As a native New Yorker, I can tell you that New Yorkers give everything we're exposed to a bit of a side-eye before we trust it. That idea certainly applies to my relationship with aerial yoga. For me, someone who's practiced other linages of yoga for over 10 years, I always saw aerial yoga as something that just wasn't meant for me.
I weigh more than 300 pounds, so seeing a lightweight piece of fabric dangling from the ceiling does not look safe to me in any way. Even after years of Googling, I've found that most aerial yoga studios list their weight capacity as 250 pounds. The weight capacity issue along with my personal fear of heights lead me to believe that I'd always watch others take flight. That is, until I saw that Power Plus Wellness was hosting a curvy aerial yoga class. Organised by Jessie Diaz and Madeline Jones (whom I've worked with in the past), Power Plus Wellness is a community of curvy people who support one another in fitness spaces by attending fitness classes as a group.
Keep reading to find out how my six-foot-two-inch, 300+-pound self got flipped turned upside down!
Aerial Yoga Class Experience: Warmup and Sequence
On a toasty Sunday afternoon, I ventured to Om Factory in New York to try aerial yoga with Power Plus Wellness. Personally, I felt more trusting trying out something I had been afraid of for so long with other curvy people. We began class by learning how to hold on to the hammock.
Our teacher, Kristin, mentioned that our hands might feel a bit weird from gripping it for the first time and mine definitely did. My right hand, aka my cellphone-holding hand, felt a little stiff. I had to open and close my hands a few times until the grip felt more comfortable.
Once we got a grip, we moved onto a series of stretches on the mat using the hammock's floating strap to help us stretch. The initial stretches had us in a seat on the mat while we used the hammock to stretch our upper bodies. Then it was time to stretch our lower halves, requiring us to trust fall into the hammock so it could hold our torsos. OK, we didn't fall, but it was a very steep lean back into the hammock. Many of us were hesitant to lean back. Kristin noticed this collective hesitation and exclaimed "these hold up to 2,000 pounds, by the way!" The sigh of relief all of us took echoed through the studio. One by one, we safely and successfully leaned into the hammock.
The first portion of movements had us build a sense of trust with the hammock. Leaning into the hammock, we were in a deep squat with our legs a mat's-width apart going around the world noticing how we could shift in a circle and have the hammock help us glide. Next, we brought our legs together in a supported chair position lifting one leg then the other. Just as I was feeling more comfortable, it was time to stand up and start putting our legs in the hammock for hamstring stretches. The most nerve-wracking part of this section was lifting our back heel off the mat while our front leg was draped over the loop of the hammock, sort of like a floating lunge. We held onto the sides of the hammock and shifted forward. It was at this point that I trusted the hammock but was second-guessing my inner-thigh strength, so I didn't go too far forward since I wanted to be able to stand back up afterwards. All stretched out and comfortable with the hammock, it was time to fly.
Aerial Yoga Class Experience: Taking Flight
Our first of two "tricks" involved flipping upside down into Reclining Angle pose. I almost chickened out, but fortunately I knew that I was surrounded by other beginners and equipped with a strong instructor who could support each of us. After waving Kristin over, it was time to flip. Surprisingly, what I once thought was a soft gentle piece of fabric turned into a sturdy strap as I held the hammock taut at my low back. I put my trust in Kristin and the hammock, leaned back, and didn't fall.
Floating above the mat in reclining angle pose I felt this relief from the pressures of gravity on my knees and low back. It almost felt like I was a kid on a swing. Once it was time to come up, I went from playful to feeling like I was doing the most important crunch of my life to get myself right side up for Savasana. Savasana in a cocoon felt amazing.
Even with the weightless feeling of gently swaying in the hammock, I couldn't fully relax. I kept peaking up at the ends of the hammock that were attached to the ceiling just to make sure nothing was coming loose. I was nervous that if I trusted it too much, it would break and I would crash into the ground. Maybe if I had taken my anxiety medication, I could've fallen asleep from how soothing the swaying felt.
Thoughts Having Done Aerial Yoga
All in all, turns out the hammock that I thought was a flimsy apparatus was actually something I could find a bit of comfort in. With the emotional journey that hour-long aerial yoga class was, will I do it again? Yes! I'm actually excited to sway in a hammock again. Time to book another class.