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What's Aerial Yoga? How to Overcome and Invert Gravity

A playful way to exercise

A playful way to exercise

Yoga Swing Combats Gravity

Gravity is necessary but often proves to be our worst enemy in terms of chronic pains incurred from having to hold the body upright against this constant downward pushing force all day. Only a few lucky astronauts can enjoy moving freely in zero gravity. For the rest of us, aerial yoga is the next best thing. Find out how it works in practice and why it is so beneficial to play and experiment with a tool that allows your body to challenge, invert, and defy the damaging aspects of gravity. First, let us look at what an aerial yoga swing is made of.

How Is It Made?

An aerial yoga swing is made of parachute-strength fabric. It has a long and wide piece in which you can sit, swing or hang, a bit like a hammock. In addition, the better yoga swings have two arm and leg handles on each side, plus two more handles on top to pull yourself back to an upright position. You hang the swing safely from the ceiling hooks provided, or from a tree outside to practice various inverted yoga poses with full support. On a yoga swing, you can move even more freely than on a gravity inversion table while hanging upside down. They come in various shapes and sizes, ranging from a simple yoga swing that you can hang off a door frame, to those hung off large metal frames used on the beach to perform an infinity of fun and beneficial acrobatic moves as shown in the next video.

Which Part of Your Body Carries You?

The key to any type of body inversion (going upside down) is to know where one's entire body weight is carried. When we stand or walk, all the weight is supported by the feet, When we sit, most of the weight rests on the buttocks. Doing a headstand inverts the body alright but now the bodyweight presses down on the neck. Ouch! All that can change when we find out where the actual mechanical centre of gravity in the body is as explained below.

Where Is Your Center of Gravity?

If your body was a stiff pencil, balancing horizontally on a finger, its pivot point (aka point of balance or center of gravity) would be the pelvis. In other words, the weight of the body is equally distributed below and above the pelvis. Aerial yoga works on the principle that provided the center of gravity (the pelvis) is safely supported in mid-air, the body can easily and safely move in many previously inexperienced ways. The sheer experimental nature of aerial yoga is what makes exercising with it so much more fun than on any other piece of fitness equipment.

I was surprised at how easy it was the first time I tried it

I was surprised at how easy it was the first time I tried it

How Does It Work?

Set the height of the yoga swing so that the bottom of the main pouch hangs at the height of your sitting bones, the two protrusions under the buttocks. The swing moves with you but knowing you are safe, you take more risks and soon learn to achieve your desired poses in a fluent way. The process gives you renewed strength and increased flexibility you never thought you could achieve; and all that happens in a fun, playful way. Now you are ready for the first move, a simple inversion as shown in the above illustration.

  1. Stand just in front of the yoga swing.
  2. Place the lowest part of the fabric behind the waist and lean into it a little to keep it there.
  3. Hold onto the hand loops/handles and bend back.
  4. Still holding on, lift the knees, feet together, and allow the body to tip backwards.
  5. Now that you are safely attached, you can let go of the hands and let the body go down towards the floor in a delicious inversion.
  6. Stay there for five or more deep breaths.
  7. To come back up, hold the fabric or the handles and pull yourself back upright.

It looks a lot scarier than you think. I was surprised at how easy this pose was to achieve the first time I tried it. It reminded me of my childhood days on the playground.

Kids love to hang upside down. Adults too can invert gravity.

Kids love to hang upside down. Adults too can invert gravity.

Awakening the Dormant Child Within You

What do children enjoy most of all when playing physical games with an adult, asking for more, screaming: “Again, again!”? The answer is: pick them up by the ankles until they hang upside down. Children instinctively know that inverting gravity is good for the body. They can never get enough of hanging upside down because it helps them relax and grow.

Aerial yoga empowers adults to enjoy the same exhilarating sensation that children get from hanging upside down. You can use it for the most basic moves to the most spectacular acrobatics, the limits are endless, and your safety is always guaranteed.

Who Does Aerial Yoga?

Young or old, thin or fat, it doesn't matter. Whether you are flexible or not, strong or weak, anybody can do this to the limits of their own pleasure. It's a great way to increase flexibility, strengthen the body and have fun while you are working out. An aerial yoga inversion swing is like a fun toy that incidentally gives you one of the best workouts you will ever experience.

