What I Learned From Trying Aerial Yoga

Photo by Kayleigh Barber

I am fairly new to yoga, but over the past semester, I have been going to a class at least once a week. While I am by no means an expert, or even any higher than amateur status, I know the names of the positions pretty well and can balance in a tree pose for about a minute on a good day. My flexibility has increased and I’ve noticed a bit more upper body strength (thanks to downward dog and plank holds), so I felt like trying out an aerial yoga class would be pretty much the same as a normal yoga class but with some added flying. Just some good, wholesome fun with a dash of exercise.

Maybe I was a little over confident in my abilities, but I went in with my two best friends from back home thinking I would get some cute pictures for the Insta and have a fun time swinging from the rafters.

I thought wrong.

The class began like any standard yoga class: stretching, child’s pose, warming up the neck and shoulders, etc. Then we added the hammock. I should add that there were eight of us in this class. Three of them were seasoned professionals (or had at least gone to a couple classes prior to this one) and five of us were newbies. There was one woman in particular who was no younger than 40-years-old and could have easily been an acrobat back in the day. She was flipping and climbing all over her hammock to the point where she could touch the ceiling. I, on the other hand, never got more than a foot off the ground.

I was familiar with all of the moves and poses that we did to some extent, but the inversions were what killed me. For downward facing dog, our legs were resting (and when I say resting, I mean exhaustively shaking) on the hammock, not on the floor. For the warrior pose sequences, we relied on the leg that remained on the floor to hold ourselves up while the other leg in the hammock leaned forward. It was all about trusting your body to hold you up, but that’s a lot easier said than done.

Then we got to the hanging positions where a crook in your back, your hips or your feet is holding your entire body, depending on if you are leaning forward or backwards. It hurts. Badly. All of your body weight is relying on a piece of bunched up fabric. It took me a couple of tries before I finally was able to let myself dangle entirely upside down, but once I did it I felt like a bat or a monkey (actually, probably more like a sloth since I was pretty tired by this point).

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Me feeling very tired at this point, but proud that I finally got this pose!

Towards the end of the class I really felt like I was in my element. We were allowed to use the entire spread out hammock to support our body instead of a bunched up piece. We lied down in the hammocks on our stomachs and used the fabric to flip ourselves over with our feet parallel to the ground. The class ended in the best way possible: just lying fully stretched out in the hammocks on our backs, eyes closed in meditation, cocooned in the soft fabric. 

This class was rough for me. I was only able to do about half of the moves in sync with the instructor and the other moves I had to practice a few times before I trusted myself enough to rely on the hammock and my body. My friend Kelly, however, seemed like a natural-born pro, being significantly more flexible than I am since she danced for the first 12 years of her life. My other friend Emily was doing fairly well also, until she got motion sick and had to sit out the rest of the class (this is actually a pretty frequent occurrence, surprisingly enough). 


My friend Kelly looking flawless and not breaking a sweat.

Overall the class was a blast—a workout—but a blast. I definitely want to go back and practice the moves I couldn’t get down before. It was absolutely a great bonding experience for us that we will have to look back on and laugh at each other for in the future.