Student Series with Sara Roer

Michelle’s Soothing Flow Unnata Aerial Yoga IMG_0867class was the first time I’d ever experienced aerial yoga. I’ve practiced traditional yoga for almost a decade, and trained in aerial silks for a few years, but never ventured into this specific combination of the two disciplines.

I went into class thinking it might be an exact combination, something like going through familiar asanas while supported by fabric that relieved me of my own gravity and occasionally made me completely weightless. As I’ve learned time and again on my mat, however, expectations can be misleading. Michelle’s class actually situated me even more firmly in my own  gravity, and to deeply therapeutic effect. The pace and flow of the class was akin to a restorative yoga practice where you set up and discuss a pose quite thoroughly then stay in it for several minutes, letting gravity do its slow work of breaking down your muscular holding patterns.

The class I attended was quite full, which created an instant sense of community as we negotiated the real danger of knocking into each other by broadening our awareness (at Michelle’s direction) and cultivating the ability to move fully and in harmony with our neighbors. We moved through progressions of cat/cow from floor-bound to completely airborne, chest openers by laying the silks into our ribs and breathing deeply, fully supported inversions that tractioned our spines, supported standing poses that called on us to simultaneously stabilize and stretch, and more. We closed with savasana situated completely inside our hammocks, weightless and enveloped by fabric.

As a newcomer, every pose was a revelation, but I could also see how this practice could deepen and expand. The focus was not on super-strengthening or super-stretching. It wasn’t about “super” anything – it was far more subtle in all those goals than one might expect. Michelle has a great knack for drawing you into those subtleties. Her verbal instructions are articulate and anatomical; her physical adjustments sometimes minute – a gentle stabilizing touch to keep you from swinging or a fractional shift of your weight back toward your center. These cues, and the added information from the support of the fabric, help to open your mind and awareness into the work, and hopefully, into the rest of your life. That’s the yoga.

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