About this series: For 2012, I vowed to try a new type of yoga each month and write about it here. This is the third of 12 reviews–keep checking back for more!
A few months ago, a friend alerted me via Facebook to a new yoga class using silk slings or hammocks—you know, the kind you might see in Cirque du Soleil. The moment I read about the class, I knew I would have to head over to Aerial Arts of Rochester and try it out. I’m not sure what took me so long, but I finally got there this March.
I called ahead to reserve a spot since space is limited to only 10 participants due to the number of silks in their facility. Each silk is made of an incredibly strong material and can hold up to 1,000 pounds; they are the same kinds used in professional aerial/cirque performances. Will, Aerial Arts’ co-owner and aerial yoga instructor, informed me over the phone that I was welcome to drop in that night, but I would be participating in the most difficult class of their series, which runs six weeks. I decided this was all right, though, since I was really only there to see what it was like.
I showed up fairly early and Will greeted me and gave me a rundown of what to expect. Like with the Bikram studio, I also had to sign a waiver here, although this one seemed a bit more understandable! Once the silks were set up and class members began filing in, Will led me to one of the silks on the end. I got a bit nervous because it felt a bit high up (it should tuck in at your low back), but once it was tugged down, I was able to get it to where it had to go. Will helped me to test it by telling me to flip over essentially into an upside down Supta Baddha Konasana.
Well, I thought, this is new.
Getting there took some effort—those Cirque performers make it look so easy! Once I got flipped over, however, I didn’t want to let go of the silk. After some coaxing and reassurance that no, I wouldn’t fall on my head, I let go.
I really want to be able to tell you all what a wonderful, freeing, and magical experience this was. Instead, the truth is that the silk dug into my low back and, at the time of writing this three days later, I still have bruises on that area. I do think it was pretty cool to hang out upside down like that; I don’t often get to since I have yet to master a headstand.
Luckily, the rest of the class relied on several other poses. Toward the beginning, we leaned our torsos forward and back in the sling while standing on our yoga mats. When it came time to stand in the sling, I became a bit nervous once more. Although my feet were only three feet off the ground, I felt like I was up much higher. I managed to move into tree on one side, but switching legs in the sling proved to be a bit difficult. Standing up also reinforced my white knuckle grip on the silks from earlier in upside down Supta Baddha Konasana, which we did once more toward the end. (Maybe upside down butterfly is a better name for it? Mine was more like drunk butterfly!)
Finally, we stretched out in the slings, turning them into hammocks. At that point I was content to just lie there and enjoy the weightless feeling inside the silk. This point was probably my favorite part of the class; if anything, I recommend going just to hang out in the slings (or maybe you should just buy a hammock).
For the most part, I could do some of the poses, and I’m sure if I had joined the class on week one, I would have had a better success rate. The other students in the class were either part of the six week series or had dropped in before, and if they’re anything to go by, practice does make perfect. They seemed to move into the poses quite effortlessly, so if you’re considering aerial yoga, rest assured that you will probably do much better than I did if you stick with it.
This was certainly not a typical yoga class. It wasn’t the acrobatic aerial movements you might expect, but it did rely a bit on upper body strength and flexibility. I will say, as well, that the instructor and the other students were all incredibly nice. They teased me a bit for picking this class to drop in on, but everyone was very encouraging. Many of the students also remarked how wonderful the classes at Aerial Arts were in addition to the aerial yoga, and one woman even mentioned that the classes have significantly minimized the pain she experienced that resulted from a chronic illness. How excellent is that endorsement? I am considering going back to try the entire series, but not until after my 40 Days challenge ends. Thus far, this experience looks like it would win the award for most unique yoga class in the Rochester area!