New this November at Radiant Yoga Marbella is the latest trend for high-flying yogis – literally – as aerial yoga swoops in five times a week.  Enjoy the freedom of this gravity defying expression of yoga as you practice your asanas in the air and invert your prayer position; it will take your yoga to a whole new level.

When an Aerial Yoga class was announced at Radiant Yoga Marbella, I jumped at the chance to give it a whirl… A rainy Monday morning in Marbella saw a few people cry off the first session, leaving just four of us in the capable hands of Maria Enrile, the flexible, in more ways than one, and enthusiastic instructor.

As the Vancouver Sun stated, “aerial yoga effectively combines the thrill of the circus with the chill factor of yoga” an alluring mix which adds an interesting and different dimension to your yoga practice. Aerial Yoga is a fun and transformative new way to practice traditional yoga.

Influential in the development of aerial yoga is Michelle Dortignac, founder of Unnata® Aerial Yoga, is an E-RYT 200 certified Yoga instructor of close to 20 years, while during most of those years also being a professional aerial acrobatics performer.

Getting into the Swing of Things

Using a soft, fabric aerial hammock suspended from the ceiling, you’ll explore new and traditional yoga asanas (yogic postures) with your body weight partially or fully supported. This allows you to expand flexibility, increase range of motion, build strength, lengthen the spine, and relax the nervous system. Never more than a few feet off the ground, you’ll let go into gravity, be held in the hammock, and awaken yogic bliss.

Maria encouraged us to choose a swing in a color we were attracted to and to “make friends with our swing”; good advice as we would soon be placing our trust in it to hold us poised in our yoga postures in mid air.

Starting off on terra firma, feet firmly planted on the yoga mat, Maria led us through an effective warm up on the mat. With the swings hanging tantalizingly over the mat, we could flirt with the idea of sitting on them, slowly allowing our swing closer into our personal space, and gradually getting acquainted with our new yoga partner.

Next it was time for a brisk set of sun salutations and pranayama “fire” breathing to build up heat and energy in the muscles.  Sitting in the swing, hammock style, once we completed the short sharp bursts of fire-breathing, leaning back, using the core, and getting used to the support of the soft silky fabric we would be depending on for the next 90 minutes.  Learning to let go and surrender to the swing, it’s as if you are sinking into the arms of a trusted friend, lover or yoga partner…

The first few exercises are performed bending over the swing, allowing the taut but gentle fabric to support your hips and leave your spine to gently unfurl and release tension.  We also did the fish or locust position – with our feet resting just a few centimetres off the ground on the hammock – the height of which is adjustable to several different levels between shin and waist height.

The final “cocooning” experience, of savasana suspended in the air is simply sublime.  With your whole back to the tailbone supported by the hammock with legs tucked in and arms folded or in prayer position, by placing a blanket and eye cover over each student, Maria intensified this back-to-the-womb experience.

Chatting to Maria after class about her journey into aerial yoga, she explained that she has been drawn to this particular branch of yoga as once in the swing of things, students progress faster with aerial yoga than those practicing on terra firma. “The whole body is active all the time. It’s particularly beneficial for the heart, circulation and the tone of the pelvic area.  The back and spine also benefit greatly from the pull of gravity to release tension between the vertebrae.

Turning Yoga on its Head

“Once you’re able to flip upside-down and stay there for a few minutes, your spine decompresses, your organs shift, even your skin moves. Everything works more efficiently afterwards,” says Gravity Yogaco-owner Nicole Whitman in an article in the Vancouver Sun.

Aerial yoga is also confidence building as Maria explains, “As students learn to trust themselves, to let go and get deeper into the postures, their confidence soars.”

The inversions are excellent for regulating moods and opening the chakras – the chest openers force people to open their hearts and face their fears.  Personally, like many people who try aerial yoga, I find the support of the swing makes inverted postures feel more secure and therefore I can hold them for longer.

Whether it is a handstand held with just the stirrups of the swing, or a supported back bend in the bridge position, your chakras will thank you for the chance to go deeper and open up.  Because of the deep opening of chakras, at the end of the class, Maria alerts the students to the possibility of experiencing laughter, tears, joy or other unexpected emotional release and to just let the feelings come up and let them go.

Reaping the Benefits

The art of aerial yoga sprang up more than a decade ago, but it is still relatively new even in the most advanced of yoga studios.  It may be slow to catch on, but there are many therapeutic benefits.

According to healthandfitnessrevolution.com, the top ten health benefits of aerial yoga include back fitness, enhancing memory and defying the ageing process.

Aerial yoga is a chance to get out of your yoga comfort zone, to stretch your limits, to play with the postures and to put yourself into positions you never thought possible.

Maria is teaching aerial yoga classes at Radiant Yoga Marbella as follows:

Mondays and Tuesdays at 9.30am

Thursday and Friday at 10.30am

Tuesday at 7pm

Maria points out that aerial yoga is not suitable for anyone with heart problems, high blood pressure or glaucoma, pregnant women or those with wrist injuries. More advanced yoga students however, will find that aerial yoga stretches you further to your limits. For further information contact Maria at Radiant Yoga Marbella.

Radiant Yoga Marbella offers a variety of yoga classes in our Marbella studio including Hot Yoga (similar to Bikram, but with more varied sequencing), Vinyasa Yoga, Vinyasa Yoga Flow, Anasura Yoga, Traditional Hatha Yoga, Pranayama Yoga, Kundalini Yoga, Pilates and Kids’ Yoga.

Please keep an eye on our Facebook page where you’ll find up-to-date information about our classes, workshops and other yoga information.

Blog: by Louise Cook Edwards.