by Jordan Anderson (Unnata Aerial Yoga teacher and course leader)
Yoga has always been a very grounding experience for me. Something about feeling the ground underneath my feet, feeling every bit of connection to the floor, and experiencing the play of inhale and exhale… I have always left a yoga practice feeling very centered. I wasn’t sure what to make of aerial yoga when I first heard about it. I figured it would just be a fun novelty practice, worth trying because it looked like fun. I was surprised to find that using the hammock for yoga actually enhanced my connection to the earth and to my breath in new and interesting ways that carried forward.
As someone who spends a great deal of time working against gravity in my everyday life as an aerial instructor and performer, the way we use the hammock in aerial yoga provides a nice balance. When the hammock is used to its full advantage, the upward pull of the aerial yoga hammock enhances our appreciation for the downward pull of gravity.
I constantly have students tell me how surprised they are that they can feel so grounded after an aerial yoga class. There are a few things I incorporate into every aerial yoga practice that allow for this groundedness to occur. For anyone who’s ever practiced aerial yoga and felt a little too floaty, or even dizzy, I recommend trying these tips for grounding the next time you practice.
Use your breath! Concentrate on feeling the upward pull of the hammock as you inhale, and the downward pull of gravity every time you exhale.
Find places to relax and let gravity provide a nice downward pull to your body while you are hanging in the hammock. In many postures, the more you are able to relax in the right places, the more grounded and extended you will feel.
Find ways to use different parts of your body to pull the hammock down toward the floor, to enhance the sense of grounding. For example, when in a warrior pose with the leg suspended in the hammock, really pull that leg down toward the floor. You will be amazed at how grounded this makes you feel!
Explore the similarities and differences between aerial postures and their floor equivalents throughout your practice. Notice what aspects of each posture the hammock enhances, or challenges. Use the actual floor to provide relief and balance after hanging or inverting in the hammock.
Be aware of where you are in space when using the hammock. If you position yourself directly underneath the rig point, the upward pull will feel very different then if you position yourself in front of, behind, or to the side of the rig point. Be aware of your dimensions and use them to enhance your alignment in each posture.
Do not overdue the inversions, and be sure to balance them out with grounded and right-side up postures. Many people think of aerial yoga as an inversion-heavy practice, but it does not need to be. In fact, it is possible to practice aerial yoga without any inversions at all if that’s your wish!
End your practice by taking a few moments to be on the floor. Of course you can take final relaxation inside the hammock if you like, but when you come out take a little time to either sit, lie, or stand on the floor and really feel your connection to it. Take a few deep breaths to cement in the new feelings you experienced by using the aerial yoga hammock.
Remember that just because something can be done with the hammock, does not necessarily mean it will be useful for yoga. As someone who also teaches and performs aerial hammock acrobatics, I can tell you that there are many things I do with the hammock for acrobatics that I would never include in an aerial yoga session or class. Use the hammock in ways that will enhance yogic alignment and breath.
Find your center! In aerial yoga we are often grounding from our core. This includes pulling energy into the core of the body to counteract the outward pull of the hammock, breathing from as deep as we can, and sometimes squeezing into the midline as the hammock tries to pull us away in all directions. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, and when using an inherently unstable/floating prop, we have the opportunity to become even more stable and grounded as a result.
Enjoy your time in the hammock, but remember that it is simply a (very fun) prop to help you experience how each posture should feel in yoga. The more you learn to translate that to your ground practice, the more you will benefit from aerial yoga!
Happy flying (and stay grounded)!
About the Author
Jordan Anderson has been teaching Unnata® Aerial Yoga since 2009, she is an Unnata Aerial Yoga Course Leader, and co-founder and director of Aerial Fit®. Jordan looks to yoga teachers such as Doug Keller for inspiration on grounding and anatomy, Andrey Lappa for energy bodies and Dharma Mittra for kindness.
Jordan “is a firm believer that the practice of yoga (all 8 limbs of it!) can enhance anyone’s quality of life.”