Love yoga and being upside-down? We think we've found the perfect thing for you. We got to work with the lovely Melina Gale, an aerial yoga teacher, who spends most of her life upside-down, to bring you everything you need to know about Aerial Yoga.
What is Aerial Yoga?
Aerial Yoga is a hybrid yoga practice which combines traditional Hatha Yoga poses, aerial acrobatic arts and body conditioning exercises performed with the aid of an aerial hammock. Classes can range from gentle and restorative to very demanding depending on how the hammock is used, making it suitable for people of all levels of experience and physical ability.
Aerial Yoga Benefits
Aerial Yoga has all the same benefits of regular yoga with some added extras, including:
- Decompression and alignment of the spine
- Strengthening and lengthening of the body
- Upper body strengthening
- Core strengthening
- Improved balance
- Body awareness
- Increased spacial intelligence
- Relieving stress and anxiety.
Using an aerial hammock makes inversions obtainable to everyone regardless of experience or physical condition. Our bodies get better oxygenation through increased blood flow to the brain during inversions which have many health and anti-ageing benefits such as:
- Improved digestion and elimination
- Improved blood circulation
- Improved lymphatic drainage
- Improved skin tone
- Relief of spinal pain
- Helps with insomnia
- Energises the body and mind.
Aerial Yoga also helps to build confidence and self esteem. "I've noticed most Aerial beginners are under the impression they can't or won't be able to preform the inversions or acrobatics in the class," Melina tells us. "I have seen the look of pure joy on my students faces when they overcome their fear and try and actually accomplish it... sometimes they even tear up - as do I; it's really an amazing experience for both the student and the teacher."
How Does The Aerial Yoga Hammock Work?
The Aerial Yoga Hammock is made from a specific type of synthetic fabric, that is both soft and durable. The Hammock is hung from the ceiling, ending close to the floor which enables you to aid or add difficulty to certain yoga poses, while also being able to explore acrobatic movement in the air.
Differences between a Hammock, Aerial Yoga Swing and Frame
There is a big difference between Aerial Yoga and Swing. First of all the swing was originally designed just as a product along with a users guide which one could use on their own to aid in certain stretches/strengthening exercises and inversions. Aerial Yoga is a whole yoga practice adapted to the use of the hammock, taught by certified yoga teachers. The fabrics are also completely different; Aerial yoga hammocks are made of a soft, slightly stretchy fabric which is at least 6 meters long and 2 meters wide.
The Swing has handles on it and is made out of parachute material which has no stretch and is much shorter, limiting the range of movements one is able to explore. You can not step on the swing or fully get into it as you can with the Aerial Hammock.
The frame is a metal frame that you can buy and set up at your house to hang the Aerial hammock or swing from if you don't want to or can't hang it from the ceiling. There is also the handy doorway frame, the doesn't need screws; it just wedges in your door frame!
You can get the aerial yoga swing and frame set on Amazon for £89.95
Other Aerial Yoga Equipment
There is also another type of aerial exercise called "Aerial Silks" which are a long fabric hung from a very high ceiling. This is more of a dance/acrobatic performance, not yoga. And there are also aerial hoops, which is a hula hoop suspended from the ceiling where you again would perform circus-like acrobatics.
Aerial Yoga At Home
If someone wants to do Aerial Yoga at home, we would first recommend they are very familiar with the aerial hammocks and how to safely use them. Taking classes with a certified teacher is a must in order to learn the practice. It's also best if they are a confident solo yoga practitioner. If you do go the at-home route and buy your own hammock, the ceilings have to be at least 2.70 in height and there should be around 1.5 meters of free space in front and behind and either side of the exercise area, in order to be able to explore the full range of movements safely with the hammock.
Buy Aerial Yoga Hammock
If you are ready to take the plunge and buy your own yoga hammock, here are some of our favourites.
This Inversion Therapy Anti-Gravity aerial yoga hammock comes in navy blue with and extendable strip to adjust the length which is 1.8m long.
This yoga hammock is made out of a stretch nylon material. It's easy to assemble or travel with and can be hung indoors or outdoors. It can hold up to 200kg and is 500x280cm.
The Dopobo yoga hammock is 5m by 2.8m and can hold a maximum weight of 200kg. Tha material is just stretchy enough for a natural spine traction effect, so you can reap the full muscle-stretching benefits of aerial yoga.
