A little over a month ago my friend (we'll call her) K and I went to aerial yoga. For all my years being a student of yoga I had never tried aerial, or silks as it is sometimes called. I thought maybe a few of you might be thinking of trying the practice, but apprehensive like I was. I figured I should share my experience in case you're curious. Keep reading if you're interested in reading about taking a risk and trying aerial yoga for the first time. Don't forget to let me know what you think!
Early this year my friend K and I had been discussing aerial yoga. K does yoga, and is a runner, but she had never tried aerial yoga. I have always been intrigued by the practice but with my schedule being as crazy as it is, and having to figure out childcare, I never got around to actually attending a class. We chatted for a bit and decided we would go together but never really set anything in stone.
Cut to last month, where we realized K had some life changes on the horizon and we both realized it was now or never. We could no longer put it off, the time was now, we were going to try aerial yoga.
We found a local facility that holds aerial yoga classes every week. There are actually a couple of different places out there that teach aerial yoga (some fitness studios call it 'Silks') and I'm confident wherever you live you will be able to find a class nearby.
We were able to register online a head of time, which a) makes me happy as a studio owner and b) meant I was committed and couldn't back out! They offered a discounted class if it was your first time, which I appreciate because...
Full disclosure - aerial yoga is more expensive than a regular yoga class. I totally understand why. The ceiling/rigging equipment and the silks cost the facility money. They had to pay for everything upfront, meaning the price per class needs to be higher for the facility/studio/gym to make the purchase a sustainable one. Becoming an aerial yoga teacher requires special training and those teachers deserve to be compensated for their specialties. As a student I definitely had sticker shock when I saw the price of a full price class, but as a studio owner I 100% understand why it costs a bit more.
I had no idea what to expect going to an aerial yoga class so I did what two pregnancies and four years of parenting has taught me to do when I don't know something, I googled it. Surprisingly, I actually found some great advice!
Don't wear ANY jewelry - it can and probably will get caught in the silk. It may even rip the silk. Not good.
Don't wear extremely fragrant perfumes or lotions - your body is literally inside the silk and your scent can be left on the silk... more on that later ;)
Wear a tee or long sleeve shirt instead of a tank top - now the instructor and a couple of the students in our class were wearing tank tops and they seemed to survive. I like to take the advice of professionals so I wore a t-shirt. The idea behind this is that sometimes the silk can twist and rub against your upper arm, not the greatest feeling I guess.
You actually do need a yoga mat - most studios have mats to use (some studios charge you to borrow one...) but you really do need the mat. In many of the different poses we did, either our hands or feet were touching the floor. It is much easier to grip the texture of a yoga mat with your hands and feet than a wooden floor.
Equipped with my knowledge from Google, by the way I later found out K googled what to expect too, I went to aerial yoga. To be totally honest, I was a little nervous.
I am a long time Strong Tummies follower. I attended Postpartum Core Rehab, I don't have a diastisis, I belly breathe every day, after a decade of practicing yoga I can stand on my head - but I also had two babies in two years. I do not have a six pack stomach. Even though I know with every fiber of my being that the superficial appearance of my outer core is not indicative of the strength of my inner core, I still felt a little insecure.
Irregardless of my own self doubt, I showed up. I asked Granny to watched the kids. I told Gigi I was doing aerial yoga and she got really excited because she naturally thought that meant I was doing yoga with Ariel. After breaking the news to her that in fact I was not doing yoga with a Disney princess, I made my way to the studio.
K and I got to the studio, signed our waivers and made our way up to the yoga room. It is not hot yoga by any means, but was a bit warmer of a room than I usually practice in. The silks are all hanging from the ceiling and two students were already set up in front. K and I grabbed two silks next to each other in the back row. I noticed that the silk I had was set up really high, the teacher came over and explained that silks should be at about hip height when you're on your toes. We tested it out and mine was still too high, so she had me move to a silk on the opposite end of the back row. As much as we originally wanted to be next to each other, I think not being directly next to a friend was helpful. I probably would have felt a bit sillier if I knew my friend had a front row seat to all my antics!
