared…
peace because when I am lying still in the hammock my mind is relaxing as well as my body…
elasticity because I feel that my body is stretching and opening…
improvement because my sense of direction and perception in inversions is changing…
freedom because we challenge gravity…” Zeynep
“First of all, Aerial Yoga makes me feel weightless. I have more effective results especially on strecthing parts during which the hammock plays a supportive role. In inversions, the feeling of space between the discs and vertebras is very relaxing. Antigravity postures make my muscles strenghten in a nonconventional, inverse way. Beside these, we have creative and artistic mind-body experience. It is fun also. I feel myself in an amusement park.” Aşkın
“Aerial Yoga first heals my soul, then my body. While doing it I feel myself light as a feather and very courageaous. I have been practicing from the very beginning and it makes me feel more elastic, taller and stronger.” Neslihan
“Aerial yoga which has been first practiced in U.S. and started to spread around the world came into my life thanks to my yoga instructor Seda. As a person doing sports regularly, my practice has gained a different dimension with that yoga style which is stretching the spine as well as increasing the blood flow. The inversion with hammock removes all of your problems. These antigravity postures provide a flexible and young appearance to the body and being in the hammock gives the feeling of being the center of the world. The silk hammock packs you like a relaxing cocoon. I would recommend that feeling to everyone…” Füsun
About Seda Özsoy:
Having been in many kinds of physical activities like ballet, gymnastics, modern dance, jazz dance since her childhood, Seda started practicing yoga in 2001. Following that date, she has gained a remarkable knowledge about yoga and anatomy by attending various yoga workshops in Turkey. She had already started to teach yoga when she met Monika Münzinger. She attended Monika Münzinger’s workshops and trainings in Yoga Center Bodrum. After taking her teacher training certificate from Vivekananda University she began to be interested more deeply and intensively in yoga. She took “Aspects of Yoga”, 500-hour Yoga Alliance Teacher Training from Monika Münzinger.
One day on a magazine, she saw a picture of people doing antigravity yoga and decided to learn this technique. After taking three training modules including therapeutic postures from AntiGravity® Aerial Yoga School in New York, she combined the techniques and sequences of this yoga style with her knowledge of pilates and other yoga styles and she developed a new style called “Upfit”. Recently she is teaching Upfit classes in Sports International Ankara. She continues to teach yoga as well as pilates and fitness.