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Aerial yoga involves practicing yoga postures in the air by suspending the body or parts of the body in a soft, fabric trapeze that hangs close to the ground, which is covered by yoga mats for safety. Beginners practicing aerial yoga start by practicing postures on the floor and, with the assistance of the yoga trapeze, gradually advance to poses that require full body suspension a few inches off the floor. Practicing yoga in the air can help students achieve advanced yoga postures more quickly yet safely by using the fabric trapeze to assist with proper positioning and natural decompression of the body.
Michelle Dortignac, the founder of this type of yoga, is both a yoga teacher and a professional in aerial acrobatics. That's where she gets her inspiration for aerial yoga techniques and methodology. She began teaching classes of this hybrid yoga in 2006 in New York City.
In a typical aerial yoga class, a certified yoga instructor leads students through yoga poses on the floor and with the support of the fabric trapeze. The long fabric hangs from the ceiling like a hammock and is made out of the same material used in aerial gymnastics or the circus. Over time, students learn to use the fabric trapeze to fully support their entire body weight in certain yoga poses. The gradual development allows even beginners to benefit as they gain confidence in using and trusting the fabric trapeze. Classes are often playful and fun, and students may need to share yoga trapezes, fostering a spirit of lightheartedness and friendliness.
In contrast to regular yoga practice on the floor in which the body exhibits tension against the pull of gravity, yoga in the air releases body tension. Students are able to naturally achieve proper body positioning and alignment through the straightening of the spine and shoulders. The pull of gravity, when the body is in a hanging position, naturally decompresses the spine and the body while promoting the feeling of letting go, the essence of yoga spirituality.
Students of aerial yoga can increase flexibility and strengthen muscles without straining them. Using the fabric trapeze also allows students to achieve postures or deepen stretches in ways that they wouldn’t be able to on their own. For example, the yoga trapeze can increase the pull of the hips upward in downward-facing dog or adho mukha svansana, a pose in which the body creates a triangle with the floor.
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