Here's the truth about my new silk though, it stunk. Yes it was at the perfect height, but it also legitimately smelled like body odor. I'm a yoga teacher who also happens to be a mom to two toddlers and two dogs. I've smelled a lot of things in my day. I decided to suck it up (well not suck the smell up, but you know what I mean) and deal with the smell. It wasn't horrible enough to completely distract me, but every now and then I'd catch a whiff and remember the choice I made. Bodies have odor, this is a fact of life. It wasn't the end of the world, but I realize for some people this could be a deal breaker.
As far of the structure of the class, it sort of followed along the structure of a regular yoga class but not really. We started out in familiar poses, downward dog and lunge for example, but incorporated the silk into those poses. For downward dog we had the silk at our hips and swung our arms forward to reach out our fingers to the mat. For lunge we had the silk wrapped underneath our front bent leg, with the back leg stretched behind us. The front leg with the silk was floating, the back leg had the foot placed on the floor. These poses felt familiar and accessible for me.
Eventually we moved to more challenging poses and sequences. Poses where we were hanging upside down, swinging side to side, twisting our legs, moving our arms. It was hard! It also seems like a challenging class to teach. If you have a class of newbies (our class had three) you're basically spending time individually with each person to get them into the pose. It is time consuming. Where in a regular yoga class you can just kind of move on from a pose you don't understand, in aerial yoga there was no moving on. She helped us all achieve at least a version of the pose she was teaching. It felt like more of a relaxed class, than a focused, flow driven class.
My favorite pose was when we hung upside down, the silk wrapped around our hips and legs with our legs in a diamond position. I practice this on the mat, with the weight of my body on my head, neck and arms. In the silk there was no pressure on my head or neck and it felt incredible. Seriously, it felt so good. It felt like the weight of my head just perfectly released my spine. I could have hung, no pun intended, out there all night.
Alas, we had to move on to savasana, the most important pose of yoga. Being such a savasana stickler (5 minutes minimum!), I was excited. We actually had to flip our selves upside down around to take savasana and actually get into the silk because, get this, you take savasana completely suspended in air being held up by the silk - trippy. K was able to flip her self around no problem, but I couldn't quite figure it out. I was grateful when the teacher came around and gave me that last little nudge. Voila! I was laying flat, with the silk stretched all around me. My entire body, head to toe, was inside the silk. Felt amazing but, not going to lie, this in when the odor became a bit distracting. Bittersweetly, savasana did not last that long at all. I probably could have laid there forever, if I was in a different silk.
When I met up with K after class I immediately asked her if I smelled because I had been rubbing up against the silk for an hour, she said I didn't but she is also a very nice person, so who knows. Maybe I have a sensitive nose.
We both really enjoyed the class. We would definitely return again, but due to K's new adventures and my budget/childcare situation, it probably wont become a regular practice at this time. I really dislike how it may seem I'm using money and children as my excuse, but this is the season of life I'm living. Just keeping it real for you guys.
It was fun, exciting, humbling and did I mention fun? It's definitely more of a conversational class and less of an introspective, meditation class BUT that could be because there were three first timers. I'm sure if someone is consistently practicing and perhaps taking an advanced level class, they would find time for some breath worth and mindfulness.
All that being said, I've decided aerial yoga is one big trust exercise. K and I both commented that for like the first ten minutes we were just double checking that the silk could actually hold us. The room was dim, and I couldn't really see how the silk was attached to the ceiling. I had no idea what was holding it in place. I had no idea if I would break the whole entire thing. I had to trust my silk that it would be there for me.
When I teach yoga with props I often say, "Allow your self to be supported." Which for me is more than just a yoga cue, it translates to our lives off the mat. We have to allow the people in our lives to support us. With aerial yoga, I had to trust in the unknown. I had to trust in what I couldn't see. This in and of itself is a powerful pearl of wisdom for me to sit with.
Maybe aerial yoga is introspective after all?
PS Anyone reading this thinking your body is too "something" for aerial yoga - check out this incredible article: verticalwise.com/en/plus-size-aerialist My favorite quote? "How your body looks matters less than what your body can do." Yes!