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Writer Tracy Jones test drives aerial yoga.
If hanging upside down from the ceiling in an inverted yoga pose doesn’t sound like fun to you, you’re missing out.
Let me start off by saying that yoga has never been my thing. I’m not flexible, I’m clumsy, and I can’t even touch my toes with my legs extended. But I do like to try new things, so, of course, I signed up for an aerial yoga class this month.
It was comical, to say the least.
For those unfamiliar, aerial yoga is a variation of traditional yoga with a giant piece of cloth suspended from the ceiling like a swing. My class took place at Cirque de Vol downtown, in a room full of other newbies. Thankfully, this studio requires that you take the beginner’s class first if you, like me, have no experience. There was comfort in knowing that everyone else was as clueless, and possibly as intimidated, as I was.
We started by picking out our aerial fabric and ensuring it was adjusted to rest just below our hips. Positioning is key once you start lifting your legs off the ground, to prevent injury. Once I was situated next to my golden fabric, the class started easy. There was a little stretching, a lot of deep breathing and some traditional yoga poses like happy baby.
Then, things changed.
We placed a foot in the silk behind us and stretched in various poses. I must say that because running is my primary exercise, my hips tend to get tight. These single-foot exercises stretched me out in a way I never thought possible and I feel more flexible today, so bonus!
Now, here comes the painful part: standing in the fabric. I was surprised that it hurt my feet as much as it did, because it’s cloth, but the tightness was intense for me. The instructor said it gets better over time, so maybe with a few more classes I wouldn’t notice as much.
I wasn’t great at focusing on my core, so I was swinging all over the place, but I did complete every pose while standing. I was proud of myself for that, even if I was spinning out of control.
The fear factor came with our first inversion. With a few careful wrapping motions of the arms and feet, we were supposed to flip ourselves upside down and relax. There was nothing between me and the wooden floor, other than a thin yoga mat, so to say I was nervous is an understatement. I waited until most of the room flipped without disaster, then tried it myself—and nailed it! Inversion one, complete.
Feeling braver, I was willing to conquer the traditional downward dog pose with the silk at my hips. I immediately felt like I was going to slingshot onto my head, but our instructor urged us to relax into it and trust it. I was told to lift my legs high off of the ground, into a high “V” position. Say what?! I did it, but the fabric hurt my hips so I came down earlier than the rest of the class. Looking around, I wasn’t the only one who hesitated.
The class finished with a soothing moment in the comfortable cocoon that the fabric becomes when it’s all pulled out. We were like a room full of caterpillars waiting for metamorphosis.
The bottom line: Aerial yoga was a ton of fun to try. If you’re looking for a low-impact workout that taps into your physical awareness and helps stretch you out, give it a go. If you like it, there are more advanced classes you can take.
Cirque de Vol is located at 300 W. Hargett Street, #40 and offers aerial yoga, trapeze, aerial fabrics, fitness and dance classes.
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