My first attempt at …
Silky, Sexy, Zero-Gravity Yoga
By Sherri Telenko
“What’s interesting for me is to see where people’s fears are,” says Lindsey Ilott, yoga instructor at Burlington’s be yoga & wellness. “Most people will try yoga when they are firmly planted on the ground but with aerial yoga, you start to see where your mind and body will start to fail you. You have to trust yourself, and trust the silk.”
The silk is not a philosophical concept or a Jedi force; it’s an actual loop of thick silky material hanging from clasps on the ceiling used by acrobats a la cirque du soleil, and it’s the newest trend in yoga practice. Because for some reason, despite being a thousand year old practice in other countries, our society needs to update it every six to eight months to keep people interested, exercising, and signing up to become one with mind body spirit.
So here is this season’s exercise trend imported from New York City via Toronto: Aerial Yoga. Described as a basic zero-gravity yoga class moving through traditional poses with the help of a silk hammock attached to the ceiling, it’s a merger of traditional yoga poses using the silk for added support with an injection of acrobatic tricks such as upside down bat and backward cape flip.
Ilott admits it was the fun stuff – what she freely calls ‘party tricks’ during the class – which got her hooked on this new yoga hybrid. Formally a gymnast, she loved the kind of playfulness this practice offered. When she hears giggles in her class she knows she’s succeeded taking the practice from something serious and focused to a freeing experience. “I’m a thirteen year old at heart,” she says, “I never grew up.”
But she admits it’s easy to get caught up in the fun a lose focus. “Yoga is about being in the moment, about finding your balance and your centre. Aerial yoga is just another perspective on the practice.” It’s also easy to get light-headed as discovered swinging from the hammock in bridge poise. Admittedly, it’s a pose (arching and grabbing your ankles behind your back) that I can barely complete on the floor and still, but in suspension it’s much easier. Now, if only swing didn’t, well, swing. Apparently, a bit of discombobulation is part of the fun, and benefit.
At a beginner level, aerial yoga is about letting go and relaxing. According to be yoga owner, Tracy Ng, it’s good for decompressing joints and the spin. Hanging upside allows gravity to realign vertebrate. Participants do need some yoga experience to understand the poses, know the difference between down dog and pigeon, so the instructor can focus on the use of the silks, rather than explaining the basics. The added support of a sling does allow you to focus on the specifics of each stretch lunging further and opening wider. On a more advanced level, aerial yoga can get hard core, focusing on strength training and core muscles. Imagine crunching abdominal muscles from a suspended upside down position.
“This kind of activity appeals to gymnasts, figure skaters, and dancers,” Illot says, “because they already have a level of body awareness and are used to acrobatic moves.” Ng adds the studio is planning to promote this type of yoga to athletic groups as another part of their training. Already, Burlington’s world champion synchronized skating team benefits from the classes four times a week.
Much to my surprise, once you know how to wrap your wrists, the impressive flipping, hanging and wide-leg suspending isn’t as hard as it looks – doing it gracefully is and moving seamlessly from trick to trick requires practice and upper body strength and less reliance on placing pressure on the ribbon because it does cut into you when bunched into a thin strap rather than a wider brace. Like anything, it takes some practice, but unlike most things this isn’t about mastering it perfectly or appearing in the next big top show above the heads of thousands. Good thing to, because yoga I’ll stick to but planted firmly on the ground. Judging but the growing class size at be yoga, I might be one of the only ones.
Published in West of the City Magazine, Spring 2012