Aerial flow yoga is a playful and challenging way to practice yoga. Silk fabrics hanging from the ceiling are used as a prop for yoga poses, the body and the self. The silks provide traction to extend postures with the pull of gravity while providing a deep massaging support to certain areas of the body. New sensations are experienced and fresh ways to be in the body are explored. Inversions and more challenging yoga poses become accessible due to the silk support balancing deep stretching with joint stability. Students leave class feeling taller and lighter. Through intensive space creation and the development of structural awareness, overall posture is improved. A sense of confidence, trust and ease in self comes.
The aerial silk fabric is like a hammock and hangs just above the ground for a restorative practice, around hip height for a more intensive practice or at other heights for different challenges in certain poses. Initially, positions on the body for the silk fabric are learnt to find the optimal opening sensation in the mid thoracic and chest, stability in the sacroiliac joint and deep massage and hip opening in adho mukha svanasana or downward facing dog pose. The positions massage muscles and connective tissue which is intense for all students at the start. Once the body becomes accustomed to the feeling, this support allows a great sense of stira- stability and presence- and sukha- ease and joy- in yoga asanas- postures and the self.
I first observed the aerial yoga practice on retreat in Bali. Seeing yogis suspended from trees was magical. It inspired me to rig a silk in my garage and begin practicing at home. I explored traditional yoga asanas using the silk to support the most important areas of the body and experience the effects of gravity stretching the body. I was amazed at the depth of support and stretch that surrendering allowed and the sense of ease and trust that was created. The only thing I had done similar was use ropes at the wall in the Iyengar practice. The free hanging silks allowed for more variation in postures along with fluid movement and transition between poses. Much like a massage therapist maintains contact with their client through the treatment, the silks provide a reassuring sensation for the nervous system and we can develop acceptance of being supported.
Like any other props used in yoga poses, the silks create increased sensation, proprioceptive awareness and support during practice. Once base silk positions and poses have been developed, more challenging variations and sequences assist deeper opening, stretch, strengthening and agility in the body. Longer time in inversion and backbends utilising gravity to extend the spine brings a new freedom and ease. The practice of letting go is a strong feature of aerial yoga assisting the physical and emotional transformation that is the yoga. We could all benefit from a practice that assists us to trust and be supported don’t you think?
The specific benefits of an aerial yoga practice are-
- Increased muscular flexibility and joint mobility
- Decompression of vertebral discs within the spinal column
- Space creation for nerve function within the spinal cord
- Muscular and fascial tension release and deep massage
- Core and upper body strengthening
- Increased joint stability
- New kinaesthetic proprioceptive awareness
- Improved circulation
- Confidence, courage and relaxation
Sophie LeFevre is the director of Body Flow Yoga and continues to develop the aerial practice with new ways to sequence and explore traditional yoga poses. The new awareness, strength and flexibility created supports further opening to our potential- in all things.