Flying High with Yoga
Being a regular yoga practitioner, I practiced different styles of yoga at different points of my life, choosing a style that suited me during that period of my life. While I was pregnant with my first child, I did a lot of “Flow” yoga which is a mindful, gentle flow of asanas (postures) with attention to breath. Perfect for pregnancy; slow, relaxing yet had some strengthening elements as well. Once I delivered, I was in need of something a little more hardcore. I wanted my strength back and I needed to work my core. I turned my attention to Aerial yoga, also known as Fly Yoga here in Kuala Lumpur; a new style of yoga I decided to try after the birth of my first child.
So what is Aerial Yoga?
Aerial yoga uses a specially designed hammock suspended from the ceiling that allows the body to move in mid-air. In aerial yoga, you will explore new and traditional yoga asanas, with your body weight partially or fully supported.
It was invented by Christopher Harrison, a former aerial performer, gymnast and Broadway choreographer. Its original name, as given by Harrison was Antigravity Yoga and was approved by the AFAA - the governing body for physical fitness in the U.S. - in 2007.
Aerial yoga involves movements inspired by yoga, calisthenics and aerial acrobatics. It works with gravity to relax and realign the body. For example, “when a new student drapes over the hammock in Downward Dog, gravity does the work for them. The hammock helps with lengthening and creating internal space, “ says Michelle Dortignac, founder of Unnata Aerial Yoga. “People are also naturally curious about what it might feel like to fly or be suspended. Aerial yoga is a chance to dream and to play, to try something different and put yourself in a position you never thought you could be in,” adds Dortignac.
The hammock that can support up to 300kgs, will ease pressure, create space in your joints, decrease compression in your spine, and help you find more mobility. Hanging upside down may seem risky, but you can invert in the hammock without putting pressure on your head or spine as you would in classic inversions, which can lead to back and neck pain and injury over time, explains Joe Miller, a New York City–based yoga teacher who leads anatomy and physiology trainings around the U.S. 
Benefits of Aerial Yoga
Strengthens the Core
Being suspended means you have to use your core muscles more to stabilise the body compared to being on the ground.
The hammock allows the practitioner to find the correct alignment in the poses. It can improve posture, joint and spinal movements as well as regenerate and strengthen the joints. Aerial yoga has helped alleviate backaches due to the decompression of the spine as one hangs upside down.
Inner body reactivation
The sweat that you produce during aerial yoga has a lot of benefits in the internal body’s regulatory functioning. The circulatory, respiratory, and digestive systems are reactivated through blood circulation. 
On the emotional and psychological level, inverted asanas turn everything upside down, throwing a new light on old patterns of behavior and being. Generally, these practices improve health, reduce anxiety and stress and increase self-confidence. They also increase mental power, concentration and stimulate the chakras. 
Using the hammock requires a lot of upper body strength, especially the arms, as you need to hoist yourself into and around the silk.
Focus and Clarity
Being upside down also delivers oxygen-rich blood to your brain. Your brain is the largest consumer of oxygen in your body, so the more blood means more oxygen, which stimulates the brain giving you more focus and clarity.
Some of the aerial yoga asanas require a lot of practice and patience. Correcting a movement whilst suspended in the air can be tricky and one must persevere to achieve the final asana.
You’ll become a lot more aware of your body and its relationship with the air and the ground. You’ll gain a lot of confidence as you develop new body skills. You’ll learn to trust yourself and know your capabilities and you learn to work with the hammock and know that you will not fall off.
The spiritual benefits of aerial yoga are undeniable. The journey of learning new moves will increase your creativity and along the way you will develop your own artistic skills. Aerial yoga brings more joy and optimism into your life.
Have a Laugh
You’ll be sure to have a laugh in class as you find yourself in awkward positions and get tangled in the hammock. But this kind of interaction is encouraged as students help and encourage each other to perfect their asanas.
Practice with caution (contraindication):
People who have very high or low blood pressure, easy onset vertigo, pregnancy, glaucoma, recent surgery, heart disease, osteoporosis, bone weakness, recent head injury, cerebral sclerosis, propensity for fainting, artificial hips, carpal tunnel syndrome, severe arthritis, sinusitis or head cold, recent stroke, botox injections (within 6 hours) should be cautious with aerial yoga. As with any new activity, please consult with your doctor beforehand if you have any of the above. 
So if you’re a bit of a thrill seeker, or bored of your current workout, I highly recommend trying out aerial yoga. If you’ve ever wanted to be an aerial performer but thought it’s too late for that career change, aerial yoga gives you a nice taste of what it would be like to be an aerialist. I love aerial yoga for all the benefits that are listed, and yes, I like to pretend I am an aerial performer! If you’re based in KL and would like to give Fly Yoga a go, check out www.aravindyoga.com or www.vivavertical.my