- Aerial yoga uses a silk hammock to perform poses and stretches designed to increase flexibility.
- You can use the hammock to make your workout either more or less intense, depending on experience level.
- Small studies suggest that aerial yoga may help aid weight loss and increase balance and strength.
- Visit Insider’s Health Reference library for more advice.
Aerial yoga is a fun, modern take on traditional yoga that involves using a silk hammock for support as you perform yoga poses as well as strength and conditioning exercises.
This form of yoga involves many of the same poses you would find in other yoga classes and can be performed by anyone at any level, including beginners.
What sets aerial yoga apart, though, is that some part of your body will be interacting with the hammock, which can make certain poses easier and others more challenging, says Kevin Bigger, teacher training director at Om Factory School of Yoga.
“The introduction of the aerial hammock to a traditional yoga pose will sometimes offer support, but it can also sometimes make a pose significantly harder as you have to contend with balance,” says Bigger.
Here’s what you need to know about aerial yoga and the benefits it offers.
What is aerial yoga?
Aerial yoga is typically practiced in a group setting at yoga or fitness centers, with trained and certified aerial yoga instructors.
Sessions are usually 60 minutes and can cost anywhere between $US25 ($AU34) to $US55 ($AU75), says Alexander Fenton-Irias, group fitness coordinator at Crunch, South Beach.
If you’ve never done aerial yoga, here’s what you can expect in a typical session, according to Bigger:
- Hammock assignment: When you arrive, you will be assigned a hammock, which will be adjusted to your height. Most beginner classes require the hammock to be waist-high.
- Warm-up: The instructor will take you through a warm-up routine, which may or may not involve the hammock.
- Workout: The main workout will consist of a combination of traditional yoga poses performed with the hammock (which is typically three to four feet above the ground, depending on your height) as well as conditioning exercises. A yoga pose you might perform, for example, is the half moon pose, which is done with the hammock supporting your hands, ankle, upper back, or hips. Examples of conditioning exercises include supported pull-ups and plank pose variations using the hammock.
- Inversions: You will likely also spend some time hanging upside down in different inverted positions, which allow the spine to relax and lengthen.
- Cool-down: The cool-down period could include a guided meditation and the aerial version of corpse pose, where you lie in the hammock and relax your body completely.
Initially, people who try aerial yoga may experience nausea when they’re upside down; however, it usually goes away after the first few practices, says Fenton-Irias.
Benefits of aerial yoga
In general, yoga is proven to increase flexibility, improve balance, build strength, and ease back pain among many other benefits. Aerial yoga has similar benefits, though the research is more limited on this particular form of yoga. Here’s what the research on aerial yoga has found so far for how it may improve your health.
Improves balance and strength
“Aerial yoga targets all your muscles. It requires a lot of core engagement and upper body strength, and depending on the pose, the leg muscles will also be required to put in some extra work,” says Fenton-Irias.
“In fact, almost every pose in aerial yoga requires a little bit more effort from your … core than a grounded yoga class. For instance, when one of your legs is in the hammock and the other is on the floor, your core and inner thigh muscles need to engage more specifically to help you maintain balance,” says Bigger.
May help you lose weight
A small 2016 study commissioned by the American Council on Exercise that involved 16 healthy, female participants aged 18 to 45 found that doing three 50-minute sessions of aerial yoga per week for six weeks resulted in:
- Weight loss of 1.2 kilograms (2.6 pounds) on average and reduced body fat percentage
- Improved blood glucose and blood pressure levels
Who should try aerial yoga?
Most people can participate in an aerial workout, ranging from young children to adults in their 80s, says Bigger.
For people with special needs, mobility limitations, or other concerns, Bigger recommends starting out with a few private classes, before enrolling in a group session.
Consulting with your healthcare provider first can help determine whether this workout is appropriate for you, says Fenton-Irias.
“Like all forms of physical exercise, it is possible to injure yourself in class. In aerial yoga, you could fall out of the hammock, but this happens very rarely. It is no more likely that a student would injure themselves in aerial yoga than they would in other yoga classes,” says Bigger.
If you want to try a different form of yoga, try an aerial yoga class. Apart from being a fun workout, it can improve your strength and balance as well as a healthier mindset overall.
Depending on your preference, you can opt for aerial yoga classes that are meditative and relaxing or classes that are fun and exciting, like strenuous acrobatic sessions, says Fenton-Irias.