The Basics of Aerial Yoga (Also Known as Anti-Gravity Yoga)
Aerial yoga is a twist on a traditional practice called "inversion yoga." But, this variation takes inversion yoga to new heights. Literally.
Combining elements from hatha yoga, Ayurvedic medicine, pilates, holistic health, anatomy, and physiotherapy, this form of exercise mixes together ancient yoga techniques with modern aerobics in order to create a total body workout that is fun, yet challenging. This workout was developed by a former gymnast, Chris Harrison, and is rapidly growing in popularity because of its numerous health benefits, which rely on a scientific theory known as the "theory of counter-gravity." Unlike traditional yoga, this variation gives practitioners more room to stretch in every direction, which can deepen the practice overall.
Aerial yoga is technically a yoga-inspired exercise, not a yoga concentration. Practitioners engage in poses while utilizing hammocks that allow them to suspend in mid-air. The hammock (also known as a yoga swing) suspends from the ceiling using mountain-climbing hooks, allowing the practitioners to perform more complex stretches and increase their flexibility.
Although this practice is performed in studios due to the complex equipment that is required, yoga hammocks are becoming more and more popular for at-home use as well.
How Aerial Yoga Works on Your Body
Based on the theory of counter-gravity, suspending the body via the hammock is extremely beneficial. Gravity stresses the body by weighing the body down, causing compression of the spine and increased muscle tension. Counter-gravity works to reverse the negative effects of gravity by decompressing the spine, releasing muscle tension, and enhancing blood circulation. The hammock is also intended to assist in proper body alignment and deepen awareness.
Benefits of Aerial Yoga
- Re-alignment of the spine
- Reduced back pain and soreness in the muscles
- Healthier digestive and lymphatic systems
- Increased relaxation and improved mood
- Anti-aging, due to the counter-gravitational effects on the body
- Improved flexibility
- Higher levels of energy
- Increased focus
- Decompression of the joints and spinal discs
- Increased endorphin levels
- Cardiovascular improvement
- Improvement of symptoms in those with breathing conditions
- Increased muscular strength
- Improved blood circulation
Tips and Safety Measures When Practicing
- It can be performed by almost anyone but requires certain safety measures to avoid injury.
- If you have no experience, it is best to start off in a class before practicing at home so you can learn how to move in your hammock and understand how to perform certain exercises.
- Wear comfortable clothing, ideally long sleeve shirts and long pants so as to avoid injury caused by the hammock rubbing against the skin.
- Most importantly, start off slowly and progress at a cautious pace. Injury can occur if performed improperly or when using equipment that isn't well-secured.
Frequently Asked Questions About Aerial Yoga
How difficult is it?
Aerial yoga isn't necessarily as difficult to do as it is to get used to. The hardest part is getting used to the hammock, and learning how to move in it. Once you get comfortable, you should find the poses easier and more comfortable to perform.
I am pregnant. Is it safe for my baby and me?
Those who are pregnant should not practice aerial yoga unless they have spoken to a physician first. In general, inversion yoga is not typically recommended for pregnant women.
Who can safely practice aerial yoga?
Those in good physical condition can safely engage in this exercise with no problems. If you have ever had surgery on your hips, or if you have had any other surgery within the last year, avoid aerial yoga and consult with a doctor.
Aerial yoga is not recommended for pregnant women, those with glaucoma, people who suffer from either high or very low blood pressure, those with osteoporosis, or those who have recently suffered from a stroke.
What benefits will I see in a regular yoga exercise routine?
Benefits include improved ability to breathe, increased cognitive abilities, improved spine health, and a healthy digestive system. Other health benefits include increased flexibility, improved lung function, and proper alignment of the spine and hips. Aerial yoga is a unique workout that combines cardiovascular and strength training components in order to provide you with a full-body workout.
I am interested, but where should I start?
Even those experienced in traditional yoga should start off with the help of an instructor. Group classes, as well as private lessons, are offered by trained aerial yoga practitioners.
For those who want to practice at home, I advise you to begin with an instructor in order to ensure that you use the hammock safely and that all equipment is safe to use.
Inversion Yoga Compared to Aerial Yoga
|Inversion Yoga||Aerial Yoga|
Involves floor exercises focusing on inverting the body
Suspends the body mid-air using a yoga swing to provide deeper inverted stretches
Improves balance, concentration and focus
Improves coordination, decompresses the spine, improves blood flow and strengthens the muscles
Involves a mat
Involves a hammock made of silk that attaches to the ceiling
Puts too much pressure on the neck in certain poses. Limited range of motion
Endless range of motion and no pressure on the neck or spine
Strengthens the core
Strengthens all of the muscles and provides a rigorous cardiovascular workout
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.
© 2014 Kathleen Odenthal
Chelsea on February 21, 2016:
Love aerial yoga, but it's still regular gravity... not 'counter-gravity'. You're just upside down, so regular ol' gravity is pulling your spine toward the earth in the opposite direction than normal.
LupitaRonquillo from Colorado on July 01, 2014:
Very, very interesting presentation of aerial yoga! I agree with you that this new form of exercise is not truly a yoga concentration because it doesn't focus on the breath and instead uses asana techniques and pilate movements for a fun and challenging workout! Voted up.
Kathleen Odenthal (author) from Bridgewater on June 13, 2014:
Thanks Jodah! I stumbled across an aerial yoga swing on Amazon a few months back and had to try it out! Its so amazing, I can't believe the relief I got in my back. I highly recommend this to anyone who can do it safely. It is definitely hard to get used to, and a bit scary! But once you get going it can be addicting, I have my own yoga hammock now and its awesome.
John Hansen from Australia (Gondwana Land) on June 13, 2014:
Wow! How interesting Kathleen. You are always writing hubs about things I wasn't aware of. I had heard and tried inversion therapy...(hanging from the doorway and doing sit-ups etc), but never heard of aerial yogs. Good stuff. Voted up.
Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on June 12, 2014:
Thank you for the information on these new yoga practices and purposes. Your section on question and answers is very helpful.
swilliams on June 11, 2014:
What an interesting article! I love to try new things but this looks dangerous. I think I would fall out of the sling and crack my head wide open, or get dizzy swinging around. Nonetheless, I admire those that can make this art form work. Great job!