Challenge Yourself

Unlike regular exercise, aerial yoga supports the weight of your body, thereby eliminating the strain on the feet, ankles, knees and hip joints. You will improve balance, power up your core and gain strength and flexibility. Rapidly perfect your practice of supported backbends and leg stretches. Handstands, for the arms and upper body toning, are easily achieved with suspension yoga. Gentle traction for tension release in the neck and lower back decompresses the spinal disks. You can perform sit-ups, pull-ups, leg lifts, off-balance positions, or just "hang" and stretch your back, shoulders and hamstring muscles as shown in the next picture. At the end of a session, fully relax and rest in the comfortable hammock pose.

Relax the neck while toning the pelvic area

Relax the neck while toning the pelvic area

Benefits of Doing Aerial Yoga

Reversing the force of gravity in supported inversions has many benefits. Here is a list of the many benefits of hanging upside down with a yoga swing:

  • Correct alignment
  • Improve balance
  • Strengthen the core
  • Gain in flexibility by lengthening ligaments, tendons and muscles
  • Boost circulation and brighten skin tone
  • Aid digestion and elimination
  • Enhance lymph drainage
  • Relieve back pain by decompressing the spine with gentle traction
  • Reduce leg swelling
  • Reduce tension
  • Nourish and oxygenate brain cells for increased focus, speed, and memory
  • Brighten mood and combat depression

Stretching and Realignment

With aerial yoga, you can stretch, strengthen and realign (put back in the correct place) almost any part of your body. The most common areas to stretch and realign are the upper back, neck and shoulder areas. In this case, you would just place the supporting fabric behind the upper back and enjoy, quite passively, the benefits of gravity doing the work for you.

Hanging in various upside-down positions provides a safe and gentle traction to allow the joints and vertebrae to decompress. This makes you feel taller, lighter and completely revitalized upon completion.

The next video shows gentle lower and upper back release and a variety of inversions you can add to a routine.

The whole body can relax, even fall asleep in the super wide and super strong fabric.

The whole body can relax, even fall asleep in the super wide and super strong fabric.

Go For It!

It is precisely because of the many pleasant surprises you get from being able to safely move in new ways, that progress is achieved so quickly. Re-discovering your body is so much fun, you feel like you are a kid again. So I really want to encourage you, if you are looking for a new workout system, a new way to become flexible, build strength, improve posture and get into great shape, aerial yoga is definitely the way to go. Plus, when you are done being active and energetic, you deserve a good rest. When pulled out to its full width, the yoga swing can be used as a huge, flexible and safe hammock to relax, meditate or snooze away the stresses of the day.

Which Aerial Yoga Swing to Buy?

Try It Out!

I hope you enjoyed finding out more about how to overcome gravity with aerial yoga and will try some of the moves shown in the illustrations and videos above. Using one will definitely help you gain more flexibility, strength and comfort in your body.

Please share your thoughts and results by participating in the comments discussion below where you will find real-life case histories similar to your own.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


Juliette Kando F I Chor (author) from Andalusia, southern Spain on July 31, 2017:

Hi Jason,

If you are not sure what to do with your new yoga swing, you can join a class to learn the basics but if you have followed the above instructions on how to set it up correctly for your height, and possess a minimum amount of body awareness and imagination, experimenting on your own will give you the moves best suited to your own body's requirements.

Juliette Kando F I Chor (author) from Andalusia, southern Spain on November 19, 2015:

Hi Narada,

Would you like to write a hub about How to Make Your Own Yoga Swing with ropes and a blanket? I, for one, sure would like to know more about it.

Narada Vantari on November 18, 2015:

Having tried many and being a daily user ... I highly recommend the stretch velvet ones for comfort and the ability to stretch with you ... but if you dont have a swing at all then a good rope (or two) with a folded blanket over it is how I started 20+ years ago!

Juliette Kando F I Chor (author) from Andalusia, southern Spain on February 29, 2012:

It IS awesome Cloverleaffarm. Maybe there is a gym in your neighborhood where they have yoga inversion swings? Then you could try it.

Healing Herbalist from The Hamlet of Effingham on February 28, 2012:

This looks awesome. I wish I could try it.

Voted up, useful etc.