Setting-Up Your Yoga Hammock
There are a few ways different ways you can set up a yoga hammock, and if you're not sure, you should definitely ask for help from a professional who will know if (a) the area you're drilling in to is safe and (b) how much weight it can hold. Here are some videos we've found to help you set up your yoga hammock.
Hanging Your Yoga Hammock From An Exposed Beam
Hanging your Yoga Hammock From The Ceiling Using Eye Bolts
Hanging your Yoga Hammock From The Ceiling Using A Ceiling Plate
Hanging your Yoga Hammock From A Door Frame
10 Aerial Yoga Poses
There are so many Aerial Yoga poses, almost as many as there are regular yoga poses, and we teamed up with Melina and got her to show us 10 of her favourites.
1. Wing Span Shoulder Stretch
- Stand in front of hammock
- Place shoulders through the hammock and wrap hands around it
- With the arms wide above eye level, lean forward and enjoy the stretch!
2. Downward Facing Dog
- Hold the fabric wider than the hips and place it on the hip crease
- Bending from the hips, lean the chest down to secure the hammock in place
- Walk yourself forward until your heels are touching the floor (or almost)
- Stretch arms forward and place on the ground.
3. Chaturanga Dandasana or Full Plank
- Place both feet in the hammock
- Hands are placed under the shoulders
- Keep the hips at shoulder height
- Engage your core to keep the lower back full.
4. Warrior II
- Bring the fabric behind one knee
- Open the body to the side while keeping a strong back leg
- Push front leg into fabric
- Lift arms up to shoulder height and extend away from body
- Lean weight slightly forward until you come into the position.
5. Warrior III
- Stand with feet hip-width apart
- Grab the fabric shoulder-width apart
- Push outer edges of hands down to keep wrists level
- Bend from the hips lowering torso parallel to the floor
- Lift one leg and extend back bringing it parallel to floor
- Keep abdomen engaged and tailbone lengthening towards the heels.
- Standing firmly on one leg, place the other leg into hammock behind the ankle
- Lengthen the spine and twist toward the side of the lifted leg
- Extend the arm on that same side out behind you
- Push the opposite arm on to the outer side of the fabric.
7. Inverted Backbend
- Stand in front of hammock
- Gather 1/3 of the fabric into hands and turn to have hammock behind you
- Place elbows in hammock and with hands push the hammock down so you can sit
- Grab fabric with fingers facing out and gather at the sacrum
- Start lowering the torso backwards while sliding the hands further up the fabric
- If you feel comfortable, you can let go of fabric and extend the arms to the floor.
8. Hanging Bow Pose
- Follow the same instructions to enter into Inverted Backbend
- Then Bend the knees and grab hold of the feet/ankles.
9. Baddha Konasana (Cobblers Pose or Aerial Bound Angle)
- Stand in the hammock with both feet
- Keeping hands extended at shoulder height, start lowering your hips until you form a right angle with your body
- Bring the knees out to the side and bring the soles of your feet together
- Bend the knees and bring the groin to rest against the fabric
- Lower your hips until your feet are pointing forward
- Bring your shoulders in front of the hammock and rest hands on the knees.
- Gather 1/3 of the hammock’s length in your hands and sit in the hammock
- Lie down in the hammock bringing your whole body inside of it
- Relax the whole body releasing your weight into the hammock and enjoy!
Aerial Yoga Video or Books
There aren't many books on Aerial Yoga but if you want to further your reading on the subject, here are a couple to get you started.
Aerial Yoga YouTube Videos
Here are some Aerial Yoga videos you can do at home if you have a yoga hammock.
14-Minute Aerial Yoga Vinyasa Sequence
Beginners Aerial Yoga with John and Kerry
Aerial Hammock Conditioning Full Workout with Lydia Michelson-Maverick
So what are you waiting for? Get upside-down!
Melina Gale is an Ashtanga Vinyasa trained yoga teacher from Chicago based in Greece. She trained with The Yoga People at All Yoga Thailand, and has furthered her studies in Swaha Aerial Yoga, and Prenatal Yoga. Melina's teaching style is encouraging and lighthearted, her mission is to "help her students navigate their busy lives with the help of Yoga, all with a smile on their face". For more information, check out her website and Facebook.